Friday, July 18, 2008

Improving My Public Speaking

This past week I attend a seminar on public speaking since Christine signed me up for it. She knows that I wanted to improve on my public speaking skills, so being a great wife she was looking for such opportunities.

I've never been a natural public speaker. During high school and college I was a horrible public speaker. Afterwards through training and seminars, I've improved tremendously and developed my own method for preparation. I usually write up my whole speech, memorize it, practice, and then outline it. I typically practice dozens of times in the mirror and in front of willing colleagues or my wife.

I have given speeches now that have impacted the audience, solicited tears in some of them and roars laughter in a couple. And I have given speeches that have been mediocre. But when I don't prepare or prepare just a couple hours beforehand I am horrible. I get extremely nervous and fumble through the speech. If I know the material through study or experience, then I get saved and it can become a mediocre speech.

So one of my objectives over the past several years has been to become a strong public speaker that doesn't need much practice even on subject matters where I don't feel comfortable to speak upon.

This week due to my schedule I didn't have time to prepare for our last day where we were to give our speeches. In many ways, this was perfect because one of my listed objectives at the beginning of this training seminar was to become an off-the-cuff public speaker.

I arrived at last night's session and started to create an outline based on an op-ed I wrote last week. I scribbled some notes into the outline and then waited for my turn. I was horrible. I was nervous and couldn't organize my thoughts on the fly.

It was interesting to note that our instructor disagreed with the idea that people can naturally speak on the fly. I explained that being in the political sphere early in my career allowed me to meet a handful of such talented individuals. She said her guess was that they prepared behind closed doors. My experience forces me to disagree since I've been behind those doors.

Anyway, afterwards I was telling Christine about it and she laughed, "You just need more of these situations."

She also thought that internally I might not be built to speak on subject I am not familiar with.

She explained, "Part of it is BSing and you're a horrible liar. You get uncomfortable... So your principles don't allow you to speak about things that you don't know about because to do that effectively you have to BS. Other people feel comfortable BSing."

I said that could be true, but I would still want become a great public speaker that could talk about information that I only know on a surface level. One of my friends is great at reading over any material a couple times and then speaking eloquently on it. I assume part of it is a natural gift, but I believe it can be developed. Problem is that I have only a limited amount of time to devote to these areas of deficiencies. So many others to work on :)

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