Imagine you have only 60 seconds to persuade your chosen audience of something. Or, imagine you have 60 seconds to persuade the audience that has chosen you—a police officer, who says you were speeding. This might be a good time to brush up on those speaking skills you’ve been working on.
There are a lot of different ways people try to get out of a speeding ticket, but crying, yelling, or flashing body parts aren’t a solid approach. So what else can you do to avoid that costly fine and a ding on your record?
- First, stay calm. Achieving this allows you to utilize the rest of the tools in your arsenal. Remember, a chaotic mind doesn’t lend itself to rational thinking or planning. Breathe deeply, change your position, and look the officer, or an audience member, in the eye. It will help in a pinch. Of course, planning ahead by staying hydrated and exercising can also be a big benefit.
- Once you’ve calmed down, quickly assess the officer’s attitude. Look at him closely. Is there anything to indicate a sense of humor, or does he have his gun pointed at you? (Just kidding. A gun most likely means you get to try your speaking skills in front of a judge.) Seriously, though, see if you can sense anything about the officer and his attitude. It might give you an instinct about what to say next. You’ll only have a few seconds to do this.
- While it might be tough for some political candidates to use this method, you might consider an ethical appeal—using your character or credibility. This could be achieved if you are a well-known member of the community and you are able to bring it up in a way that isn’t arrogant. And don’t say, “I know your boss and he won’t be happy if you give me a ticket.” That often backfires and irritates the officer. If speaking to an audience, be careful not to act arrogant and alienate them.
- A logical appeal is based on reasoning. This strategy uses well-known facts as the basis for argument as well as generally-known and accepted information. Another facet of this type of appeal is the if-then, using something as a comparison. For instance, you could suggest that the fact you have no record of speeding shows that this was a one-time occurrence, perhaps because you were distracted by something. When on stage for a presentation or speech, logic can be fun and entertaining if done properly. For instance, use a list that is somewhat boring or normal and toss a couple humorous items into it that your audience can relate to.
- The emotional appeal can be really effective for a speaker on stage, especially using images or video. Unfortunately, you can’t just whip up a PowerPoint for a police officer in 3.6 seconds. You could, however, tell a story. A great tactic for speakers, it can be effectively used to try to get out of that ticket. To be clear we don’t suggest lying. A good story can be told if, for instance, you’re on your way to a Chicago Cubs game as they battle to earn a spot in the World Series. You might suggest you are honoring your grandmother’s lifelong love for the team by going, and you’re hoping she will be looking over you as you sit in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. That, however, is a gamble as the police officer might be a Southsider and favor the White Sox. It could be a solid appeal in other cities.
- Reader’s Digest Magazine offers some sage advice to hapless speeders and it begins with the pre-game wave. If you see an officer lurking, and you are speeding, wave as you go by—they might think you know them, or he’ll think you’re saying you’ll slow down. Once stopped, however, don’t say you’re sorry, or anything else they can use in court. Simply saying, “I see” or “I thought I was going with the flow of traffic” would be better. They suggest small talk or a conversation because it humanizes the moment.
- The editors also noted, “Most officers decide whether you’re getting a ticket or a warning before they even approach your vehicle. A good rule of thumb is to keep your car maintained in such a way that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to drive it to a job interview. Keep it clean, decluttered, and free of bumper stickers that are anti-police or pro- violence. Forgo aftermarket add-ons like spoilers, tinted windows, and neon undercarriage lights. You want to say ‘I’m responsible and law-abiding,’ not ‘I hate the police, I speed all the time, and I’m trying to hide something from you.'”
At the end of the day, or the end of the traffic stop, anyhow, if none of the available strategies worked to get you out of a ticket, chances are very good you’ll be left with a great story to tell as a part of your next talk.