You Paid for that Microphone!

One of the turning points in US political history took place in Nashua NH in 1980, at a debate in the Republican presidential primary. Ronald Reagan had entered the primaries as the favorite, but he had been upset in Iowa and Puerto Rico by George H.W. Bush, who seemed to have the “big Mo”. The local newspaper, the Nashua Telegraph, had invited the two to debate, but a question came up whether that would violate campaign finance laws.

To avoid the problem, the Reagan campaign paid for the debate, and then invited the other four candidates. This created a controversy when Bush threatened to pull out of the debate, and when Reagan began to explain his position, the editor, John Breen, began arguing with him. When Reagan insisted on continuing, Breen called for the microphone to be turned off.

To this day, it’s still a beautiful thing to watch, as Reagan got extremely angry and snapped, “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Breen!” He then turned and glared at Breen as the crowd jumped to its feet and cheered. Even his opponents clapped, in effect publicly bowing to his leadership.

That was a leadership moment for Reagan that day, as the crowd, and the nation, responded to the physical display of dominance and strength. But just as important was the fact that his strength was seen as justified, which would not have been the case if he had not paid for the microphone. That simple fact gave Reagan the moral high ground, and he was able to take advantage of it.

I’m not advocating that you act the same way in a high stakes sales presentation, but you should have the same attitude going in. If you are nervous about speaking, or intimidated by the rank of the audience, keep in mind that you paid for that microphone.

You paid for it by doing all the hard and difficult work in the sales process that led up to that moment. You paid for it by researching your client’s needs, putting together the ideal solution and by thoroughly preparing for that presentation. You paid for that microphone.

Knowing that, how could you ever be intimidated?

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