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A few words about public speaking.


Most people, no matterhow competent they are, break into a cold sweat when they have to speak in public. This is perfectly natural, like being afraid to touch eels. But once you learn a few of the "tricks of the trade' used by professionals, you find it's surprisingly easy, and can even be fun! I'm talking here about eel-touching. Public speaking will always be awful. There are, however, some standard techniques you should be aware of:

1. ACT VERY NERVOUS. Alot of inexperienced speakers try to act cool and confident, which is a big mistake because if your audience thinks you're in control, they'll relax and fall asleep. So you want to keep them on their toes. Have a great big stain under each armpit. Speak in a barely audible monotone. From time to time, stop in midsentence and state in horror at the water pitcher for a full 30 seconds. Try to create the impression in your audience that at any moment they may have to wrestle you to the conference table and force a half-dozen Valiums down your throat. After a while, they'll start to feel really sorry for you. They'll help you finish your sentences. At the end, if you ask for questions, the room will be as silent as a tomb. If anybody even starts to ask a question, the others will kick him so hard he may never walk again.

2. ALWAYS START WITHA JOKE. Probably the most famous example of a good opening joke is the one Abraham Lincoln used to start the Gettysburg Address. "Four score and seven years ago,' he said, and the crowd went nuts. "What the heck is a score?' they asked each other, tears of laughter streaming down their faces.

3. USE QUOTATIONSFROM FAMOUS DEAD PEOPLE. You can obtain these in bulk from Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, a book of quotations nobody is familiar with.

4. USE A PIE CHART. Thisis pretty much a federal requirement for making a business presentation. The chart has to contain the words "market share.'

5. IF YOU HAVE TOSCRATCH SOMEPLACE LIKE YOUR CROTCH, DRAW THE ATTENTION OF THE AUDIENCE AWAY FROM YOURSELF VIA A CLEVER RUSE. Like, you could suddenly point at the window and say, "Hay! What the heck is that!!??'

Now let's see how you'd putall these elements together. Suppose you've been called upon to make a presentation to top management from all over the country to explain how come a new product, Armpit Magic Deodorant Soap, is not selling well. Here's what you'd say:

"Good afternoon. A priestand a rabbi are playing golf. The priest hits an incredible shot, and . . .

(30-second pause)

"Staring at this waterpitcher, I am reminded of the Bartlett's familiar quotation by the ancient, dead Chinese painter Ku K'ai-Chih, who said: "Of all kinds of painting, figure painting is the most difficult; then comes landscape painting, and next dogs and horses.'

"But as this pie chartshows . . . Hey! What's that over there, away from my crotch!!??

"Ha ha! My mistake. But asthis pie chart shows, our "market share' for Armpit Magic Deodorant Soap is not going to improve in a day, or even two days. It's not going to improve until we figure out some way to make it stop causing the consumer's skin to develop oozing craters the size of Susan B. Anthony dollars. Thank you, and you've been a wonderful audience.'

Photo: Always begin yourspeech with a joke, as Lincoln did in his Gettysburg Address.
COPYRIGHT 1987 Saturday Evening Post Society
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:always begin with a joke
Author:Barry, Dave
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1987
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