Gov Perry’s Recovery With Humor

What can we learn from Governor Rick Perry’s “brain freeze” during the last Republican debate?

1.  Don’t go into denial.  Gov Perry made the right choice of taking ownership of the mistake.  To deny a glaring error would have been a recipe for disaster. 

2.  Act quickly.  The next morning he appeared on several TV networks to say that he “stepped in it.”  Since everyone already knew that, admitting it was the right choice.  By being honest, the issue was more likely to be put behind him sooner.

3.  Can’t Beat Them…Join Them.  Knowing that the gaffe would be a hot topic on late night TV, Gov Perry arranged an appearance on David Letterman.  Better to have them laughing WITH you than laughing AT you.

4.  Know Your Strength.  Realizing that his off-the-cuff, impromptu speaking skills had its limits, he arranged to read Letterman’s Top Ten list.  He didn’t hang around to sit on the couch and chit chat.  Good choice.  He was able to show that he had a sense of humor, could poke fun at himself,  and avoided the one-on-one risk of looking bad during an interview.

5.  We’re All Human.  It was interesting that Letterman shared, in detail, a bad speaking experience which he had the night before, feeling that he bombed as a speaker at a dinner function.  It set a tone, moving into the Perry Top Ten segment, of “we’re all human and we all make mistakes,” which helped put everything in a more positive perspective.

6.  Me Too.  I had a similar “brain freeze” experience during a professional talk.  I said, “There are three ways to do XXX.  Number one is XXX.  Number two is XXX and number three is….”  And my mind went totally blank.  I had set up a need to fill a space for number three and I couldn’t remember what my third point was.  I immediately said, “It skips my mind right now, I’ll come back to it.”  I continued my talk, and of course number three popped into the back of my head right away.  I doubled back and covered item three.  Admitting to a blank mind IMMEDIATELY is better than the awkward choice of struggling to find the missing words while standing in front of the audience.  It quickly tells the audience, “I’m human.”  As a whole, the audience will be on your side, and most of them have had the same experience in their past.  It wasn’t the first nor the last time my mind has gone blank on the platform.

7.  Don’t Feel the Need to Make Noise.  There is no need for you to keep talking.  Pause briefly.  If the words don’t come, admit to the blank mind and press on.

8.  Overall, good choices by Gov Perry.  As to the long-term impact on his campaign, the jury is still out.