Public speaking 102

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If I may, I’d like to add a few lines to Tim Mead’s “Public speaking 101” craft improvement piece from the December 2010 issue of Outdoors Unlimited. Born a stutterer, I conquered America’s No. 1 fear as a 20-year-old. And now, at more than 70 years of age, and as a well-paid public speaker, let me suggest how you may speak and grow rich.
As you all know, writing is easy, public speaking is hard.
In writing, if you make an error you get to delete and rewrite. In public speaking, if you make an error the audience gets to kill you.
Yes. Kill you. Standup comics are not kidding when they say after two failed jokes, “I’m dying up here!” In ancient times, poor speakers were stoned. Today, we have pistols.
If you choose to chase the easy money of public speaking, it will motivate you considerably to imagine that everyone in your audience is packing a loaded pistol.
Never speak impromptu, Tim? Right! There are three rules to success in public speaking: rehearse, rehearse and rehearse. Only congressmen can break these rules because, as you know, they are unencumbered by facts, figures, or fear of assassination.
On the matter of humor, Tim is again correct. Funny is to humor what a pie in the face is to a slowly-erupting belly laugh from a Pat McManus punch line.
Funny is also not comedy. Funny is backing an old fishing boat off the end of a trailer and watching it sink slowly into a lake. Comedy is backing the same old boat off the end of a trailer and watching it sink slowly into a lake with somebody’s grandpa on board strapped to a wheelchair.
If you must use gags, steal the best and practice your timing. Without timing, don’t try.
Here are seven tips for making money as a speaker:
1. Write an “evergreen” speech that will work any time of year for any outdoor audience. This is your cash machine.
2. The first 10 times you give the speech, be sure to record it, listen to it and edit it.
3. Develop a 15-minute version, a 30-minute version, and a 40-minute version with the option for question-and-answer session – depending on subject, audience, topic and the host’s desire.
4. Because you can’t see yourself when talking, plant a critic in the audience to give you feedback on things like picking your nose, adjusting your glasses or tapping your foot.
5. Give this talk away at least five times before charging for it. Then let price rise with demand. If you don’t get good “word of mouth” and groups offering to pay, you don’t yet have anything interesting or entertaining to sell.
6. If you use alcohol, have that double cocktail at least 20 minutes before you get to the podium. A rising blood alcohol level lowers the panic you will feel when the first gag fails and people start reaching for their pistols.
7. Speak at 10 or 11 a.m. when the audience still cares, or right after an early dinner when the audience is still drunk.
Three things you should never do:
1. Talk more than 40 minutes.
2. Read verbatim from a slideshow presentation like PowerPoint.
3. Begin with, “Can you hear me in the back?” This single question identifies the amateur speaker every single time, and causes listeners to check their holsters.
If you intend to be paid as a professional speaker you should never rise to open your mouth unless you already have the majority of your remarks memorized, a glass of drinking water at the podium, know the sound system and projector are working, how long you will talk, whether you will offer a question-and-answer period, and that the people in the back of the room can hear you.
Finally, no one in your audience is interested in anything but a story. It may be a story studded with scientific data, photographs, or telling truths, but it better be a story. They don’t want you up there if you can’t tell a story. Without a story, audiences will forgive you once, maybe twice, but keep rambling on and on without a story and you’d better be wearing a bulletproof vest.♦
–A member since 1983, Paul Quinnett is a fishing editor for Sporting Classics, Sports Afield and In-Fisherman. He is also a book author and freelance writer. Contact him at

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