It has been another “whoops why did I say that week”—and again I wasn’t the only one to have a slip of the tongue. In my old age, I have become a standup comic, AKA lecturer in Intellectually Active Old People Land. Many worthwhile organizations are constantly seeking brilliant lecturers, so if you are good, you work a lot. The not-so-hidden purpose of my new career is to spread the word about my book. The first time I gave my schpiel about how I reinvented my life after leaving teaching it was to an audience of folks I knew well. If I put my foot in my mouth, they knew me and loved me, so the world would not fall apart if I goofed.
Yesterday’s talk was a different story. The audience was a room full of strangers, all who had paid dearly to hear brilliant lecturers stimulate their gray matter. I had heard the speaker who preceded me on many occasions. He doesn’t miss a beat from start to end and keeps his audience’s follow-up discussions focused. As soon as someone strays from the topic, he has the skill to say quickly, “Good point, we’ll get back to that later.”
The comment hurts no one and prevents what I call “Show and Tell” discussions from ruining his talk—in other words, he knows how to keep control of the discussion and not give it to those who think their comment is relevant, but in actuality has zero to do with the topic.
There was a big difference between this speaker and me. He had his date booked months ago and was being paid. He had months to prepare. All he had to do yesterday was show up, talk, collect his money, and leave. I was a substitute—a last minute booking and agreed to talk free for the right to sell my book before and after my talk. My goal was to “get my book out there.” My purpose was not to educate but to sell. The real aim of my speech was to motivate the audience to buy the book by whetting their appetite with tidbits from the book. The talk went well—I heard lots of laughter—but when I asked for questions or comments, I goofed. One of the tidbits I divulged as an “appetizer” was the book contained the solution to the leading cause of acid reflux—splitting restaurant checks with others when you’re not the one who ran up the bar bill. One question that came up was, “How did you solve the problem?”
As a teacher, it was important to anticipate any question. As a lecturer, I’m learning that the questions being thrown at me are good, but I’m not anticipating them. Thus my answers to the questions aren’t the words I would have uttered if I had time to think about them. I responded, “You’ll have to buy the book to find out.”
This nice lady’s head went down along with my heart. I immediately apologized to her, especially since the audience laughed at my retort. True, the purpose of the lecture was to make people want to buy the book; however selling a book by innocently hurting someone is not my style. Since she immediately started to write down notes, my nightmare was she was doing a review of me and my future as a speaker was doomed.
I shared my goof with two friends. One, who runs many of these types of lectures, said I should have used the word “read” in lieu of “buy.” She told me famous authors do it all the time. I prayed all night that she was right and not just wanting to calm me. The morning headlines of the local paper didn’t doom me, but these inserts were written last week. I’ll let you know next week if I’m in trouble.
I also called my other friend—the one I wrote about last week who lives on a block where the germ causing oral diarrhea is worse than on mine. Once again, her story outdid mine. It seems she and her significant other of many years were walking in a nearby park. He was engrossed in conversation, didn’t notice something blocking his path, and went flying through the air. My friend panicked and screamed out a name, but it wasn’t his. It was her ex’s whom she divorce decades ago.
Her error was worse than mine—unless mine brings me negative press reviews.