A lot of speakers have been trained to maintain eye contact with an audience by looking around an audience, that is left front, left rear, right rear then right front. Often they never really look anyone in the eye or make a personal contact. I have learned that if I really get intense with one person that through the process of empathy, everyone in the audience sits in the chair of that person I am focusing on.
The same force works when you single someone out for criticism or poke an ugly joke at someone. The whole audience sits in the seat of that person you embarrass.
Really talk to somebody in the audience, then really talk to somebody else. You can do a one on one with several thousand people through the power of empathy.
Almost eleven years ago we bought an Aeron Chair made by Herman Miller for my office. I first saw it at the Arizona Safety Congress and it had a high price but it felt really comfortable when I sat in it for a while. It has a lumbar support feature and I’d set my chair aside because it just wasn’t comfortable to me any longer. I didn’t even look at it, I just put it away and pulled out one of the other chairs I have. We went into a store for a back pillow the other day and they had a lot of expensive chairs including the Aeron and I thought about mine and mentioned it to the salesman. He advised me that my chair probably had a great guarantee with it perhaps for even twelve years. I didn’t remember when we had bought it but when I found the bill it was over ten years old and I was disappointed. Then I read the information on the chair and it has a twelve year guarantee on all parts and labor. It is a simple guarantee in English and there is no fine print. It just says that if anything goes wrong with the chair they will fix it or replace it. I went up and examined the chair and, sure enough, that lumbar support had a cracked base. I made a few calls and soon I will have it back, repaired.
As I get older I seem to be encountering more and more fine print and the print gets smaller and smaller and the exceptions on a guarantee seem to get longer and longer. I feel really good now about that chair. I’ll feel even better when it is back in place in my office. What kind of guarantee do you offer on the work you do each day?
The sun was shining off the pristine snow in our woods behind our cottage and bouncing up through my big office window. The rays caught the tip of the wing of my prized pounded brass eagle I’d found in a window at a little store in sort of a little mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where I was a speaker at their High Performance Leadership Conference, June 22 and 23, 1981. When I went inside and talked with the shop owner I soon discovered that I had met my match when it came to bargaining. He said the price was $100 U.S. and it was not negotiable. That is what they all say, but crafty Old Art, world traveler and master shopper, knew otherwise. At least he thought he did. I offered seventy and the man did not blink. He explained that in his store prices were fixed. He showed me the tag with the prices listed and the one with a dollar sign showed $100. I said to him that I collected eagles and I wasn’t even certain this was an eagle at all. Then I offered seventy-five and then eighty and he suddenly became busy with something in the back of his store and he did not come back to me. I did what every good negotiator must do. I left the store. A few hours later I returned and before I could even get fully inside the store he came up and smiled at me and gave me one finger (a nice one) and then two zeroes with his thumb and forefinger. “One hundred U.S. Dollars,” he said.
Early the next morning I returned to the shop. That same gentleman smiled and gave me the hundred dollar signal. I smiled and paid him. Fortunately this brass sculpture had been built for travel. The bird parted from it’s globe like stand and both wings came off. I carried it on my flight to Singapore and then a few days later from plane to plane on the trip back home. When I moved here to North Carolina from Michigan all of my eagles survived the move and I set them all around my office and my music room and the ladies who come in every two weeks keep them dusted. It wasn’t until we had this snow and the welcome sunshine that bounced their rays into my office shining as a spotlight on that eagle that I gave it much thought. I carefully brought it down from over the bookcase and cleaned it up some and my loving wife Jean took some photos for me as a Valentine gift and now I treasure it even more.
I’m beginning to feel like a 100 watt incandescent light bulb lately. I have been getting calls from taxidermists who want to stuff me and hang me on a wall. In a way though, that is nothing new. There are those who would have liked to hang me out to dry as long as thirty years ago.
When I was a boy, growing up in the city of Detroit, Michigan, my mother would sometimes take me on a bus with her and in a big paper bag she carried several burned out Edison electric light bulbs. All you had to do was bring your old bulbs to the Edison office and they would happily replace your old bulbs with new ones free of charge. They were especially happy if they were 100 watt bulbs.
