First Rick Perry and now Herman Cain – it seems that going blank on the presidential campaign trail is contagious. We’ve all had “senior moments” where we can’t remember what we planned to say. But when you’re in the public eye, and especially when you’re running for President, it’s embarrassing and damaging.
Most speakers don’t face such high stakes when they commit a gaffe. And most speakers aren’t as restricted as presidential candidates, who are expected to know everything and to be able to answer every question.
But if you ever face such a dreaded brain freeze, here are three tips for getting out of it gracefully.
Internalize your thoughts
If you watch the Herman Cain video, it looks like he’s trying to recall talking points that were memorized. This is a deadly strategy, especially if you’re tired or stressed, as Cain claims he was. You’ve got to know your message so well that it’s become a part of you. And it helps if you really believe in what you’re saying.
Presidential candidates are drilled in practice sessions for debates, editorial boards, and question and answer sessions. These kinds of drills are good for any speaker. Obviously, you’ve got to “know your stuff” when you get out there in front of people. And that takes practice, practice, practice.
Have good notes
Having well-organized, thorough notes can go a long way to prompting your recalcitrant memory. Use big type so you can see from a short distance.
If all else fails, ask for the question to be repeated. That will give you time to get your mental bearings.