"That's the kind of phone call I like to get," I said to my husband Bob, smiling broadly.
"What's that?" he said.
"Sharon just asked me to speak to the Ohio Club about my book."
"Hey, that's great," he said. "What group?""
"The Ohio group," I repeated.
"You'll be speaking in Sun City?"
"Yep, right here in Sun City." I walked away humming a happy little tune.
Although this, my first speaking engagement, was several months away, I immediately began to think about my presentation. I like to be prepared. I didn't have much public speaking experience, but I knew that it was important to establish a rapport with my audience. As luck would have it, I have connections to Ohio.
With high hopes, excitement and pride in the clever way I was to establish kinship with my audience, I began making notes and by the time the date of my presentation rolled around, I felt confident.
As I had planned, I began by thanking the attendees for the opportunity to speak to the Ohio Club and for their warm welcome. Then, without further ado, I launched into my rapport-building by asking a few carefully chosen questions.
I asked if anyone had heard of The Plains. The Plains is a tiny little burg in the southeastern part of Ohio, and I didn't expect anyone to be familiar with the town--unless they'd had car trouble near it. I'm only familiar with it because our daughter, Elise, lives there. (That should make it famous in and of itself, but alas, I digress...)
As anticipated, nobody responded, but no problem. I plunged forward with an explanation, and then, to keep our interaction going, an additional question. The Plains is part of the city of Athens, so I asked how many knew of Athens. Since Ohio University is located there I expected a few graduates and fans to be present. So far, everything was going as planned. The ice had been broken. The hard part was over. My confidence grew.
I knew my next story would cinch my position with the group as a true Ohioan. I told them about our daughter and son-in-law, Jim, moving to Ohio when Jim was offered a job at the university. Luckily, Elise was able to find a teaching position in the tiny, Nelsonville-York school system nearby. Had anyone heard of the Nelsonville-York school system, I asked?
I detected only one nod of recognition, so I tossed out in an off-hand manner (to further impress them with my intimate knowledge of their state) the fact that Ohio has 618 school districts, more than any other state in the nation. What a claim to fame I told them. I didn't hear any gasps of surprise, but still I felt I had the group in the palm of my hand.
Finally, I wooed them by saying that over the past ten years as we visited Elise and Jim, we had enjoyed Ohio's changing faces. In the summer, it was as hot and humid as our beloved South Carolina; in fall, dazzlingly picturesque with autumnal colors; in spring, gloriously awakening in buds and blooms; and in winter, cold, raw and snowy.
I was enjoying my speaking experience. I felt relaxed and content and made frequent eye contact with my audience. I had planned to say a few more things about my kinship with Ohio before beginning my book talk, but the facilitator interrupted me.
She informed me that they were all fascinated with my knowledge of Ohio, but she had a question for me: Did I realize I was speaking to the New Jersey Club?
Wanda Lane lives in Sun City Hilton Head.