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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Better To Be Eaten By Chihuahuas...

Most people dread public speaking. Some simply loathe it. And there are certain select individuals who not only claim to enjoy it, but give every evidence of actually reveling in the process of speaking to an audience.

These people are clearly crazy, and should be locked up for their own protection, lest we find their existence intolerable.

But, if you absolutely have to speak to a group of people, and every way you've tried to get out of it has failed (someone brought a fire extinguisher to your well-planned self-immolation), here are some suggestions. They're not 'tips'. 'Tips' sound like they might work. With these, who knows.

  1. Know your subject - this doesn't mean, be an expert. If you go to a biker's convention, a stern talk on the evils of drink probably won't go over well.
  2. Know (without assuming you know) where you're speaking - I was once scheduled to give a talk at a Hilton. Unfortunately, I did not know that the city in which the conference took place had three Hiltons. I thought I knew which was the right one. I was wrong.
  3. Dress for the occasion - and if your luggage doesn't make it, be sure you have time to pick up something else. "Aw, this'll work" usually doesn't work if "this" is a torn Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, and flip-flops.
  4. If alcohol is offered before your talk, abstain - one audience is bad enough. Seeing two or three is just torture.
  5. If alcohol is offered after your talk, abstain -  you're the hero of the hour for just showing up, and breath that smells like rocket fuel kind of ruins the image
  6. Audience sizes vary - sometimes you really will have to say, "Good evening, lady and gentleman..."
  7. DON'T imagine your audience naked - for one thing, it's inappropriate...for another thing, most people don't exercise enough
  8. Intentional humor is risky - breaking wind, however, will always raise a laugh
  9. Run your talk too long to avoid Q&A periods - there will be at least one person who will want to show off his knowledge by downgrading yours. Remember, it's at least a misdemeanor to physically assault a member of your audience, even if he's a jerk. "Oh, too bad, no time for questions!" are the sweetest words a speaker can hear.
  10. If you have an odd name (like Budek-Schmeisser) tell the moderator how to pronounce it - And don't wince when he mispronounces it anyway
  11. If you use Powerpoint, don't let anyone have access to the slides - some people have a weird sense of humor, and an unexpected view of your Uncle Fred from last year's Christmas party that your husband snuck in 'as a joke' is grounds for divorce. Or murder.
  12. Don't wave your arms if you're using a stick as a pointer - some moderators stand too close to the edge of the stage. Personal experience, but they were able to put most of his teeth back in.
  13.  If you're using a laser-pointer, don't play "blind the heckler" - the beams are too unfocused to really blind someone. You're just wasting your time.
  14. If you make a big exit, people will remember your talk - falling off the stage works pretty well
  15. If they ask you back, it's a Big Thing - it either means you were great, or you're the only person they think will be dumb enough to show up next time
And, finally, remember this...there's at least one person in the audience who wants to be there even less than you do!

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