The times are certainly changing. In some States they are making marijuana legal and nationally the 100 watt incandescent light bulb has been put on the endangered list. No longer is it legal to import or to manufacture such bulbs. I figure that the law people who have done such an awesome job of keeping marijuana out of America will now be transferred to the noble cause of striking out 100 watt bulbs in America. Soon we will be able to buy such bulbs on street corners of every major city. Just one more sign of your tax dollars in action and a tribute to the American spirit of not letting anyone try to tell us what we can do.
I have walls of books in my office and upstairs in my music room and some days I just pull out a book at random and open it up and start reading. Today I read about Carlos P. Romulo, who was a soldier, statesman and Philippine patriot. He served with General Douglas Mac Arthur during World War II and helped in the creation of the United Nations. Then he was Philippine Ambassador to this country and a former president of the U.N. General Assembly. When he left America for the last time he said this.”I am going home, America —Farewell. For seventeen years, I have enjoyed your hospitality, visited every one of your fifty states. I can say I know you well. I admire and love America. It is my second home. What I have to say now in parting is both a tribute and a warning. Never forget, Americans, that yours is a spiritual country. Yes, I know that you are a practical people. Like others, I have marveled at your factories, your skyscrapers and your arsenals. But underlying everything else is the fact that America began as a God loving, God fearing, God worshiping people, knowing that there is a spark of the Divine in each one of us. It is this respect for the dignity of human spirit which makes America invincible. May it always endure.
And so I say again in parting, thank you, America and farewell. May God keep you always—and may you always keep God.”
Following his return to his home he enjoyed an outstanding literary and business career and he died in 1985.
I wonder if he could return to the United States today just how he would feel about how we had done, keeping God in our way of doing things.
This is a true story that happened many years ago.
Sally Brayton is the fantastic wife of Greg Brayton, my musical partner in Coldwater, Michigan and she works at the Woman’s State Prison there in town.
Through Sally, I made arrangements to visit the prison and do a general assembly for the women inmates.
In the past I had done a half a dozen talks at prisons and I always felt that I learned something on such visits.
The prison had a nice big assembly room and every seat in the auditorium was filled. After my introduction I began my speech and it was going just fine. Of course, there were guards standing right up front and at all of the exits and it all seemed rather intimidating.
Somehow I reached for my glasses which I had sitting on a little table on the stage and I dropped them. One of the lenses just popped right out and when I picked them up I noticed that one of the screws that helps hold the lens was also gone.
I simply looked out at the audience and asked, “Who will try to fix my glasses for me?”
One of the older women who was sitting in the front row raised her hand and I walked to the front of the stage and signaled for her to come forward and take the glasses.
Three guards came rushing forward to protect me from that sweet old lady.
I negotiated with them and managed to hand her the parts.
She sat down and examined the glasses and said, “A screw is missing.”
One of the other prisoners sitting in the front row said, “I see it on the floor.” And she stood up and tried to approach the stage but those three guards appeared again and stopped her.
Either those guards were not paying any attention to what was going on or else they were over trained in field combat. Anyway, again we negotiated. The girl retrieved the screw, handed it to the other prisoner who was working on my glasses and went back and sat down.
I went back to my speech and a couple of minutes later the lady signaled me that she had my glasses fixed.
We negotiated again with those three guards and she gave me my glasses. I thanked her and asked her name.
“Bonnie,” she said, “Like in Bonnie and Clyde.”
The audience laughed.
“Yeah, I’ve read about you I said,” playfully. They laughed again.
“Thank you Bonnie. Without those glasses I would not have been able to read my notes. And I wouldn’t be able to read a poem I had planned. In fact, you just saved me a real mess because without you I could not have gone on. Let’s give Bonnie a nice round of applause…No, hold it. I want you all to join me in giving Bonnie a standing ovation. Everybody up.” They all stood up and I led the applause.
Bonnie just stood there looking out at that audience with the darndest look on her face. She was absolutely dumbfounded.
Later I found out that Bonnie was one of their most uncooperative prisoners and she was serving a life term for murder.
Later I gave Sally a book autographed to Bonnie and she told me that Bonnie had really changed for the better following that meeting.
How many people go through their entire life without ever receiving a standing ovation? Far too many, I bet.
