Watch Your Ps & Qs

There are things we didn’t learn on Sesame Street.

In your wonder years, when we all wondered about everything and cared about nothing, did you ever wonder what you should do when you were told to watch your P’s & Q’s? Did you? In case you are still wondering, that was a question. If I did, it was NFL – not for long. I knew I had to watch my mouth, my words, and my language. And if I was a little hard of hearing, I got the look. Do you remember the look from hell that sent chills up your spine? I still remember those times as if they were yesterday. Still those were happy, happy days.

It did take some of us a little time to figure out the true value of the letters P & Q. There are things we didn’t learn on Sesame Street. So you decided to make your first big purchase unsupervised – and brought home the green lemon, still sitting in your driveway. You watched your P; the price and ignored the Q; quality. Now you know good things are not always cheap, and cheap things are not always good. To drown in your sorrows, you drag yourself down to your nearby tavern and again ignored your P’s and Q’s, your pints and quarts. The next day you awaken with a headache and a hangover the size of Texas. And although you promised never to touch another pint and quart in your life, as soon as that hangover was over, so to was that promise.

Later in life, as I began to take an interest in public speaking, I returned to Sesame Street and started watching my P’s and Q’s differently. I began watching my primacy and quantity – pace and quickness- pauses and quietness – I began realizing that by watching your P’s and Q’s, you are watching your manner, choice of words, language, and conduct. Do you pay attention to your P’s & Q’s when you are on the speaking platform?

Primacy is your primary opening statement. Don’t waste that time with pleasantries. Forget that P and get to the point; what is most important to your audience and your speech? The related Q to that P, primacy is quantity – How much information you should give your audience in your opening. How much is enough to prime your audience for what is to come? Your opening is your prime time. As World Champion speaker Craig Valentine has often said – “When you squeeze too much content in, you will squeeze your audience out.” In your opening, watch your primacy and quantity.

Pace and Quickness are also important as you deliver your speech. Whenever I take a ride on a local train line, I am reminded how to approach pace and quickness when speaking on the platform. The pace of the local train varies, making measured stops along the way. There is no rush. Each stop is identified then, the pace quickens for a while again. The process is then repeated over and over until you get to the end of the line. Don’t take the express. The express will often makes the first stop long after the first five to seven minutes. Before your next speech, take a ride on the local line and enjoy the ride. And you will learn a thing or two about pace and quickness.

When you are on the speaking platform, never pause just because, always pause for a cause. And always remember this golden rule,when you pause never to look up to the heavens while pausing. That’s a dead giveaway you’re lost. Your silence should also be delivered with the same passion as your most powerful line. A pause should not be like a silent um. Make every pause count. Do you know, there is a difference between pausing and being quiet? When you are being quiet, you should quiet your entire body. Quiet your hands, feet, and even your eyes. Quiet them before and after your power lines. Quietness creates the moment – Silence sends the message. If you keep moving while you are pausing, the message is lost.

Try adding many more valuable P’s and Q’s of your own. They will help you advance as a speaker. Word of caution, don’t ever take to the speaking platform after you have had a few pints and quarts. If you do, you will for sure have trouble watching your mouth, words, and language. And most likely, your speaking career will be NFL – Not for Long – all because, you didn’t watch your P’s and Q’s.

Author: HenryOMiller

Henry joined Toastmaster in March of 1997. He is presently a member of five clubs in the Santa Cruz and San Jose area. Henry is an executive speech coach, humorist, and speechwriter. He is also a musician and a lyricist​ who likes to approaches his speechwriting similar to his approach to songwriting.