You know that fear we all have about speaking in front of a crowd and having your mind go blank? Well, it happened to me recently when I was speaking to a group of about 200 people at a conference. I was about ten minutes into my talk when this music started playing. At first it was low so I kept talking, then it got louder and louder. At that point, it was so disruptive a few people in the audience got up and headed out the doors, many others started talking to each other. I paused to try and understand what was happening and where the music was coming from until I finally just had to completely stop and wait for things to calm down and hope someone was working on the problem. We were in a hotel with adjoining ballrooms and apparently, the presentations in the two rooms next to me both had loud music that coincidentally started at the same time, and completely drowned us out.
After a few long minutes the room was quiet again and back under control and then all eyes were back on me. I tried to think, where was I? What was the last thing I said before I stopped? The silence was now getting uncomfortable as my mind scrambled to figure out what to say. I finally realized there was not going to be any faking it, I couldn’t come up with anything, and decided to come clean. I looked out at the crowd and said with an embarrassed laugh, “I have completely lost my place. Can anyone help me? Where was I?” Several audience members shouted out to me my last statement before the break and many laughed along with me, I am guessing having been there themselves at some point. Instead of it being the mortifying experience I had always feared, it was a lovely moment of shared connection that I never expected. Sometimes, as scary as it is, just being genuinely real is the best approach.