I’ve experienced this many times – something happens inside my head and I fail to retain the question I’ve just been asked, or the point I was planning to make (or both). I confess that it is quite an issue for me. I suspect the phrase “in one ear and out the other” was probably coined in my honour.
I have a number of strategies I use to cope. One is to write things down on a flipchart. This has the added bonus of my participants seeing their words recorded which they seem to like. This way I also get to turn an auditory communication into a visual one which I find easier to remember. And of course I can refer back to it should conversation get sidetracked before I can get to that comment or question.
Another strategy is to reiterate (by parroting or paraphrasing) out loud so that I hear it more than once – it’s easier to remember that way.
If I lose my own train of thought, I find it useful to move. It seems that simply moving my body unfreezes my mind. Maybe by taking a second or so to move, and therefore giving myself time to think, I get that extra space I need to allow the connections in my brain to happen.
If I can’t make any of the above work in my favour, I have been known to “fess” up. There are definite benefits to admitting failings when working with a group. It will give permission for others to relax and be imperfect too.