In Nov. 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign effectively ended after he went blank for 47 excruciatingly painful seconds during a debate.
Although that moment became rather infamous (I rated it the worst gaffe of the 2012 election), Mr. Perry is far from alone.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer suffered a similar fate during a gubernatorial debate in 2010 when she went blank for 13 seconds. It was worse for Jeanine Pirro, a candidate who briefly ran for Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate seat in 2005, but quickly withdrew after misplacing a page of her announcement speech and going silent for 32 seconds.
Most of us have suffered a similar—if less high-profile—brain freeze. What should you do if you’re caught in an interview, debate or speech and lose your place?
First, after a few seconds, fight the temptation to continue trying to think of the thought that eluded you. It’s gone.
Second, consider transitioning to surer ground—confidently—by saying something more general about the topic. For example, Governor Perry could have said: