If you listen to a National Public Radio (NPR) station, you know that, several times a year, they hold “pledge drives” to raise funds.
These multi-day pitch events can get pretty dry; and apparently they only persuade 1 in 10 listeners to contribute.
So Ira Glass, host of the clever and popular storytelling show, This American Life, got radical:
- He asked listeners to “out” a friend who listens regularly but doesn’t contribute; then he
- Called the friend — in this case, Paul — and confronted him on air.
This perfect example of how not to act under public speaking pressure was the result:
Don’t Explain Yourself When You’re Embarrassed
What runs through my head, listening to this clip, is Billie Holiday singing, “Hush now, don’t explain!” (It sounds like this.)
And what makes Paul’s floundering funny, in a creepy kind of way, is that — having already put the noose around his neck by admitting in the first seconds that he’s in the wrong — Paul just keeps digging the hole deeper and deeper.
Yes, that’s a mixed metaphor, but you get the point:
Paul really should have stopped talking when he was only a little bit behind.
Don’t Explain, Because Stonewalling is a Public Speaking Skill
Texas Governor Rick Perry made the same mistake during his 2012 Presidential campaign when he couldn’t remember an important fact and — rather than just shrugging it off and moving on — belabored his memory lapse ad absurdum (till it became ridiculous):
When You’ve Made a Mistake, Less is Truly More
What could Paul have said to Ira Glass? How about,
You’re right, Ira. I’m ready to make my pledge now.
What could Rick Perry have said? How about,
And there are so many agencies I’d like to kill that I can’t think of the third one right now.
In either case, their mistake would have been over and forgotten before you could say, “the average American has the attention span of a goldfish.”
So remember that the more embarrassed you are, the wiser it is to shut your mouth — quick, fast, and in a hurry. [tweet that]
You can always issue a formal statement later!
While We’re Talking About NPR…
If you want to learn more about top-level articulation and phrasing, a great exercise is to turn on your NPR station and repeat almost anything you hear their national hosts or newscasters saying.
These radio professionals know how to speak clearly and concisely while still retaining their own unique sound, personality, and style.
This post, about the hosts of Car Talk, will help you “hear between the lines.”]