Mark Grimm

 

No Last Page for Rubio! How to Handle a Speech Crisis

What if you get to the last page of your speech and it isn’t there? Public speakers should always have a disaster preparedness plan. This misfortune happened to potential Vice Presidential pick, Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Have a look:

The first advice, of course, is to be better prepared. Make sure you have all your pages. Secondly, have an idea in your mind what you would do if this should occur. Engage in what I call “mind practice.”

Mistakes will happen when speaking. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Never begin a speech without a handy one-page outline in front of you that you can refer to if you lose your place or your train of thought….or (in this case) the speech itself.

People will often judge you more on how you handle the mistake than the mistake itself. In this case, Rubio reacted pretty well initially. His smile was critical. It put people at ease because the audience gets tense when the speaker freezes up. It’s awkward for them and the speaker. Fortunately, an aide had the page. What would he have done without it? Rubio was strapped to the text, reading it word for word. That’s a practice I do not recommend. People can read on their own. They don’t need to be read to.

What was odd was how Rubio just went back to reading the last page after the incident. He seemed like a robot returning to his text. It really highlighted how artificial prepared text can be.

The incident is another re-enforcement of one of my fundamental teaching lessons in speaking — be as natural as possible. A good speech is a conversational engagement with the audience. It’s not a lecture.

Some short video clips on speaking at Grimm Academy may be helpful to you, as well as my speaking book.

The Rubio adventure does raise political questions given the Republicans have criticized Mr. Obama for being the “teleprompter president.” I’ll leave that one for the pundits.

In the meantime, count your pages!

The writer is a professional speaker and award-winning trainer.

Networking for Introverts: You Have It In You!

A good friend recently said this about networking, “How do you get over that old feeling from your youth you’ll come across as a dork?”

Well, first off, I was a fellow dork who watched one opportunity after another pass me by because of the awkwardness of networking situations. It’s a problem that can be fixed. Networking doesn’t have to be like a trip to the dentist, a “necessary evil” for introverts. You can actually enjoy it.

So how do you break the ice? Have a plan. If you know who’s coming in advance, do a little homework. Check some LinkedIn profiles. Approach someone by introducing yourself and ask the person about something in their background that you found of interest. This mutual interest may be common schooling, a professional concern, the same organization, the same activity, etc.

If you don’t have an advanced list, be current on what’s happening that day. Your goal is to be interesting. Be prepared to share content that others care about.

Avoid the minutia of what you do. Talk about the benefits of what you do in plain English.

Be helpful. You are an expert in something. Give that expertise away to people who could use it.

Listen carefully. Try to locate the “pain” in their business endeavors (we all have some) and offer help relieving it. Being introverted has its advantages. You are more comfortable listening than talking and listeners are often a big hit with extroverts. Listening is a skill, nurture it. Ask for advice. People love to give it.

If you are really shy, consider a suggestion by career counselor Katharine Brooks: attach one phrase to your name tag: “Ask me about…” and then fill in whatever topic you want to talk about.

Have a name tag you can read. I bring my own to events because you often get scribbled tags that force you to squint at someone’s chest. That has its pitfalls. We often don’t catch the name and it is helpful to use theirs when talking to them.

Always bring business cards. I can’t believe how many people at networking events don’t have them. The excuse doesn’t matter. You come across as poorly prepared.

Communication coach Nancy Ancowitz suggests volunteering at events. A task gives you instant contact with people without an introduction.

We’ve all met people who look past us at mixers because we weren’t important enough to them. That’s their problem, not yours. Most importantly, believe in yourself. There is something special about you. Share it. No one was ever shot for saying hello. Just be yourself and stick out your hand.

The author co-hosts a presentation on introductions at the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce on Friday, May 4th. Open to everyone. See details.

 

 

Relax Moms: Raising Kids Isn’t Work: Dems’ Mommy Problem

Another woman named Hilary has re-ignited the culture war over stay-at-home moms.

Hilary Rosen, managing director at the firm co-founded by President Obama’s former Communications Director, said Mitt Romney’s wife has “never worked a day in her life.”

Since Ann Romney has raised five kids, mothers all over are, shall we say, a little offended.

Flashback – March 1992: Hillary Clinton, when asked about her role in her husband’s campaign, snapped at reporters, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas.”

Ouch.

At first, Rosen didn’t back off her statement but later apologized because the Obama political team went ballistic over her remark. “Inappropriate and offensive,” said Obama strategist David Axelrod.

The truth is there are women in the Democrat establishment who look down on stay-at-home moms. They feel women in traditional roles haven’t carried the fight for women’s rights the same way they have. The heavy lifting has been left to them.

The resentment is misplaced. What women have always wanted was the choice to decide for themselves what “work” they wanted to pursue. And, let’s be clear, parenting is work. How many union contracts have you seen would require cleaning poop out of a diaper at 4 am?

The Obama team is furious at Rosen because it has enjoyed a huge gender gap over Romney with women. Women have had a hard time warming up to him. Now, the conversation has changed. One of the first rules of politics: if you are losing an issue, change the subject.

Ms. Rosen has done that for them.

The writer is a communication crisis expert, political consultant and former elected official.

 

 

 

Mike Wallace and the Legacy of the Ambush Interview

The father of the ambush interview is dead. There is something to be said for having big cojones, especially in journalism. Longtime 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace had them.

The ambush interview — sticking a camera in the face of an unsuspecting person — has always been controversial and Wallace admitted later in his career their use was to “create heat, rather than light.” They can make for good TV.

Ambush interviews (I conducted many myself) are fine if the purpose is to shed light. I always felt if you have nothing to hide, what’s the problem with the “ambush?” Sometimes, it’s the only chance you get to question someone who owes the public answers. If the interview is more about the show, than the truth, than its credibility is diminished.

A journalist has no responsibility to give someone time to “prepare” an answer. What journalists seek are unvarnished answers — those that reflect what the person really thinks and those that come before there is time to think about spin. An interviewee has every right to ask about the nature of an upcoming interview and to do the appropriate homework. But ambush interviews are usually about something that has already been done and/or something that is often being concealed.

The public does not completely understand the extent to which politicians go to conceal the truth. Our government is far more complicated than it has to be for a reason, complexity is a shield. And often times reporters have neither the time nor expertise to effectively pierce the shield.

As for Mr. Wallace, there were times his own opinions steered the path of his inquiries, resulting in some unfair treatment. I also think he did a lot of great work. Brazen is OK. We could use a little more of it.

The writer is a former TV anchor/reporter, adjunct media professor, and one-time elected official.