• What Makes a Great Thank-You Note?

    I recently received five excellent thank-you notes from high school students following a presentation I gave on public speaking. What made them excellent?

    1. The handwriting was clear and attractive.
    2. The card stock was of top quality and the graphics were simple.
    3. Each note mentioned a specific way in which my tips were useful.
    4. They included proper greetings and words of farewell.
    5. They used a proper postage stamp instead of a postage meter.

    In these days of instant and abbreviated communication, a proper thank-you note has more impact than ever. People who wish to stand out should make a habit of sending thank-you notes, perhaps following an e-mail of gratitude. 

  • Think You Own It? Think Again!

    This event happened over twenty years ago and I doubt anyone would remember his real name, but let’s call him “Alan.” Alan was the creator  (and as I found out later, the administrator) of my website.

    We placed my headshot on the home page, but it didn’t have a caption. I was taught that every photo should have a caption, so I asked Alan to add, “Pam Chambers, public speaker," which he did promptly. 

    A few weeks later, Alan died instantly in a senseless and tragic accident. 

    Several days later, I got a phone call: “You were recommended as a good source of presentation skills coaching. I went to your website and there is an awkward error on your home page.” I kept him on the phone while I dashed to my computer. "Error? What error?!" “Look at the caption under your photo.” 

    Pam Chambers, Pubic Speaker.


    I thanked him sincerely and immediately contacted my hosting company. They explained that since Alan was the administrator, the request to change “pubic” to “public" would have to come from him. I explained that he was deceased. I begged and almost cried, but they wouldn’t budge. 

    Alan’s family is French Canadian. His older brother had to manage Alan’s estate from afar, with limited English skills. My puny missing “l” was the least of his problems. 

    It took nine weeks for me to obtain a death certificate and gain control of my website. 

    Moral of the story: Be sure YOU are the administrator of your website! All of Alan’s clients learned this the hard way. And the sad way.

  • Some Privacy, Please?

    Once upon a time, a public speaker named Pam learned that she shouldn’t eat a meal prior to giving a presentation. Here's how it went down:

    I had a 7:30 a.m. flight to Hilo to give a customer service workshop for over 100 employees of a credit union. This required a 3:30 wake-up call, disrupting my normal routine of “easing into my day.” 

    My host picked me up at the Hilo airport and took me to a breakfast buffet, and—oh my—what a lavish affair that was!

    I was scheduled to be the second presenter of the morning, but the first presenter missed his flight, so I was immediately thrust on-stage the moment of my arrival.

    About half an hour into my talk, I felt rumbling “down there.” I hoped it was a false alarm, but as someone once crassly put it, “Oh, no, my friend. That train had left the station.”

    I needed to visit the ladies' room and I needed to do that now.

    It was too soon to call a break, so I invented a “paired sharing” exercise. “Turn to your neighbor and take turns sharing about a challenging customer service situation and how you handled it. You have five minutes.”

    I casually left the stage, as if planning to roam around the room, but instead I made a wild escape to the ladies’ room. I expected and hoped for blissful privacy.

    But . . . NO! Several other women seized this opportunity to visit the bathroom too! How dare they flagrantly ignore the assignment, and how dare they invade my privacy? Now I had to do the flush and flush again routine to try to mask my embarrassing activity. Enough said. 

    Back to the front of the room I go. “You have one more minute, everyone!” 

    I've covered this in another entry, but it's worth repeating why you might want to avoid eating before you speak:

    1. Spinach from your omelette might be coating one of your two front teeth. 
    2. You might mess up your lipstick. You can’t take out a mirror and examine your teeth and fix your makeup at the table. 
    3. If you leave the room to freshen up, you might miss some important information, such a clue about a topic you should avoid. 
    4. You might burp.
    5. Eating stimulates digestion. Digestion can lead to the bathroom at an inopportune time. 

  • Competing with a Trashcan

    When I agreed to speak to the employees of a printing company, it didn’t occur to me to ask where we would gather. As I approached their humble building in Kakaako, I saw four rows of metal folding chairs arranged in the street-front parking lot. 

    The employees filed out of the building at 5:00 pm and self-consciously took their seats. Some tried to stand near the curb, as if they weren’t part of this, but the boss made them sit. 

    There was no obvious “stage,” but there was space in front of the first row where I was to stand. The challenges would be numerous. Cars were driving by. People gawked at the scene, and some drivers called out greetings to people they knew. It was noisy and I didn’t have a microphone. I would have to yell.

    Five feet away from me stood a tall green plastic trashcan. It was filled to the brim with ice water in which cans of Budweiser beer bobbed and beckoned.

    The boss introduced me and said that I’d be sharing important tips on customer service. Then he said with a grand gesture, “Help yourseves to the beer when Pam is done talking.” All eyes shifted to me. Then to the trashcan. Back to me. Back to the trashcan. 

    The trashcan got better eye contact than I did.

    I surrendered to the trashcan and cut my talk by ten minutes. The applause was enthusiastic. (Was that because I gave a great talk? Yeah, right.)

    Moral of the story: Get to the venue early enough to control the trashcan. 


  • Showing Up at the Wrong Place

    The title of my after-lunch talk was, “How Women Throw Their Power Away.” The audience was an association of female attorneys. 

    Registration was to begin at 11:30 and we would sit down for lunch at noon. I arrived at The Plaza Club at 11:15 only to be told, “Oh, we couldn’t accommodate that large a group. The event was moved to the American Savings Bank tower." 

    Hmmm. Why was I not informed of this? Because my name was not on any list. I was not on the invitation list nor the RSVP list. Thus, the change of venue notice was not sent to me.

    Fortunately, the new location was only a couple of blocks away and I still arrived early. But, whew! What if it had been a 45-minute drive away?

    I got some laughs when I began by talking about arriving at the wrong place, and how that didn’t feel very “powerful” to me. “How can I talk about being powerful when I show up at the wrong place?” Yuk, yuk!

    When you make arrangements to give a presentation, you will have a contact person with whom you will share several e-mails and phone calls. 

    My mistake was (and, oddly, continues to be) that I didn’t make sure my name and e-mail address were on the crucial Distribution List. 

    Confirm, confirm, and confirm again.