Two useful words for public speakers

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 12:51 Written by Pam Chambers Monday, 22 July 2013 02:55

My public speaking students ask lots of good questions. I am amused by how often the most accurate answer is: “It depends.”

Q: The other day I was giving my committee report at the Board meeting. One of the Board members got up and headed for the door. What should I have done?

A: It depends. If this had been the Chairperson of the Board I might not have said anything, hoping that he or she would return promptly. It also depends on whether you needed a quorum in order to make decisions. Sometimes it’s OK to let people leave. Other times, it is not. It depends.

Q: Next week I will be giving a presentation on emerging global markets. I know that an expert will be in the audience. Should I call on that person, or should I hope he stays silent?

A: It depends. If you can trust that this expert won’t go on and on, I would find a way to use him. But if you can’t, I would ask him yes/no questions only and praise him generously for his presence.

Q: Pam, I heard you tell a story about employees who had to stay overtime to listen to you speak about customer service. They would be allowed to have a beer after you were finished speaking. You told us that you cut your talk short. Should you have done that?

A: It depends. Would I lose my audience if I spoke for 45 minutes? Yes. Would my client be satisfied if I spoke for only 30 minutes, and stuck around to mingle? In this case, yes.

In public speaking, as in many other activities, the answer to the question is, “It depends.” That’s when your wisdom is called forth!

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What to do when there is an expert in your audience

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2015 12:51 Written by Pam Chambers Monday, 1 July 2013 03:18

The biggest reason people are afraid of public speaking is that they fear making a fool of themselves. “What if people find out that I don’t know what I’m talking about?” Or, “What if there is an expert in the audience who knows more than I do, and sets out to prove it?”

In 1982 I was speaking to a group of beginning speakers about how to make money with public speaking. I was feeling pretty sure of myself because I had just begun to charge money and I believed I had something to offer this group.

About five minutes in my talk, in walked a man named Capt. Gerald Coffee. At that time, he was earning $4,500.00 for a 45-minute talk. That’s $100.00 per minute. I was rattled by his presence and felt that suddenly, I had no credibility. I wished he would just go away!

A little voice said, “Use him!” I pounced on that solution and said, “How fortunate we are! Everyone, this is Capt. Gerald Coffee and he is the highest paid speaker I have personally met. Capt. Coffee, perhaps a bit later on, you’d share some tips with us about how to set speaking fees.”

He looked pleased, and said, “Of course!” This was good. Instead of feelings threatened, I positioned him as a helper. That’s what to do if you ever have an expert in your audience: praise, control, and make use of.

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