Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jerry Brown shows speakers how to recover, without making himself the joke

Politicians' inaugural speeches and swearings-in tend to fall into the "little noted nor long remembered" category of public speaking, but a momentary stumble in California Governor Jerry Brown's oath of office yesterday was covered all over the news--in part, I think, because he made a humorous speaking save without turning the joke on himself.

As you can see in the few seconds of video, above, Brown stammered on the "m" when he was swearing that he had "without any mental reservations" about taking the office. Laughter sprang up from those around him on the dais and in the audience--no doubt because one might well have reservations taking that office during tough economic times. Brown recovered immediately, assuring everyone, "Really, no mental reservation."

The sincere and tongue-in-cheek tone saved the day, made the news and offers you a good example of how to turn a speaking stumble into a joke without making it a joke about yourself.  We've talked here before about how self-deprecating humor can work against you as a speaker and undermine your credibility unnecessarily.  In this case, Brown's long experience in speaking and politics helped him recover quickly (this really was the work of a few seconds), but you can keep it in mind when you need a quick save that doesn't throw you overboard.
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