Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

You are the Message

What exactly does “You are the message mean?”  Actually how we say something is just as important as the words we speak.  The hand gestures we use, the tone and pitch of the words, our eyes, smile, humor, all say volumes whether spoken or not. Professor Albert Mehrabian of UCLA determined that listeners were influenced by non-verbal facial expressions and body language 55% of the time.  Our voice – its pitch, tone, and variation accounted for 38% with the words we actually speak making up the remaining 7%. We’ve all judged speakers on whether they sounded hollow or sincere.  Did the speech come from the heart or did it sound contrived or rehearsed?  The words themselves are meaningless unless your audience believes you own them.

In 1991, I was the president of the South Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), the largest young people’s civic organization in the state.  It was a one year elected position and my responsibility was to get our members motivated to exceed the goals and objectives they set for the year. While our Jaycee Chapters were in the business of raising money for a variety of charitable causes from MDA to St. Jude’s, perhaps no cause was more dear than our own state philanthropy – Jaycee Camp Hope for kids with mental disabilities.

Gene Martin accepting a Presidential Award of Honor

We had four state meetings during the year – four opportunities to fire up the troops.  I remember sitting down with one of my political advisors at the last meeting of the year.  He asked if I knew what I would say to them as they prepared to finish out the year as strong as possible. I handed him a speech about volunteerism, patriotism, and assisting the families of soldiers who were fighting in the Gulf War.  My advisor, Gene Martin, read the speech, handed it back, and told me, “Bill, that’s a great speech.  Really good stuff.  But is that what you really want to say to them?”  I admitted sheepishly, “No.  I want to tell them to go get more young people involved.  Recruit more people into the organization.  Membership is people and we’re in the people business.  The more people you have, the more money you can raise.”  Gene looked at me, removed his glasses, and said in his slow South Carolina accent, “Then go tell ‘em.  You were elected to lead.  They’ll follow you.  Just go tell ‘em what they need to do.  Bill, if you don’t do it, exactly who do you think will.”

1990 - 1991 South Carolina Jaycees - The Best of the Best

To this day I remember walking to the podium 20 minutes later.  My hands were trembling thinking about what I was fixing to say.  No notes  – no prepared remarks.  Just a short talk from the heart why we needed to get more people involved.  “We were born for this moment, the fate of our communities lie in our hands.” In 1991, the South Carolina Jaycees started the year with 4,294 members and ended with 5,008 for a net growth of +714.  Most of the new members joining in the last couple of months of that Jaycee year.  We raised nearly $75,000 for our state philanthropy Jaycee Camp Hope, and $20,000 for a new Lupus Awareness program. In addition, we raised more than $200,000 in goods and services for the victims of the Ohio Floods, who the year before had been so generous with our communities during Hurricane Hugo.  The South Carolina Jaycees were also recognized as one of the Top Five Jaycee States in America that year.

Twenty years later, I still give talks to civic groups and Chamber members urging them to be their very best. Rarely do I attempt to use prepared remarks.  I learned long ago, the best speeches come from the herart.  If you show folks how much you care, they’ll show you what they can do.  My advisor, my friend Gene Martin left me with a very valuable lesson, “Our words speak boldly of our intentions, but our actions speak louder than the words and while the words are important – we are the real message.”

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June 18, 2010 - Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Bill: Great story about Gene and the Jaycees. I remember those days and sometimes I think what we did. Miss them. I will cherish them for a long time.

    Eddie “Special Ed” Porter

    Comment by Eddie Porter | June 18, 2010 | Reply


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