Archive for November 5th, 2007

Uh – Uh, Hello? Can Anybody Hear Me?

Monday, November 5th, 2007

A loud drum roll followed by a cymbal crash is a great attention getter when a speaker is about to begin. Conversations cease – or at least slow – in anticipation of an announcement. Fanfares are also great for telegraphing to the audience that important words are imminent. (“Dinner is served!” – for instance.)

Unfortunately, not every gathering has access to throbbing drums and blaring percussion. Rotarians generally strike a bell when it is time for their business to begin. Other clubs tap their water glasses with dinner knives. Or do a group-Shhhhhhhh! And – of course – there’s always the old reliable sound of a throat clearing (ah-HEMMMM!) with hands held in the air, palms out.

All of these methods work some of the time (none do all of the time). But what does not and will never work is the timid approach, characterized in the title of this entry as “Uh- uh, hello? Can anybody hear me?” The answer is no, because you aren’t saying or doing something that will cut through the roar of the crowd.

Personally, I favor the “Ringmaster” approach: “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!!!” delivered at a volume that a hog caller would envy. But – I must admit – a good shrill whistle is equally effective. And, dropping a metal tray from head-high onto a non-carpeted floor makes a pretty good gong.

Of course, then – once you (temporarily) have your audience’s attention – you still have to follow up boldly. My attitude is that any announcement which is important enough to demand a stop to all conversation is important enough to deliver with authority. Otherwise, what’s the point?

So – if your goal was to announce that the buffet is open, but you aren’t good at speaking to a crowd – simply go from one small group to the next, pointing them at the food. Believe me, once a few folks return to the room loaded down with steaming, heaping dinner plates, even the chattiest of your guests will get the message.

Some audiences – I have learned – almost never shut up. Not for an announcement, not for a prayer. Not even for The Star Spangled Banner. In such cases, waiting until you have every last person’s attention is futile – it’s not gonna happen. All you can do is get as many jabber-jaws as will to hush, then quickly (and I mean in a few seconds or less) say whatever must be said. Don’t read them a list of thank-yous, don’t go into a discourse, and – whatever you do – don’t pause!

Just say what has to be said as though you think it is important. Say it with authority. (And then quietly head to that buffet line to enjoy your pick of the victuals, before the yakkety-yaks even know what they’re missing.)