We’ve all had that awkward moment when we can’t find the word we need. But what if it happens in front of 200 people?
An engaging and confidant speaker came to me recently in a slight panic about an upcoming talk. Twice in the past year while speaking to large groups, she found herself searching for a word that just wasn’t showing up in her brain – or in her mouth. Even worse, one of these times was when she was introducing a well-known speaker, a woman she personally admired. She remembered each millisecond of the lapse because it made such an impact on her.
We call these desperate word searches “mind blanks,” and we all experience them. But what’s annoying in informal conversations can be harrowing when we’re at the center of attention. Like all speakers, my client imagined that the audience was focused on her mistake and judging her harshly for it. In truth, the audience probably didn’t notice it, of if they did, they certainly forgot it instantly – unlike her. Now as she prepared to emcee another big event, she was dreading a repeat of the problem. She wanted to ensure that it did not happen again.
I couldn’t guarantee that her words would line up tongue-side like little verbal Oompah Loompahs ready to deploy the second they were needed. But I could offer strategies to help her avoid mind blanks . And if she did find herself in the dreaded word search scramble, I made sure she had some tips to respond gracefully – and fast.
Just in case you worry about blank mind, here’s some tips.