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Re-write: September to Remember?

Greetings, Ax Readers! I didn't forget you during September, though I skipped the 2 Blogs I was supposed to write. I have my reasons, err... excuses? ("Others have excuses, I have my reasons why." --Nickel Creek).

I was writing & editing, just not blogging. The result? The second in the series of Global Readiness® books, Get a G.R.I.P. on Presentations: Andrew's Ax Semi-Secret Guide on What to Say and How to Say It. Here's a teaser: The book ends with Q & A, and I'm posting question 2, along with my (edited) answers:

Q2: From Darren McKellin, Area Director, North Asia, ZScaler: “What about the speaker who, when in front of a group, just starts speaking before getting the audience’s attention? Can you address that?”

A2: An excellent question from Darren, who has spoken in front of hundreds of audiences over his 20+ years as a leader in the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. Short answer: “Don’t do that!”

Longer answer:

One of the skills to master as a public speaker is the use of silence. In chapter 2, we covered pausing as the “killer vocal tool.” Standing in front of an audience and saying nothing can enhance your presence, your gravitas. If people are talking, and you just start talking above them, sometimes the audience will quiet down, but other times you may never get their full attention, and even if you eventually do, a lot of people will have missed your opening.

Years ago I used the “Shhh” method. People tend to quiet down when they hear “Shhh,” since our mothers soothed us with that calming sound. But there's a problem with this method: Some people will complain they are being treated as babies. Besides, like Jerry Seinfeld once said something like, “I don’t want to be a “shusher.” I prefer being a shushee.” Hence, I’ve put my “Shhh” on the shelf.

Another method I dislike is tapping a wine or water glass with a knife. First, you might break the glass. Second, it’s an unpleasant, jarring sound. And third, you’re not a bell-ringer, you’re the invited speaker.

It’s best if the person introducing you quiets down the crowd. That way, when you’re ready to speak, the room is ready for you. But what if the audience isn’t ready? Give them at least a minute, or maybe two. Just stand, grounded, breathing deeply, exhaling fully, smiling, acknowledging with a positive nod, perhaps a wave, those who are paying attention to you. If, after two full minutes (which may feel like an eternity until you’re comfortable with this technique), you still don’t have their attention, say, “Ladies and Gentlemen.”

That’s really all you need to say. If they’re still not paying attention 30 seconds later, say, slowly, purposefully, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please.” (If it helps, imagine you’re the Chair Umpire at Wimbledon.) You might need to say it one more time. Then, “Thank you.”

Now, only now, with the audience’s full attention, is the time to launch your presentation.


So there you have it--a taste of Get a G.R.I.P. on Presentations. It's a quick read, with tips, tricks, and techniques to make you a better public speaker. Please pick up a copy to read or share, and if you want to get into a future edition, just send me a question. Thank you, All Good Readers!

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