The first time public speaking went wrong for me was in grade 6. I was doing a presentation on dairy farming. I had a lovely piece of white cardboard with drawings and glued on pictures. The problem was the word ‘teat’.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew this word would be a problem, but it was a presentation on dairy farming. Teats were involved. As soon as I said the word ‘teat’ the boys in my class tittered and I blushed. I don’t know why they laughed, half of them probably came from dairy farms. I was so embarrassed. I had a blushing problem in those days.
Throughout high school speeches in English class filled me with abject dread. I prepared palm cards, I practised aloud, got up on my allocated day and spoke faster than the speed of light.
In my final year, we had to debate about whether Hamlet was a tragic character. Victoria, the smartest girl in school was on my team and she said – write short sentences. How did 5 years of high school go by without one single English teacher giving me that one useful thing about speech writing?
In university, I found out I had to give presentations to tutorial classes which induced the same deadly fear. But I got used to it.
In my professional life, I have facilitated many meetings, given closing addresses at conferences and been the MC at an entire conference. I can stand up in front of a room full of people and totally wing it with confidence.
I even did a Toastmasters course and revelled in the speech writing and speech giving.
I think the reason public speaking scares people (and me) is it reminds us of our feelings of inferiority. We normally push these thoughts away with the forced confidence of adulthood. When we stand up in front of a group of people we are exposed to their judgement about us. Add to that the insecurity of reading aloud your own fiction. I think it takes some sort of ego to do all that without batting an eyelid.
I prepared – chose a passage of shorter sentences, I practised. I highlighted the parts where I needed to show more emphasis.
How did it go? Pretty ordinary. I did not race through it, but I could have had more expression in my reading.
It is a skill I need to work on. I have already been given suggestions on who might be able to help. I am actually excited! I like to be challenged to learn new skills.
Thanks to Northside Meetings and the Letter Lounge for hosting the event yesterday. What a great place. If you are a writer in Brisbane it is a good venue for meetings.