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(speaker to speechwriter) I get that I need to end with a call to action. But why can't that call to action be "Give me a standing ovation"?

Please clap.

Please clap. published on

Speaking and speechwriting are pretty central to my professional life, so it’s maybe a little surprising I don’t have more cartoons about those subjects. There’s this PowerPoint cartoon, this one about dongles, this dig at conference presentations and this plea for respect for cool transitions. And not much else.

(That may be because I put most of my creative energy around speaking and speechwriting into—apart from actually doing them—blogging about them or doing trainings.)

This one is about the hunger speakers have for applause. That appetite shouldn’t be surprising; applause and laughter are the most ways speakers get feedback that they’ve said something that connected with the audience. And the holy grail for many speakers is the standing ovation — witness the countless Google results for “how to get a standing ovation.”

Let me tell you what I mean. When Jeb Bush spoke to a lukewarm crowd of nominal supporters, delivered what he thought was an applause line and instead got crickets, he replied with a plaintive, “Please clap.” For commentators and late-night comics, it was the epitaph for a failed campaign.

Public speakers, though, felt a certain frisson of not just sympathy, but even admiration. We’re used to yearning for applause, working for it and milking it.

Imagine having the nerve to actually ask for it.

I hope you like this cartoon. Please clap.