Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Impressing an audience of many ... or one

Someone like our president, Barack Obama, has no problem addressing millions. But many people avoid speaking in public out of shyness, regardless of the size of the audience.

I know how they feel. I once sat for 45 minutes in a doctor's waiting room before approaching the receptionist's window. "Uh, did you forget about me?" (She had.)

So I've always been envious of people who can talk to anybody anytime anywhere. Those with instinctive sales ability, for example.

My father was such a person. He could make the smallest of small talk interesting. Once, as he went door-to-door raising funds for my school (Can you imagine a worse job?) a prospect opened her door just long enough to say, "Beat it." But it was also long enough for my dad to head her off with, "That's a beautiful rug!"

"Oh, well, thank you," the lady replied. Now the threshold was wide open and they were discussing the design, the knap and the rug's many other attributes. And now it was my dad's turn to say, "Thank you," as he slipped her check for $100 into the campaign envelope.

As I said, it came naturally for my father. But anyone can speak more confidently with a little preparation. It starts with a script that has been written for the ear. Even if you're not going to read it to your audience, rehearsing the crux of your message will help you deliver it with greater effect.


I'm going to take my own advice and be ready the next time I have to tap on a receptionist's window to see if anyone is still there.

"Could you tell the doctor something?" I'll say pleasantly. "While I've been waiting out here I couldn't help but notice:

"That's a beautiful rug!"


John Ettorre said...

Lovely story, and how nice to learn more about your dad. We all have to appreciate and recognize those wellsprings of our character, both good and bad, to understand ourselves.

Mike Q said...

Thanks, John. Unfortunately Dad abandoned sales for something more stable. Can't blame him. He was trying to establish a career during the Depression years. Then he was drafted at age 36 (!) to serve in the Battle of the Bulge. He spent the rest of his working years in an office job for TRW where his talents were wasted. I'm afraid I picked up on his cautiousness, wasting too many years myself working for organizations.

Michael said...

That was a nice story about Gpa Q, Dad. Don't sell yourself short on your just do it on paper or screen rather than in person. And perhaps salesmanship is a perjorative term - better to call it communication, the sale of ideas. We all do that in one way or another, and I think you do it just fine. If the buyers are blind, then that's on them. As our Lord might say, "let those who have ears listen!"

Mike Quinn said...

Thanks for the boost, Michael.

John Ettorre said...

Parenthood and mortgagehood (to coin an awful term) are rightly cause enough for cautiousness, Mike.

Mike Q said...

Not to mention creeping-up-on-old-age-hood.