I have been blessed with some wonderful photographers in my career. At Omaha Power one day they had a fellow take over a hundred photos of me before he was satisfied. It was published on the cover of their slick corporate magazine. Terry Pochert made dozens of video tapes for me and to me he is a sort of genius.
Well, recently a photographer named Said Karimzad, Executive Producer at Moments in time Media Photography and Video production Phone 252-481-2447 firstname.lastname@example.org forwarded a photo he’d shot of me speaking for East Carolina Lifelong Learning’s kickoff program at Greenville, NC I think he truly captured the joy I feel when I have a wonderful audience smiling and really connected with the presentation. My thanks to that gentleman. One photo is really sometimes worth a thousand words. Thank you Said Karimzad.
May God Bless America and fill the whole world with peace.
Just a few years ago I was involved in a film school production on comedy. A wonderful guy Mickey Schroeder and I were headed out to lunch and I had been telling Mickey how many people mistook me for Andy Griffith. He didn’t seem to be convinced and as we walked out on the sidewalk in front of the school a thirtyish couple approached us and the man took hold of my hand and started gushing about how thrilled he was to shake hands with Andy Griffith. I interrupted him and explained that I was not Andy Griffith but he was having no part of that. He kept on telling me that I (Andy) was probably the greatest living American and how thrilled he was to meet me. Again I said I wasn’t Andy but that just prompted the lady with him to tell me how she loved my TV Shows and such. I just shrugged to Mickey, we thanked them and took off.
The other day I was working on a speech segment and I was convinced that Andy Griffith was not our greatest American at that time, but then I asked myself who is our greatest living American today? I have just begun asking people that question. If you have a minute would you please visit our blog and tell us who you think is our greatest living American at the present time? It might be a president, a sports figure, a politician, a scientist, a movie star… that is up to you. All I want is your personal opinion. Maybe it’s my age and the fact that so many of my heroes have passed on but offhand, I can’t think of a whole lot of people I would put into that category. Do me a favor, will you? Give me some feedback on this.
When I first started out as a professional speaker it was somewhat seasonal. Summer was a very poor season for professional speakers. There were several blank spots on a speakers calendar and one of those was from about December 15th to January 15th. With those long layoffs a speaker could get pretty antsy. I recall one time when Du Pont called and booked me for an early January safety kickoff and I was thrilled. What a way to start the year with three full days at my full fee. I was in speaker’s heaven. Well I feel that same thrill this year with a booking on January 11th speaking for East Carolina University at Greenville, North Carolina as the kickoff speaker for their 2014 Lifelong Learning Program. The title of my talk is “Making Every Day A Learning Adventure.” They offer an outstanding learning program, still what thrills me most is the opportunity to not only present as my Almost Andy (Griffith) character for a bit but then to get back into my role as a motivational humorist and endeavor to have an impact on the lives of attendees. If my message is the right one and strong enough I might really touch people’s lives in a meaningful way. That is my job, my calling, my reason for being, to touch people’s lives. There is so much untapped greatness in people that they fail to recognize or employ that I’m thrilled with this opportunity to explore it with them.
When it rains sometimes I look out my big window and I think, “Gee, I’m glad I don’t have to be out there working in that stuff.” Then comes the idea of Gene Kelly on a rainy day in Paris and the rain came and he danced in the streets and kicked the rain and sang a song I will never forget named Singing in the Rain.
Ben Franklin then came to mind and his discovering the electricity in lightening and using a key on a kite. I bet he stood out in the rain many a time working on that project but he came up with the Lightening Rod and wrote his name in the books of wisdom. And then I barely recalled a poem I had written one night when I went for a walk in the rain and with the miracle of my computer and a little item named Search I found the poem I wrote after that experience. Here it is.
(c) Art Fettig
It was raining and I was running.
You know, trying to get out of it
Into the cool dry…
When suddenly, I stopped and I let it happen.
And the rain came down by the cloudfulls all over me
And somehow, it seemed to wash away my years.
I was twelve years old and I wanted an Al Kaline bat
And a Beachboy’s towel and a new record by the Blue Magoos.
I didn’t care about the price of gas or about Syria or Afganastan
Or about my aching knees or anything.
I hope it rains again tonight.