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Memorable or Perfect?

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My first TV news anchor reel wasn’t great, but at the time I thought it was perfect. Perfectly written, perfectly edited and perfectly memorized.

Yes, that was the problem– perfectly memorized. We didn’t have a teleprompter in CNN’s Chicago bureau, so I had to memorize a three minute anchor segment. I wasn’t sure what lines our editor would cover with video, so I memorized the whole thing. And it showed.

I sounded like a robot. I lacked spontaneity. I was blah.

In sharp contrast, I recently misspoke while moderating an early morning panel discussion. I said the opposite of what I meant while ad libbing an introduction of one of the panelists. She quickly corrected me, and I laughed. I explained that I wasn’t a morning person– that my synapses didn’t start firing on all cylinders until the noon hour. Everyone laughed and I went on with the introductions.

After the event, several people came up to me and told me what a great job I did. Was I perfect? No. But I was charismatic and spontaneous. I listened to what the panelists said and I followed up. I steered the conversation, so the audience could learn as much as possible from these talented panelists. In short, I was memorable.

Today– 20 years after my first anchor reel– I know that memorable beats perfection every time.

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