Don’t Pull A Rick Perry – How To Avoid Brain Freeze On Live Television

I feel your pain, Rick Perry. I’ve been there. I bet that a lot of us have been there at one point or another. I’m in the middle of a weathercast, pointing to a county, or a town, or a particular highway and the name just doesn’t come to my mind. I know the name; I’ve probably said it a hundred times under similar circumstances. For whatever reason on this particular day, the path from my brain to my mouth has been momentarily blocked. Now I don’t think I’ve ever crashed and burned as bad as Rick Perry did the other night, I can certainly sympathize and know what it feels like to be in that situation.

You never know when something like this might creep up on you but there are things you can do before, during and after a brain freeze to make the most out of a bad situation.

Before the freeze: The key to recovering from brain freeze is to avoid one in the first place. The best way to do that is to have a sound knowledge in the topic that you are talking about, and the confidence to discuss that topic in a high-pressure situation. If you are missing either one, you’ll likely run into trouble eventually. It’s important to have a comprehensive background in the material, which usually takes some time to develop. You’ll never get to mention everything you know, but having that deep catalog to fall back on and being able to recall it easily, can get you out of a tight spot. Remember don’t memorize; internalize.

Next, you need to have the calm and confidence to be able to speak in front of others. If you are a broadcast meteorologist, you need to have experience in front of a chroma-key wall and live television. A politician should be at ease in front of a live audience debating issues with other candidates. All this takes time, but hopefully you’ve gone through the proper preparation to get to this point. That is what college is for.

During the freeze: For starters, don’t panic. Your first freeze is always the worst, and it’s easy in pressure situations for your nerves to go into overdrive. If you recognize that one is coming on, keeping your cool is essential. The next thing to do is to ramp up your focus to find the words you are looking for. Doing this is a lot easier if you are able to stay calm. It’s okay to have to pause or correct yourself once in a while, but if you find yourself struggling to get past a particular point, it might be time for plan B. If you’ve tried a few times to recall that forgotten fact, try to rephrase. Attempt to say the same thing in a different way, using different words. For broadcast meteorologists, if you forget a county, mention the region or part of the state that it’s in instead.

After the freeze: After you blow it, you’ll want to move on as quickly as possible. If you’re nerves and anxiety level are peaked, it could mess with the rest of your show, but its important to pull it together. The less of a big deal you make it, the easier it will be to move on. If I ever have a graphics or hardware glitch in the middle of a weathercast, I might make light of it with the co-anchors at the end of the segment. If its something I botched on my own, I’m more likely smile it off, acknowledge it non-verbally, and continue on.

Hopefully you won’t end up on YouTube. Clearly Rick Perry was under a bigger spotlight than my local TV newscast. I did find one blooper of me, but I wouldn’t call it a brain freeze. If that is the worst it ever gets, I can be cool with that. It’s not how you crash, but how you recover that allows us to come back tomorrow and try it all over again.

How do you fight the freeze? Any horror stories?


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