Some Amusing Stories Just Need to Be Shared – Public Speaking

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Some Amusing Stories Just Need to Be Shared

Amusing Stores about Public Speaking

Amusing Stores about Publlc Speaking

I’ve thought about selling these amusing stories to Reader’s Digest for years, but decided that I’ll share them with you here.   They are totally off-topic with my blog, but I think you will find them amusing.

Some years ago I was a brand new lieutenant in the U.S. Army.  Since I had a Master’s in Education I was tapped to be an instructor.  (This was okay by me.  There were people actively trying to kill America Soldiers “across the pond.”)

DID I SAY THAT?  Don’t ‘dis Your Superiors

I must have done fairly well since the Army awarded me a medal when I left.  We didn’t even know they gave medals for being a good instructor.   One of my amusing stories was being given a desk/pen set at my going away party.  This was traditional and was a small cannon with two ink pens and my personal saying etched on it.  Mine was “Did I say that?”   We weren’t supposed to criticize folks who outranked us and in the instructor group – everyone outranked us.   I would see something that was really wrong and make a suggestion, then look shocked and mutter “Did I say that?” and leave.  Virtually all of the suggestions were appreciated and I guess I did it often enough that they caught on.  J

Amusing Stories about PUBLIC SPEAKING

My favorite gigs was teaching public speaking. We would break large classes into groups of about 20 and each student would give a five-minute “presentation.”  These were videotaped so that we could show people how they looked.   Here are some of the things I saw.   (I will note that when writing about “Public Speaking” the typo that spell checkers do not catch is “Pubic Speaking.”  I’m pretty sure I didn’t do that here, but I’ve seen it – several times – over the years.)

Button Threads are Made of Cotton

In almost every class (Captains and Majors) we would have one nervous soul who would stand in front of us and twist one of their dress uniform buttons back and forth.   Part way through the presentation they would look startled and look down at their hand and, sure enough, there would be the button that they had just pulled off of their jacket.

Amusing Stories about “The Stupid Stick”

When I was teaching,  the Army used while wooden sticks at pointers.  The sticks were painted white with red paint on the tip.  They looked like a blind man’s cane.  As part of my teaching before the class started making presentations, I would do a section on “the Stupid Stick.”   The point was that the stick would make you look stupid.  “Pick it up, point with it and PUT IT DOWN!“   If you don’t: “The Stupid Stick Always Wins”  Here were some of the common ways to look stupid:

  • Majorette – The most common reaction to holding a thin stick in your hand while you are speaking is to try and twirl it through your fingers like a baton.
  • Errol Flynn – sword fighting,
  • Fred Astaire – dancing-with-a-cane,
  • Robyn Hood with a bow and arrow
  • Soldier – marching with a rifle on your shoulder
  • The General – tuck in under arm and start to strut
  • Forgetful Professor – forget what the stick was for and move it to your other hand and point with your finger.

In spite of our teaching, we would see the “stupid stick win” session after session.

Then one day came the best example of all.  A Captain stood up to do his speech.  On his way to the podium, he stopped in front of me, faced me, and looked me up and down with a “I’ll show you!” look.  He proceeded to pick up the stick and start his speech.  We were all watching as he battled the stick into submission. It obviously took at least half of his concentration but every time his fingers would start the “let’s see if we can twirl this thing?” motion, he would wrestle them into line.

At the end of his talk, he moved behind the podium and gave it a sharp rap.  “In closing, there were three main points I have been trying to make”  Rap, Rap  “Point 1 yada yads” Rap, Ra….snap   The end of the stick broke off and flew into the audience.   The captain stopped in mid-word and left the podium.  He stopped in front of me, turned and loudly announced “I apologize Lieutenant!”  The group broke up since at that point they all knew that “The Stupid Stick Always Wins!”

The Ring Knocker

Graduates from West Point are given a heavy ring that indicates that they are West Point Graduates.  One day a Major gave his speech.  As he stood behind the podium, he draped his hand over the top and started a constant Rap, Rap, Rap-Rap-Rap, Rap, Rap…..  Of course, as with the Stupid Stick, we didn’t hear a word that he said, just the Rap, Rap. At the end of each speech, one of the class would critique the talk before the teacher took a turn.  The Captain critiquer started with “Well now I know where the term ‘Ring Knocker’ comes from.”  The Major straightened up and snarled “I find that offensive Captain”  I broke in with “Private – rewind the tape.” After a couple of minutes where all we could hear of his speech was “Rap, Rap, Rap-Rap-Rap…..”  The Major muttered “Well I’ll be damned.  I apologize Captain.”   Speakers are so wrapped up in their presentation that they don’t notice little things like pacing or ring knocking.

The Swiss Colonel

From time to time we would have officers from other countries go through our course.  One day I had a Colonel from Switzerland. When it came time for him to speak (and he spoke excellent English) he told me “I prefer not to speak today Lieutenant.  You can skip me.”   Oh no, not happening.  My instructions were clear – “Everyone speaks.”  What a lot of people don’t know is that when a class in the U.S. Army starts, the instructor is “In Command”   The instructor might be a private and the students all officers, but the private is “in Command.”  My Colonel could come into my class and watch.  He could not tell me what to do during the class.  He could relieve me and take over or take notes.  (Of course, you didn’t want to abuse that since as soon as the class was over, HE WAS IN COMMAND!)

