But here’s the thing: It was a piece of cake! Much to my surprise, I was totally and completely comfortable. I looked everyone in the eye and didn’t need to use my notes once. I was also able to crack jokes and add spontaneous bits.
This was especially good news since the weekend before I felt like I kind of stumbled at an adult event. I was only speaking in front of a group of about 40 adults, and for only two minutes, but when I got up there I found I was hyperventilating and ended up cutting my talk short (no mean feat when it was only two minutes to start with!) So apparently the take away lesson here is that I am fine in front of a group of 300 kids, but forty adults can be problematic. Not ALL adult groups though, because I was able to speak comfortably in front of the crowd at the
I think part of it has to do with why I’m there; I do better with a firm sense of purpose. I need a focus. But I also think it gets back to the fact that we all have comfort zones. For me, those are speaking in front of kids or teaching something. I’m also pretty comfortable on panels, and have been right from the start.
That doesn’t mean I am giving up on improving my adult game. I think a big piece of that depends on the nature of the gig. It will also be helped by expanding what my concept of “entertain” means. No, I’m not hilarious, or not intentionally so anyway. But from speaking to so many kids I’m also learning there are other ways to entertain: I can inspire, validate, inform, share secrets. It’s about using my strongest skill set first—writing a compelling speech—then finding a way to get comfortable delivering it verbally.
Practice is key. Not just knowing the material inside and out, but practicing pauses and questions, inflections and gestures, even practicing the spontaneous bits, just to see how to break into and out of them.
So Operation Public Speaking Jedi Master is almost accomplished. I’m going to use what I’ve learned from this week’s success as a launching board for conquering the next set of public speaking goals.
It’s kind of funny. The other day someone was saying how they were so fascinated by how I could write the intrepid, adventurous Theo AND the timid, cautious Nathaniel Fludd. The truth of the matter is, I am both of those people. At heart, I am a most decided weenie. Even so, when responsibility calls and I do finally step up to the plate, I enjoy the adventure and challenge of it all. There are simply too many great things out there that I would miss out on if I didn’t push myself. So instead of holing up at home for the rest of my life, I have to look for ways to embrace my inner Theo.