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Use embarrassment to your advantage

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

businessman with hand covering mouthThe best public speakers don’t fear em­­barrassment. Instead, they foster so much goodwill with their audience that even if something mortifying happens, they can recover quickly.

Joey Asher is president of Speechworks, a speech coaching firm in Atlanta. About three hours into a client work­­shop, he felt sick to his stomach.

He briefly fainted, just after vomiting into a garbage can. It turns out he got food poisoning from lunch. After washing up, Asher felt well enough to continue training. The group burst into applause when he resumed his work.

Asher offers tips from his harrowing experience:

√  Build fast rapport. From the outset, cultivate relationships with your audience. Connect with them on a personal level, mingling with them in small groups and listening more than you speak.

Asher didn’t keep to himself when he arrived to kick off the session. He worked the room and struck up conversations by asking friendly questions such as, “Where are you from?”

If they replied, “Columbus, Ohio,” he’d ask, “Does that make you an Ohio State fan?”

√   Laugh at yourself. A little self-­deprecation can make you irresistible. When Asher returned from the restroom, his first words were, “I want to ask you one question. As I was throwing up, how was my eye contact?”

The group loved it. And it made them view Asher even more favorably.

√  Set a realistic standard. If you’re a perfectionist, you may become so flustered that you’re too distracted or dismayed to recover. It’s better to cut yourself some slack.

— Adapted from “What I Learned From Vomiting and Fainting in Front of My Class,” Joey Asher, www.speechworks.net.

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