Confessions of a Public Speaker
How much do I want to read more? 8/10
That was hilarious, his "bad speech" experience.
This author is a delight to read. We can read how much he cares about his thoughts, about observing what happens inside of him and outside of him.
It's full of humor and personal phsychology.
It gives me the push to be a public speaker myself.
Chapter 1. I can’t see you naked
She asks what I do for a living.
The best answer I have is I’m a writer.
But saying I’m a writer is bad because people get excited.
When they learn I’m one of the millions of writers they’ve never heard of—and not someone whose novel was turned into a blockbuster movie—they fall into a kind of disappointment.
My other choice is worse, which is to say I’m a public speaker.
- You’re a motivational speaker who dreams about Tony Robbins.
- You’re a high priest in a cult
- You’re single, unemployed, and live in a van down by the river.
Public speaking is a form of expression. You have to do it about a topic, and whatever that topic is defines you better than the actual speaking does.
But I speak about the things I write about, which can be just about anything.
Her first question, one I often hear at this point in conversations, is: “When you’re giving a lecture, do you imagine everyone in the room naked?”
I asked many experts, and not one knew who first offered this advice. the best guess is Winston Churchill, imagining the audience naked worked for him.
you won’t find a single public-speaking expert recommending thoughts of naked people.
Yet, if you tell a friend you’re nervous about a presentation you have to give at work tomorrow, naked people will be mentioned within 30 seconds. I can’t explain why.
I’ve done most of the scary, tragic, embarrassing things that terrify people. I’ve been heckled by drunken crowds in a Boston bar. I’ve lectured to empty seats, and a bored janitor, in New York City. I’ve had a laptop crash in a Moscow auditorium; a microphone die at a keynote speech in San Jose; and I’ve watched helplessly as the Parisian executives who hired me fell asleep in the conference room while I was speaking. The secret to coping with these events is to realize everyone forgets about them after they happen—except for one person: me. No one else really cares that much.
Most people listening to presentations around the world right now are hoping their speakers will end soon. That’s all they want. They’re not judging as much as you think, because they don’t care as much as you think.
Knowing this helps enormously.
If something explodes or I trip and fall, I’ll have more attention from the audience than I probably had 30 seconds before.
If you’d like to be good at something, the first thing to go out the window is the notion of perfection. Every time I get up to the front of the room, I know I will make mistakes. And this is OK. If you examine how we talk to one another every day, including people giving presentations, you’ll find that even the best speakers make tons of mistakes.
Lincoln had a high-pitched voice. Dale Carnegie had a Southern twang. Cicero used to hyperventilate. Barbara Walters, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, and even Moses had stutters, lisps, or other speech issues.
Tyler Durden, the quasi-hero from the film Fight Club, said to stop being perfect because obsessing about perfection stops you from growing. You stop taking chances, which means you stop learning.
I don’t want to be perfect. I want be useful, I want to be good, and I want to sound like myself. Trying to be perfect gets in the way of all three.
Mistakes will happen—what matters more is how you frame your mistakes.
- Avoid the mistake of trying to make no mistakes. You should work hard to know your material, but also know you won’t be perfect. This way, you won’t be devastated when small things go wrong.
- Know that your response to a mistake defines the audience’s response. If I respond to spilling water on my pants as if it were the sinking of the Titanic, the audience will see it, and me, as a tragedy. But if I’m cool, or better yet, find it funny, the audience will do the same.
Aoki finished to applause, and Brady Forrest, the co-host of the event, stepped out on the stage to introduce me. I was psyched and ready. I’d practiced. I knew my material. I had big ideas and fun stories. I was confident it would be great. I heard my name and charged the stage, heading straight for the lectern. My eyes were fixed on the remote control, the one thing I needed before I could start. I carefully placed my fingers on the side of the remote to ensure I didn’t hit the button by accident.
I found a surprise. Instead of the 10 minutes I expected—the 10 minutes I’d planned, prepared, and practiced for—I had only 9 minutes and 34 seconds. Twenty-six of my precious seconds were gone.
I was caught off guard. I couldn’t imagine how I wasted 26 seconds without starting.
My brain—not as smart as it thinks it is—insisted on playing detective right there, live on stage, consuming even more precious time. I don’t know why my brain did this, but my brain does many curious things I have to figure out later.
Meanwhile, I’m rambling. Blah blah innovation blah creativity blah. I’m not a blabbermouth in real life, but for 15 seconds I can ramble on about a subject I know well enough to seem like I’m not rambling. Doing this bought me just enough time for my brain to give up its pointless investigation of what happened. Finally focused, I had to waste even more time managing the surgery-like segue between my rambles and the first point of my prepared material. Confidently back on track, despite being a full minute behind, I hit the remote to advance the slide. But when I did, I held it too long and two slides flew by.
We all have reserve tanks of strength that help us cope when things go wrong, but here mine hit empty. I didn’t have the courage to stop my talk, ask the tech folks over the microphone—as if speaking to the gods above—to go back.
So, I pressed on, did my best, and fled the stage after my 10 minutes ended.
It was a disaster to me. I never found my rhythm and couldn’t remember much of what I’d said. But as I talked with people I knew in the audience, I discovered something much more interesting. Not only did no one care, no one noticed. The drama was mostly in my own mind.
Good speakers usually find when they finish that there have been four versions of the speech: the one they delivered, the one they prepared, the one the newspapers say was delivered, and the one on the way home they wish they had delivered.
-- Dale Carnegie
My struggles on stage that night taught me a lesson: never plan to use the full time given.
And it’s often the case that the things speakers obsess about are the opposite of what the audience cares about. They want to be entertained. They want to learn.
matter more: the mistakes of not having an interesting opinion, of not thinking clearly about your points, and of not planning ways to make those points relevant to your audience. Those are the ones that make the difference. If you can figure out how to get those right, not much else will matter.