Thursday, February 01, 2007


Last night I gave a presentation on The Africa Project at a local university. I thought it was to my benefit that there was a PowerPoint all ready for me to use - my aversion to PowerPoints aside - I figured I could more or less follow along. Oops.

It never ceases to amaze me just how bad I am at public speaking. Sure - I can give an off the cuff toast with a nice buzz on that will bring tears to people's eyes. But just me and an audience in a formal setting - no matter what, I always manage to futz it up somehow.

I thought last night that I'd be o.k. because I'm so passionate about this organization and the trip I'm planning with them. Talking to the two other speakers at the beginning of the evening I was able to articulate our mission and history so clearly - yet another confidence boost before I stood up. But as soon as I got to the front of the lecture hall I froze. My notes were blurred, my voice wobbly - I stumbled through the presentation, never finding a match between what I was saying and the slide on the screen. I think what was supposed to be about a thirty minute presentation was over in about five because I so completely panicked and rushed through the majority of the slides to get to the point where I the only thing I could remember to say was illustrated. It's making me queasy just thinking back on it!

Funnily enough a few hours later I was shopping with a girlfriend and girl in the dressing room next to me came out and asked if I'd been the speaker at the Aids symposium that night? When I mumbled through a "yes, and I should have been better prepared," I think she said something along the lines of, "no, your presentation was unique." What a "unique" way to put it.

Anyway - I realized that though I convince myself time and time again that when I get to the front of a room that I'll be o.k. - I'm not. And before I do something like that again - I need to actually do a run through or two to get the jitters out. That, or have a few glasses of wine.


Blogger Peter DeWolf said...

It's been my experience that these things were never quite as bad as you think. The only word you noticed was "quite", wasn't it? ;)

It's also been my experience to look down at my notes and find them blurry. And for my voice to sound very odd to me. Hate that.

I am so much better off winging things like that.

2/01/2007 6:34 PM  
Blogger Indiana James said...

Along the lines of drinking and speaking. When I was living and studying in China, our prof actually encouraged us to go drinking before our spoken part of the exam to make it just flow out of us. No joke. Now I attribute my drunken public embarrassments on him. Joke.

2/01/2007 10:18 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I'm with Peter on this. Let that girl in the dressing room make you feel better; being called "unique" isn't so bad, right? Think of it this way, you said some important things, important enough to have at least one person in attendance remember. That's a pretty powerful thing.

(And if that doesn't help, have a glass of wine now to help make you feel better. haha)

2/02/2007 7:41 AM  
Blogger The [Cherry] Ride said...

Wine is good ;-).
I can totally relate. I often have to give presentations to the client and even though I know the material inside and out, I sometimes don't have the confidence and sound like a dork.

2/02/2007 8:15 AM  
Blogger NAME: Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

I'm actually not that bad with public speaking, but I DREAD it. I have to do a lot of self-talk to convince myself that there is no need to be nervous, and then I have to take deep breaths to try to get my heart rate down.

Well, at least one lady thought you did a good job!

2/02/2007 12:28 PM  
Blogger Natalie said...

I am a big believer in a few solid run through sessions before speaking to a group. I tend to get off topic if I don't practice. While my tangests are ok in a blog they son't work as well in other settings. I'm sure you were fine though.

2/02/2007 12:51 PM  
Blogger Airam said...

I'm the same way. I guess for me it might work to picture them all as my 6 year old students. I always feel like a smartie pants around them.

2/02/2007 6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Taking an acting class should help tremedously.

Random Guy

2/03/2007 12:34 AM  
Blogger S'Mat said...

i'm sure you were the one who noticed the wobblies the most. and maybe even the only one? of all the symptoms, personally i hate the dry mouth and resultant smacky lips. my voice quavers an octave higher too; my colleage would likely've said 'that was quite a eunach presentation' to me.

i've always thought public speaking is made difficult by my distractibility, as it's hard not to try take in as much information about the relatively rare experience of presenting, especially when its important to look for the audience's receptivity. meanwhile, acting is so very different. did you feel similarly when presenting for the HGTV camera? picturing the camera man naked (for therapeutic purposes)?

2/03/2007 1:24 AM  
Anonymous tiger. said...

megs! i am like that every time i speak publicly, practically, only i spend hours rehearsing! but most people don't notice it, and other people who know you, if honest, will probably say "it wasn't that bad"-- it only seems like it. i think it depends upon how much the talk means to you, and who your audience is. my students never see me tremble but a room full of 300 pediatricians, psychiatrists and psychologists makes me shake in my boots! xo.

2/03/2007 1:41 AM  
Blogger Airam said...

Love the banner you've got there!

2/03/2007 4:12 PM  
Blogger H said...

I'm sure you were way better than this post gives you credit for.
And I love your new site look!

2/03/2007 6:07 PM  
Blogger With Love, Fat Girl said...

I think I stress myself out so much thinking that I won't be okay at public speaking, that it actually happens.

Wine is good. Makes you happier, calmer... just know your glass limit or else you'll be the story of, "this one girl I saw at a podium, was she ever funny!"

Definitely not needed.

2/04/2007 11:19 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I'd use unique as a compliment. If she thought you were terrible, I'm certain she wouldn't have approached you. Public speaking is incredibly stressful. I'm sure you were much better than you think. I'm going to agree that a glass of wine beforehand might not be a bad idea, though.

2/04/2007 5:35 PM  
Blogger S'Mat said...

wow, how are you doing it? are you using blogging gum or methadone? you really have cut down!

2/04/2007 6:25 PM  

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