Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Helping My Wife Speak To Crowds

OK, so here I am sick with some kind of flu-like-crud and my darling wife tells me that one of her groups has asked her to be President next year.

If you knew her, than you would know that she is very meticulous and conscientious. I really don't know if that is a trait shared by all women, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was. Some women take it to a level that borders being anal retentive, while some don't go that far. I am thankful that my wife doesn't take it that far.

Yes she is very aware of what she does and because of that I'm sure she would be a great President. There is only two glitches to getting her to run for the position. First she sees herself as a "Helper" and really doesn't care for being the center of attention, and second she tells me that she has turned it down in the past because she has a fear of talking to large crowds.

Beings that I was once a Marine Platoon Sergeant, talking to crowds comes easy for me. Having to get my message across to an entire Platoon in a clear and concise manner was easy because all I had to do was to imitate my former Platoon Sergeants and I was OK.

The secret is knowing what you want to say, keeping things concise, and projecting your voice over distance. When marching the troops during Drill, it was all about projection and crisp commands.

Unlike writing where I can veer of track a bit and then come back, I found speaking to crowds to be more instructional and subsequently keeping it short was the best bet.

My wife has a quiet voice. She speaks low tones usually, and yes I'm hard of hearing so I know this real well. And yes, half the time I can't hear her so I figured that it would be a challenge to get her to project her voice.

I was thinking of analogies that I could use and I remembered coordinating the security for a Motivational Speaker who was giving a seminar to a large crowd in an auditorium in Oakland many years ago. If I remember right I think it was one of those "Get Rich In 30 Minutes By Giving Me Your Money" sort of things. The same sort of things on late night television.

Well during his presentation the Speaker's microphone went out. Yes, it was as dead as a doorbell! So he and a stagehand monkeyed with it for a while before he just gave up and jumped back into his medicine show selling all the snake oil that anyone would want. Without missing a beat, he hollered the whole thing!

At first the people in the back could hear him, but as his voice waned people started leaving. And yes before you knew it, there were only about 12 die hard enthusiast in the entire auditorium still listening to his now almost completely hoarse presentation.

I told my wife about this story and she laughed a little, then she asked me what was the message to the story?

I had to admit that there was no real massage really other than what not to do. In fact I told it her just because I liked remembering how that Con Artist looked up there on stage turning beet red and slowing losing his voice completely.

What that story does do is to lead me right into my real advice for the Speaker out there who is like my wife. First, do what was told to me years ago as a young Marine, project your voice as clearly as possible. Microphones make projecting your voice much easier, that is if you happen to have one handy.

Second, unlike with being a Marine Sergeant, project your voice in a manner that is both friendly and accepting. And of course, remember to be gracious! If there is one thing that I do know about people, it is that no one likes the feeling of someone talking down to you.

People are really pretty forgiving  unless they feel like someone is wasting their time or trying to pull one over on them. Most people will ignore the novice Speaker's mistakes. Most people know that there are really bigger things to worry about in this world.

Lastly, for you the Speaker, have a real message and know what you want to say. If you need to inform a group about something, do it in the beginning of your message when people are still eager to listen. And keep it to the point, but make sure it has substance without being boring. When it's over, it is all about what you said and how you said it. After all that's what people will remember in the long run.

Of course there is that thing that all Speakers can do when they have no substance to their message and all they're doing is rambling, just scream out,

"YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!"



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