It Taketh Away
An exercise in
and self confidence
Patt Schwab, Ph.D.
presenting a workshop to a group of Municipal
Clerks when a woman in the back of the room began
to repeatedly grab the front of her blouse. The
audience, however, was so intensely attentive that
they did not seem to notice her.
Assuming their rapt attention related to the
brilliance and relevance of my presentation, I
amplified my remarks with large dramatic gestures.
It worked, they were totally focused on me. I had
what every speaker craves: complete command of the
audience. If a pin were to have been dropped, it
would have been heard.
the woman in the back became more and more
agitated. She started pulling the front of her
blouse in and out. At last I was so distracted by
her that I lost my place and looked down at my
notes. Only then, I noticed that the entire front
of my blouse was unbuttoned - not just that top
button that pops now and then, but THE ENTIRE
FRONT! I was mortified! The transfixed attention of
the audience had nothing to do with the brilliance
and relevance of my presentation! (Although it may
have had something to do with the brilliance and
relevance of my gestures!)
the Humor Muse stepped in to aid me. I explained to
the group, "I'm trying so hard to stay "a breast"
of this material that, well, I just got carried
laughed, I buttoned up, the agitated woman calmed
down, and we went on with the program. I'd been
saved by the power of humor! It made me appear
self-confident and in control even when I was not.
Just how self confident it had made me look I was
not to learn until two years later.
about to give a speech to a group in an entirely
different industry when a woman approached me
saying: "I heard you when I was a municipal clerk a
few years ago and I wondered if you still do that
trick where you open your blouse in the middle of
1997 Patt Schwab, Ph.D.
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