I made this term up so don't try to find it anywhere else. A
"brainstopper" is something you say or do that causes the mind of an
audience member to stop to think. This can be a good thing, but most of
the time when I catch a coaching student delivering a brainstopper, it
is a bad thing and not part of the art of public speaking.
Here is an example of a good brainstopper. You might say, "Take a
moment and think about the first toy you had as a child."
A command like this would take the audience member's mind from where it
is now to a time long ago. For most of the audience this will be a
pleasant experience. For some it may be unpleasant. Either way you
still are directing the show. You might do this to make some kind of
point about how simple things used to please us, or something like
that. This leading the audience is part of the art of public speaking.
Here is an example of a bad brainstopper. You might say, "That man's
elocution is impeccable." For all of us highly educated and brilliant
folks the word "elocution" obviously means fine form in speaking or
As a master of the art of public speaking, you know if this word was
used in a less educated arena, the instant it came out of your mouth,
the brains of the audience members would be racing to figure out what
the word "elocution" means. Thus, their brains have stopped because you
used a word that was not easily understood. The audience member will
not hear your next few sentences because they are still trying to
figure out the word "elocution." Do this several times and they will
tune out altogether ... unless of course you are Deepak Chopra who gets
high praise for being totally unintelligible. hahahahaha
Another way to stop someone's brain is to distract them by your
actions. You might display an odd prop before explaining what it is.
This would make an audience member stop listening while their minds
tried to figure out what the prop is. If you were talking during this
time, they wouldn't hear a word you said. The stage part of the art of
public speaking includes when and how to use props.
Look at your word choice and actions carefully before you exhibit them
on stage. It is hard enough to keep attention in today's short
attention span environments. Don't make it worse by using bad
brainstoppers. Carefully selected and cleverly used brainstoppers can
be a good part of your art of public speaking.