I politely told my reluctant student that it was his turn.  He snarled and I politely insisted.  Eventually he went to the front and gave a talk.  We did the usual critique and moved on.

That was the only class that I ever dismissed standing in the door or I could leave first. Usually I stayed up front and talked to students.  I made an exception and high tailed it to the Full Colonel who was in charge of the instructors.  I skipped two levels in my chain of comment – not cool, but necessary IMHO.  The sergeant rang me into the Colonels office and I told him I thought the Swiss Colonel was probably seconds behind me.  He asked what happened and explained.  With an evil grin, he ushered me out the side door to his office as we both heard a raised voice (with a Swiss accent) demanding that the sergeant let the Colonel know that one of his students had a serious complaint.

Outside the door, I found a reason to not leave just yet.  I heard the Swiss Colonel start in on he tale of anger and abuse.  Suddenly he was cut short with a loud “You will shut up and you will sit you ass in that that!  (pause)  You have been terrorizing my instructors since you arrived in this course.  Finally someone had the brass to stand up to you and that annoys you.  If I hear one more complaint about your attitude, you will be ejected from the course and sent back to Switzerland with a letter for your performance file that will probably end your career.  Do I make myself clear?”

At that point I had a Captain and a Major in my chain of command to find and talk to.  Having our Colonel talk to them before I did would have qualified as a “very bad thing.”  They would have had egg on their face if they didn’t have a clue about the conversation and that is always a “very bad thing.”  That would not have been an amusing story – At All!

The Scariest Thing He Ever Did

We also had some officers from the South Vietnamese Army take the course.  They were usually older than we were since becoming an officer there was a lifetime commitment and it took much longer to move up through the ranks.

One day a First Lieutenant (19 years in his Army compared to my 19 months) gave a speech on the “Scariest thing that he had ever done.”   He went through this list:

  1. Joined the Army – not even close
  2. Their Basic Training – where live bullets were fired over their heads – nope, not in the running
  3. Advanced Training where they rappelled off a cliff – nope that was kind of fun (I agree)
  4. Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane in Parachute Training – nope
  5. Getting out of a helicopter in a potentially hostile field – nope
  6. Getting out of a helicopter in a definitely hostile field – bullets flying, explosions, chaos – nopeBy now he has our attention.  I’m think about cultural difference and wondering just what could be more scary than  jumping into a field where people are shooting everything that moves.

There was a long pause and then he said “Telling the Woman I eventually married ‘I love you!’ for the first time.”

Scratch the Cultural Differences thing.  He was a guy just like all the other guys on the planet.

The Spider

I hope you know that I saved the best of the Public Speaking amusing stories for last.

A Captain started his speech and the first thing we all noticed was that he was an excellent speaker.  The second thing we noticed was that his left hand was literally crawling over his body like a big spider.  It went inside his coat, it lifted his coat and went into his belt, it crawled over his shoulder, it crawled to places I won’t mention (but you get the idea), it went behind his back and into his belt again.  It appeared to crawl over his body during his entire speech.   I short-stopped the student critique and  asked “Captain Johnson, you have to tell us ‘What is with the spider?’”  There were lots of “Yeah – tell us!” from around the room.  He looked blank and I had the private running our video recorder rewind and play the tape.  As Captain Johnson watched he turned beet red and finally told us what happened.  He had taught for several years.  He found that with two hands, his gestures were too large so he got in the habit of putting one hand in his pocket.  One hand alone, even with sweeping gestures, was not ‘too much.’”   However, in this case the uniform he was wearing had been purchased in Hong Kong for $27.  The uniform had a stripe where the front pocket was supposed to be, but there was no pocket here.  His hand that been looking for the pocket.  He had been TOTALLY UNAWARE that the spider was crawling during his speech.

Spelling Errors can Ruin Your Day

I’ll give you one more story and wrap this up.  We also taught writing and each class member was to turn in a publishable quality paper.  We graded these papers and there were some very good ones and some that were not so good.

One day I found a paper and had to share it with the other instructors.  The laughter got loud enough that it drew the attention of higher ups.  They asked what the problem was and I told him.  I will always remember the Colonel’s  face and he tried not to laugh as he told us to “Carry on – just not so loud.”

The paper was about how one of the functions of the U.S. Army was to demonstrate our power to other countries who might think about taking us on.  The paper went into military parades, firepower demonstrations, Navy flotillas who “visited” foreign ports and more. At the end he stated “In summary, one of the functions of the U.S. Army is to show off our military mite!”      That one misspelled word turned the whole paper into a satire.

I hope you enjoyed these stories.  I sure enjoyed sharing them with new listeners.  Comment if you have something like this you would like to share.

Until Next Time. Remember, You Are One Decision Away…!
Oh Hale Yes!

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Hale Pringle

Hale Pringle Ed. D.

Hale Pringle – Hale Yes!

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