Sunday, October 30, 2011

Speaking with a Little Class

You ever see one of those shows on TV when a hypnotist/self-help guru/Fear Factor host subjects someone to their worst fear so that they can “work through it”?   Like, if you’re afraid of great big hairy spiders they’ll make you stick your hand in an aquarium of great big hairy spiders or if you’re afraid of jelly beans they’ll make you go on a tour of the Jelly Belly factory.  And all this is supposed to desensitize you or minimize the fear so that while you still might not enjoy big hairy spiders or jelly beans, you’re not as afraid of them anymore.  It’s like Take Back the Night only it’s Take Back the Fear.
That’s kinda like me and public speaking.  I’m subjecting myself to Toastmasters to work through my fear of public speaking but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to run out and speak publicly ever every chance I get.  But there’s a little thing called “work obligations” and you can’t exactly say no when you have to give presentations.  Well, I guess you could but it wouldn’t look very good, would it?
The last two weeks have been a veritable public speaking-fest for me.  Last Tuesday, I had to make the introductory remarks at a lecture that I helped organize at work.  I started off strong and then I realized where I was and I kinda panicked and sped through the last two-thirds of the intro.  All that breathing stuff?   It went flying out the window. 
This past week, I taught a few training sessions which was actually enjoyable – I mean, not as enjoyable as a trip to the Caymans but it wasn’t like I was facing a firing squad or anything.  I definitely wasn’t the best presenter but I learned something – use a memorable graphic in your presentation and people will remember what you want them to do have to say.
Friday was the culmination of my public speaking engagements.  My boss was going out of town so she asked me to speak to a bunch of up and coming/already arrived archivists about our online catalog.  To be honest, it was an easy crowd.  Half of the people in the class were my friends, the other quarter I knew from various work things, and the rest, well, you can’t know everyone!
It was nerve-wracking because it was going to be videotaped and everyone would be staring at me I was talking about something I’ve never really talked about before.  I did a lot of practicing - thank God for SuperJ who not only sat through three practice sessions but counted every “um” I said and reminded me that the presentation did not have to be one very long sentence without pauses.  A period and a comma are spots where you breathe – advice for the ages.   
With my heart pounding, I went down to the lecture room at 8:30 Friday morning.  I wanted time to set up, log-in to the computer, run through my speech using the microphone, and make sure I was breathing at all the proper intervals.  A prepared speaker is a calm speaker.  Until it’s ten minutes before show time and the speaker realizes that she’s supposed to be in the room next door. 
Once I was where I was supposed to be, I looked out at the sea of friendly faces and launched into my speech.  Sure, there were some flubs and probably one too many “ums” for SuperJ’s liking but I think, overall, it went okay. 
Do I want to do it again?  No, not really.  Will I?  Yes, probably.  They say you have to do the things that scare you the most to make you a stronger person…so I guess I will.
Besides, it could've been a lot worse.  I could've been on that tour of the Jelly Belly factory. 

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