From Betty Hintch, editor of American Speaker
Governor Rick Perry used tried-and-true strategies to recover from his serious memory lapse during the Republican debates on Wednesday night. Some of his responses are only appropriate in a political setting, where every candidate has to save face. Most speakers don’t have to change the audience’s opinion of them as Perry does, but there are lessons to be learned from this event. He mopped up the mess with these actions:
- Admitting the mistake. In business, personal or political lives, it’s better to admit your mistake, rather than hide it. People will see through your deceit, and you’ll find yourself having to own up to it later. In Perry’s case, the mistake was obvious, but he added humor and humility when responding to his gaffe. “I’m glad I had my boots on because I really stepped in it tonight. I’m human like everyone else.”
- Triggering the audience’s empathy. Perry capitalized on people’s fear of speaking. He admitted that he wasn’t a great debater and pointed out that most people struggle with talking in front of a group. That reawakened images for many Americans who fumbled through presentations or embarrassed themselves in front of an audience. That doesn’t excuse the fact that a presidential candidate should be held to a higher standard. Nevertheless, Perry used the empathy card and gained some points from voters.
- Turning a fault into an asset. Perry diverted attention away from his mistake and toward his strengths. He said that the presidential campaign is about the candidate with the best ideas, not the one who is the best speaker. Throughout the campaign, and following the mistake, Perry has touted the economic strength of Texas during his tenure as governor.
Perry’s mistake may have been enough to cause some Americans to doubt his intellectual and leadership abilities. However, the lesson learned is that no matter how big your mistake is, you can recover and forge ahead.
How have you recovered from an embarrassing mistake or lapse in memory during a speech?