Saturday, May 24, 2008

Public Speaking: or, the Fear of Too Many Eyeballs

Ever had to stand in front of a crowd and say something? The sight of so many eyeballs and faces can be if not distracting then at least a bit unnerving. The attention of so many turned to you, the expressions, the hidden agendas, their body language. Am I boring them, you ask yourself, sweaty-palmed and belly-cramped? Making a fool of myself? Oh God, do I have something in my teeth?!

I remember back in school, when our teachers would tell us that “we’d need these skills later in life”, that we had to practice, had to “stretch those public speaking muscles”. In my school, they’d call these slow and dreadful torture sessions “Oral Presentations”. With their Water Torture, the Chinese have nothing on our school curricula (the water torture method invented by a 13th century Italian doctor/lawyer, by the way...yeah, I find the mix ironic too). So to me public speaking sucked, sucks now and will probably always suck French poodle balls. But you *can* develop skills that will make The Event go faster, even a bit easier.

Nat’s Tip to Standing in Front of Many Eyeballs and not Make a (bigger in my case) Fool of Yourself:

Basic, yes. Can never have too much of that stuff. Go for the clear stuff. You do NOT want everyone to be looking at those lovely white “waves” on your shirt.

Learn your stuff
You *know* there’s going to be a jackass with a 1,000 dollar question. Nail him/her with an answer.

Do. Not. Grab. The. Lectern
Established or improvised public speaking gurus tell you to hold onto the lectern. Don’t. You KNOW how funny and a bit dumb it looks from the audience’s perspective when the guy or gal up front is pinching the lectern’s corner, thereby confirming to everyone he or she really IS nervous and unsure. It’s akin to blood in the water. And the sharks WILL come circling. Act cool, move a bit. Don’t stand there like a lamp post.

Uncle Tony
We all know a big, burly guy. Bring him along. Stand him near the dais corner and have him cross his arms. Oh, don’t forget the black suit. He *has* to wear a black suit. Believe me, people will laugh at your jokes with an Uncle Tony figure beside you.

That the audience are people, just like you
That they’re happy it’s not them up front
That they wear funny, ratty, frilly, sporty or no underwear
That they’re hungry, thirsty, tired

Are you up for a laugh? View the following short presentation by standup comedian Don McMillan.


Nicole Austin said...

Great tips, Nat! I've seen you speak in public, accepting your award at RT, and you did fabulous! You were by far the best speaker that afternoon!

N.J.Walters said...

Ah the joys of public speaking. NOT! Great tips, Nat. I only hope I remember them if I ever need them. *g*