Archive for April 6th, 2009

Before Making That Important Announcement – First, Get Their Attention!

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Why is it that – even with everything that goes on at a 3-ring circus – the ringmaster is always heard?

There are 3 reasons: First, he’s a pro and is experienced at making himself heard. Next, he has a PA system which can be even louder the trumpeting elephants and laughing rug rats. And finally, he has a band to help him.

All of us have heard fanfares. We know that when they are played, they signal that important information will follow (“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s eat!”) But – even to someone from Mars with no cultural awareness of fanfares, the fact that they are louder than the surrounding noise gets our attention – at least for a moment.

This is why I hate to see shy violets try to hush a room. They always start by clearing their throats (which accomplishes nothing in noisy surroundings). Then – in an almost apologetic voice – they add a meek “Excuse me” (ditto the reaction above.) It’s sad to watch, and worse, it never works.

The way to quiet an audience is to break through their myriad conversations and thoughts in a bold way. Fanfares are great, gongs or cymbal crashes are good, and even a good old fashioned loud whistle (either the kind you make with your mouth, or the one that coaches and referees use) is pretty reliable. Any of these should momentarily lower the ambient sound in the room a few decibels.

The key to success, however, is what comes next. The instant that the fanfare opens the door a crack, whoever plans to speak must barge right in to fill the sonic void. And nothing – repeat nothing – has ever improved on the classic ringmaster’s cry: “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!!”

Say it, say it fast, and say it loud. And there may be hope for you in the circus, yet.