• Please, Earth. Swallow Me Whole.

    Please, Earth. Swallow Me Whole!

    My topic at a symposium was how to lead all-day workshops. There were about 150 people present. A woman approached the standing microphone and asked how often we should offer breaks throughout the day.

    I said, “People should be given a break every 60 - 75 minutes. But when I was leading workshops during mypregnancy, I needed to call a break every 45 minutes.”

    She said, “Are you implying that I’m pregnant?”

    “Um . . . you’re not?”

    "I’m not.” 

    This was followed by tense silence as all heads turned toward me to see what I would do. 

    I had no words. My mouth opened and closed but nothing came out. 

    I was finally able to speak. I said, “I apologize and I beg your forgiveness.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. My next words were, “Pray, let us continue.”

    You and I need to develop a reliable filter that swipes away inappropriate words before they leave our lips. And if that filter fails us, we need to humbly apologize.

    Moral of the story: Never assume a woman is pregnant, even if you are physically present when she goes into labor.


  • Prevent your Audience from Disappearing

    The Disappearing Audience

    Nearly 200 women showed up at Honolulu’s biggest department store to attend a presentation given by a major cosmetics company. Let’s call the presenter Jean-Marc. Jean-Marc had flown in from New York to promote the new spring line of products (and to sell them).

    Toward the end of a compelling presentation, Jean-Marc began to take questions from the audience. One woman wondered which color palette would suit her coloring. He walked over to her and the two of them had a cozy chat. The next question was from a woman who wanted to know about hair color. Again, Jean-Marc walked over and conducted a private consultation. 

    By this time, the message was clear: The presentation was over. People began to gather their belongings and say their good-byes. The quick-witted store manager saw her potential sales disappearing and took center stage. 

    “Ladies, please take your seats. We’re about to offer door prizes and an all-paid trip to New York. You must be present to win!” She saved the day. 

    Get the point? When you answer questions, include everyone. Jean-Marc should have said, “This lady is asking about our line of products for those of you with olive skin tones. Here is what we have for you . . .”


    I don’t eat prior to speaking. Here’s why:

    1. I don’t want to wonder if poppy seeds are between my teeth or if a piece of spinach has wrapped itself around a front tooth.
    2. I don’t want to have to leave the room to examine my teeth and fix my lipstick. I might miss an important piece of information that I should include or exclude from my presentation.
    3. I don’t want the risk of burping.
    4. Digesting, thinking, and speaking aren’t a good mix.

    The fact that once — half an hour after eating — I urgently needed to leave the stage to use the bathroom swore me off that ever happening again!

    But your hosts will likely urge you to eat, and they will be puzzled or even offended if you don’t. They might inaccurately assume you think their fare is inferior, or perhaps you are ill or antisocial.

    I find that I must explain myself to some degree: “I tend to not eat before I speak. It works better for me that way. But thank you for the offer. Oh, you want to assemble a take-out plate for me? Thank you!”

    Sometimes they say, “The buffet will still be set up after youre done speaking. You can eat then!” Call me uncooperative, but that doesn’t work for me either. I want to be available to talk with audience members, and if I’m permitted to sell books, I need to be at the book table.

    Stop trying to make me eat!


    Inform your hosts ahead of time that you won’t need a meal. If pressed, tell them that you perform better on an empty stomach.

    At the table, join the action by accepting coffee or tea so you have some consuming body language going on.

    Avoid lengthy explanations. Smile and say, “Thank you so much. For now, I’m fine.”