Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Post One Hundred and Ten: An Experiment in Mediocre Public Speaking.

I'm not a fantastic public speaker.

In one high school english oral I remember freezing up seconds after commencing, causing me so much embarrasment that I ran out of the room close to tears. For the next three or four years, outside of my drama class of treasured rejected nerds and misfits, I blushed ferociously whenever any public attention focused on me. I don't know what the general public's perception might be of me now as an adult. On self assessment, I'm a socially anxious introvert stuck in a teenagers body that craves genuine intimacy with those that I value...yet I hate tedious small talk with others that I don't give a shit about. Maybe I put up a plausible self confidence.

I must. Fortunately? Unfortunately?

I'm heading to Melbourne in early April for the 2011 Australian Funeral Directors Association Conference. This is where hundreds of embalmers and funeral directors meet and participate in educational seminars, social events and random community building exercises to give the death care business some much needed TLC. I'm not only attending this conference though, I'm delivering the opening educational presentation. A four day long conference, and I start the whole darned thing off. Quietly quepping balls.

Because of my success with the AFDA scholarship last year I have to perform my winning presentation to this community, ALL of the most influential Australian funeral managers and directors. Many, many people. What happens if I lose it? Should I loosen up with a couple of Jager shots before I go on stage? Should I imagine the crowd in their tighty whiteys? How would that be relaxing!

One thing is for sure, and that's that this is a big learning curve for me. If I conquer this, I'll more than likely conquer the world. Prime Ministerism, Vegetarianism, Romantisism; anything I want I will do. And do with confidence.

I smell like fear already. Stay tuned over the next couple of months for continuing freak out posts as the conference looms closer.



  1. It's the over analyising that always gets me being a fellow social anxiety nutbag, I always tell myself not to overthink it but if I could abide by that I wouldn't be socially anxious eek! It tis a catch 22, just remember you're always fine after the things that you think freak you out the most!

  2. You wont lose it Sarah.Something out there is guiding you on your much deserved and well earned path.Look how far you have come.Your kindness to the dearly departed has been rewarded.You are where you are meant to be so you will handle it no worries.Just believe in yourself like we all do and you will feel the strength within.You go girl.

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  4. First, congratulations on being selected to speak for such a prestigious event. What an honour to be asked.

    Second, as a person with much experience of public speaking (former third speaker on the senior A debating team at high school etc), I suggest that practice is the key. Don’t wait until the big occasion to realise whether you’re a secretly gifted public speaker; practice leading up to the event. This means practicing the speech that you’re going to give at the event to the point that you would not necessarily need speaking notes as it becomes automatic. Also, practice speaking in front of people (family/friends) on impromptu topics using three main points to illustrate an overall hypothesis. The goal is to get to the point where you begin to enjoy the sound of the spoken word, the construction of your own ideas and sentences and the value of the overall message that you’re trying to communicate. Developing a passion for speaking can help to out way the nerves. Using other people’s words to practice can also help; recite poetry to your friends and family (yes, I am a nerd, but it helps, I swear!). Reciting poetry is a great chance to begin to enjoy the shape and power of the spoken word.

    Operationally, try to speak slowly, taking time to consider the words coming out of your mouth and leaving time for your words to soak into the minds of your audience. Use gesture to illustrate and emphasise. Use humour to give the speech shape (which, reading your blog, I suspect would be a given).

    The movie, The King’s Speech is also quite inspiring (a movie marathon of uplifting 'speech challenge' movies is recommended). And there is a community organisation called Toastmasters that has assisted many a reluctant public speaker to successfully master the art. They’re here: http://www.toastmasters.org.au/

    All the very best; I’m sure you’ll kill it.