Freeze Frame!

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This is your first round at the first tournament you have ever done _______. You have practiced hard, wrote a solid introduction, and despite your nervousness you think today is going to go alright. As you are performing you suddenly become aware that you have absolutely no idea what comes next. And this abrupt realization throws you into a panic so fierce that you now no longer can focus on the basic plot of the story to improv your way out. All you can think of is the fear pulsating through your body. And how you will never do this event again!

Relax. Breath. Clear your head. Repeat. Most everyone can tell you a similar story. Not everyone freezes as long, or vomits like others, but I would wager every last speechie/debater has had an OH NO! moment. There have been pieces I have been working on for weeks were I still got slightly lost and had to fudge the words a little in order to save my skin.

Why does this happen, this OH NO! moment? For numerous reasons. You could be starting a new piece and not have the lines down cold. You might not have your head and heart into the performance and be worried over audience/judge reaction, thus pulling too far out of the scene and getting lost. You legitimately might have a hard time memorizing lines and just momentarily lost where you are. Whatever the reason, freezing up happens to everyone. Don’t let people fool you. Even the Varsity that seem destined to go to State, they too have had to slick over a few words to cover-up a miss-step.

So if everyone has had one of these moments (or several if we are honest) how do you prevent a massive freeze? Two things: confidence and practice! KNOW YOUR PIECE! Once you know it cold you will be able to rescue yourself from any catastrophe. Most performances you will be able to let yourself be “in the moment” and relish in the audience’s reactions. Yet, you still will have times you get tongue-tied over a few words and might have to replace the word you cannot remember with another, but if you have the piece down cold this matters little. You will know what should go in the hiccup and you’ll improvise. The cover-up should be flawless, and a little refresher practice between you and your piece should solve the issue from ever occurring again.

But knowing is not enough. You need to get your poker face on and pretend you never messed-up and that whatever glitch there was (noticeable to the audience or not) is not shown on your face. Even with a pronunciation mistake, it may go unnoticed with you never acknowledging it transpired. Confidence is a powerful tool and when used appropriately can save you from giving away there was a mistake that only you or your coach would know. Also, confidence improves your attitude from a nervous, over-thinking entity into a can-do individual. Not only does this improve the odds of you delivering a solid performance, people sense confidence and react positively to it.

So when you find yourself in an OH NO! situation remember to NOT FREAK OUT, do not vomit, breath, and collect yourself and move on. There is no use reliving and stressing out over the mistake. Get back into the piece and show people why you rock. Force them to forget you ever made a blunder and leave them remembering how amazing you performed.

I completely agree with your opinion of pretending nothing happened, and you did not freeze. Even if it was completely obvious, it shows a level of professionalism and confidence to move on as if that was meant to happen. Judges and competitors respect that attitude.

I have heard of people in OC or HI acknowledging that they forgot their line vocally and then move on once they remember it. I've never seen this, but I wonder what that would be like in a round? Anyone ever see that happen? Do you prefer this comical admittance, or just freezing for a second to remember and then continuing?

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