That Awkward Moment When All You Hear Is Silence

As the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) annual conference kicks off today in Columbia, South Carolina, I can’t help but think back to the time I last attended the event 5 1/2 years ago held in Minneapolis.   Unfortunately, something occurred leaving a lasting impression on me.

Now, for folks who have never attended such an event there’s an assortment of socializing activities mixed in with business learning activities where speakers present on various topics.   In most cases, there could be two or three seminars going on at any one time allowing the communicator attendee to pick and choose what they want to learn from the event.   It’s fun.   It’s often inspiring.   And most often a person leaves feeling energetic and refreshed with a new skill base.

But on this particular early August day back in 2007 I happened upon a train wreck.   I settled into my seat…pulled out a pad to jot some notes…and prepared myself to be dazzled by a speaker who could enhance various elements of my professional life.

That simply did not happen.

SpeakerInstead, what I witnessed was every speaker’s worst nightmare.   As I recall it may have been 15 minutes or so into his presentation…the speaker simply froze.   SILENCE.   Not for a few seconds…but for several minutes.   Occasionally the silence was broken by filler sounds such as…”Ummm” “Ahhh” “Hmmm.”   I doubt there was a person in the room who could not empathize with the speaker and his sudden oratorical predicament.

As time grew on we all could feel the growing uneasiness of watching a college professor and book author collapse before our eyes (mostly our ears).   The pressure of public speaking…at least on this particular day, was far too overwhelming.   A few gentle nudges from audience members to get the author back on track was to no avail.   The synapse activity of the brain was short-circuiting before our eyes.   The speaker, in my opinion, was on the verge of a total mental breakdown.

Here’s a learned guy who was flown in from some part of the country to speak to probably 50–60 of us in the room and it was a complete and utter failure.   Whatever his original message happened to be was lost and far overshadowed by his sudden vocal paralysis.

After about 15 minutes I could no longer bear the pain.   It was time for me to leave the conference and head home.  

So, what does any of this have to do with the outdoors?   Well, I do think there is a take-away lesson from this conference experience.

Like most things in life, preparation is key.   You can be one of the most knowledgeable musky anglers to be found several counties around…but how do you react when the moment of truth presents itself and that Suick is inhaled but for only a slight moment in time?   Do you choke when the chips are down?

When the big tom is strutting slowly into shotgun range and your heart is pounding wildly inside your chest…can you finish the deal?   Or, when the buck of a lifetime gives you no warning and you now only have six seconds to react…and to perform a perfect shot placement.   Will you leave the woods disappointed or elated?

Indeed, my heart went out to that conference presenter who suddenly experienced a case of lock-jaw and could not go on.   It’s humiliating.   It can be aggravating.   But often in life—particularly in our outdoors life—we must be prepared to fight through such sudden mental challenges in order to be on top of our game.   Often, that keen mental preparation will determine if we are to succeed in our endeavors on any given day.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.