The Pittsburgh chapter of the National Speakers Association was host to renowned speaker Lou Heckler last Saturday. Lou favored us with a wealth of information about presentation skills, but one of the points that stood out to me was only marginally related to stagecraft.
He said to engage people. Regularly. Because you have the potential to learn things that could result in a useable story. I was pleased because this is something I’ve been doing more and more lately. I’m usually reserved and a little shy with strangers, but I’m getting better. Case in point: a snippet of my article about a trip to Phoenix. Read on.
“It was a trip of wildlife observation. Shortly after my arrival, the clock said it was noon, but my stomach said it was two hours past lunchtime. My table was in the main section of the hotel’s bright and airy restaurant, just inside the patio where about a dozen tables stood under the permanent canopy.
I was having a hamburger and coffee and admiring the view of the golf course. (I don’t play, but the landscaping was pretty.) After a couple left their patio table, having finished their lunch, a grackle with the biggest feet I ever saw on a bird landed on the table and started foraging. Several other birds were checking out the other tables and the floor; apparently they were accustomed to finding food there.
The plates had been cleared and there were no crumbs left, so the grackle made do with something else. It picked up two packets of Sweet ‘n Low in its beak and flew off. I mentioned this to my waitress, and she said the birds do it all the time. It seems they love any sweetener, real or artificial. The birds make a neat, surgical incision in the exact middle of the packet and devour the contents. Sugar I can understand, or even Splenda, but Sweet ‘n Low?”
If I had been satisfied with simply noticing the bird fly away with the sweetener, the reader would have had only that image and no related information. Actually, the reader wouldn’t have had even that because there wouldn’t have been enough there for me to use in the first place. The waitress’s comments gave the anecdote the necessary backstory and essential detail.
In a word… engage.
(Here’s a link to the entire article: click here.)