Embrace Serendipity in Your Next Speech

Last week the Cincinnati Enquirer featured a story about a little girl who was sitting in her third grade class playing with about an inch-wide gold, heart-shaped locket. She took off the necklace and in the process fumbled the locket and the locket went down her throat. This made it very difficult to breathe and her chest hurt. Her mother rushed to school and then on to the hospital with her.

En route to the hospital, the family car hit a massive pothole. The jarring caused the locket to discharge from the girl's esophagus, forcing it to travel all the way down her throat and saving her life.

Usually you want to avoid potholes, but here the pothole was a life saver. This young lady was the recipient of serendipity! Good things happen by accident. If you look for good things to happen in a speech, you will be more alert to contextual factors that improve your presentation. Seek to make serendipity work for you.

One of the benefits of getting to the meeting place early and meeting some members of the audience is that you might learn something unexpected that could help you in your presentation. As I talked to people before one presentation, I found that several had had me in class at the local university. So I mentioned that early on to boost my credibility with those who did not know me and connect with those who did.

Be grateful for serendipity when there is no explanation. For example, once I was making the point early in my presentation that I hoped by the end of the speech each would have an "aha" so that they would leave thinking "Aha! I can use that tomorrow on the job."  When I said "aha" the audience broke out in applause. The initials of their national organization were "AHA."  They thought my play on words was great and at the time I had no idea what I had said that made them applaud. I just enjoyed the positive feedback and their immediate connection with me.

Don’t be oblivious to serendipity, but embrace it and use it to your advantage.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at steveboyd111@gmail.com.

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