“Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you go, and fix it along the way…”
― Paul Arden
I never thought I would write a paper about public speaking [i] (I liked what William Pittenger says about acquiring and practicing Public Speaking – see the endnote of this paper), as I never considered myself to be knowledgeable in such a skill.
It is true I have been in teaching and training for many years during my career, and it is also true I feel that amazing thrill when I am in presence of an audience. Yet I always feel the anxiety of the unknown before and for the first 50 seconds of each event.
50 Seconds, no less no more, such being the necessary time I gave myself to evaluate the audience, recognizing the various types of people attending (this could be an untold fact but believe it or not it is real). The friendly people, they will make visual contact as soon as they sit in the room and wave a non-verbal sign saying “hey! I’m here to listen and learn”, they will eventually take care of people who will try to disturb the pace of your delivery, and they are the ones sitting in front. The “foes”, I know it is a big word yet these people act as such. The reason is simple: they have been asked (told) to attend the course of the conference, they look at you as being the source of their unhappy state of mind, but no worries the “friends” will make sure their behaviour is contained. Coming to the third type, I like to call the “tourists”. These people have no idea why they’re in your room, sitting at the back (the very very back) hiding as much as possible (behind their sun glasses, a text book, the laptop lid, etc.). Usually the tourists will make sure you think they follow you and will nod, eventually send you a discreet smile to let you know they’re in!
I always enjoyed these precious seconds, helping me to unwind the teasing anxiety before every event ever since after so many years.
For some, Public Speaking is a performance delivery, for others it is a moment of fame to promote ones skills and knowledge, many look at it as a stepping stone boosting their career, a few consider it a must imposed by their job requirements. Public Speaking has been for me the occasion of building a love relation with my audiences, sharing thoughts, facts, and experiences; bottom line transferring knowledge for the love of contributing for a better social and professional good.
If I had the gift to speak in public, it did not mean I was unreachable as a human, as a person like every single person; I had the task to speak as they had the listening role, thus being equals in all the other aspects of our presence at the same place.
I remember during my college years taking a mandatory course of techniques of public speaking. That course annoyed me to the point I used to yawn every time. The professor, who was a very smart person, used to “wake” me up by asking me all of a sudden to continue the delivery she did, knowing I would fail and learn from this a lesson. Feeling challenged in front of the students, I had to act very fast, so I stood up and “continued” the course getting my inspiration from my strong auditory memory elaborating the rest of the delivery. It was a special finding about my personal skills which one day led me to what I enjoyed during all the years spent teaching.
If Public Speaking is a skill we can learn or develop it is at the core some kind of intrinsic gift that is probably dormant in our nature. I think, it is the love of sharing with others that materialises once we choose to address to public.
I hesitated to write my first paper in English, feeling unprepared to create and build an appropriate syntax, unable to choose the right words, and feeling uncomfortable about writing skills. I postponed this first paper for months, until an acquaintance, a known writer whom I envied her writing style, told me to write and keep the focus on the message rather than the aspect. I still remember her words “if you tell your readers how passionate you are about what you say, then no one will criticize you about your writing skills, the more you will care to share your soul the more people will like what you say!”
So you can figure how scared I felt when I pressed the button “Submit” for the very first blog I wrote in English! *Smiles*
If Public Speaking is a powerful skill for born-speakers we need to constantly remind ourselves such gift can and will make miracles in the lives of our audiences. Don’t you agree that Public Speaking is essentially meant for the social good and the wellbeing of people? I, Do!
Until our next chat I wish you happy public speaking!
Michel – September 12, 2015
The picture illustrating this paper is a courtesy from the Blog: Instant.ly
[i] “There is a strange sensation often experienced in the presence of an audience. It may proceed from the gaze of the many eyes that turn upon the speaker, especially if he permits himself to steadily return that gaze. Most speakers have been conscious of this in a nameless thrill, a real something, pervading the atmosphere, tangible, evanescent, indescribable. All writers have borne testimony to the power of a speaker’s eye in impressing an audience. This influence which we are now considering is the reverse of that picture—the power their eyes may exert upon him, especially before he begins to speak: after the inward fires of oratory are fanned into flame the eyes of the audience lose all terror.” ― William Pittenger, Extempore Speech: How to Acquire and Practice It