Up in the air

I spoke at the Meadowdale Branch Library in Chesterfield County last night about All the Money in the World. The organizers were wonderful, doing an incredible amount of marketing for the event. So, despite some blustery wind and quite the downpour in the Richmond, Virginia region, we had a packed house. (The food trucks they’d planned to have for the event, alas, canceled due to the weather).

Of course, the gale had other effects. I flew to Richmond in a small plane with propellers. This is one of the downsides of moving from New York to Philadelphia. There are fewer direct flights in large planes. Add a prop plane to a storm system and you get some major chop. A few weeks ago, I found myself musing about why airlines still offer airsick bags, tucked in with the inflight mag in the seat back pouch. Was it some holdover from when people were nervous about aviation? No. They are for flights like mine from Philly to Richmond. The poor woman sitting next to me actually threw up, and filled the second bag I gave her from my seat too.

Here’s something that doesn’t make me nauseous anymore, though: public speaking. I used to think some people were good at public speaking and some weren’t. I’m naturally kind of introverted, but I’ve learned that public speaking is a skill you can get better at, like any other. Even if you know how to play the piano, you probably couldn’t get up on stage and perform an intricate etude without having practiced the piece. It’s the same with speaking. I aim to hone my material so I know where people will laugh, where they will go “hmm” and I’m learning to watch to see if they’re drifting. If so, I’m figuring out techniques to pull people back. I was giving my money speech last night, but one thing I like about my time speech is that, usually, I’ve had a few people keep time logs for me before the event. I’ve chatted with them by phone about the logs. So I have at least 2-3 friends in the crowd by the time I give my speech. Friendly faces deliver their own energy.

How do you feel about getting up in front of crowds?



10 thoughts on “Up in the air

  1. How do I feel about getting up in front of crowds? When I was young I often said “IT’S NOT GONNA HAPPEN…

    As luck(or fate) would have it, the slow down in the economy forced me to look at alternative means to earn a living. I added a consulting side to my business and have been required on numerous occasions to speak to “small crowds”. The crowds are begining to grow a bit

  2. I don’t give presentations that often anymore, but I used to- it is part of being a scientist, particularly in academia. I don’t find it too stressful, usually. I credit my years of playing viola for that- I used to give recitals. It is FAR more embarrassing to mess up playing music than to stumble while speaking. If I misspeak, I just correct myself and go on. If I made a mistake playing a concerto I had to just leave it out there and keep going.

    1. @Cloud- I was studying beauty pageants for a bit (for something I was writing years ago). I was, at first, amazed by these young women being poised when the judges throw random questions at them in the interview round. Now I’m like, hey, that’s what I get with drive time radio interviews all the time. No big deal. You can think while talking and make anything sound like a sound bite by stopping talking at a good-sounding word.

      1. I’m still not good enough on TV to make the final cut… I’ve gotten taped but haven’t ended up on the program. I’m pretty good with standard radio, but haven’t gotten past the final screening with talk radio. (Talk of the nation calls me up from time to time and then decides I’m not such a great idea.) I like radio a lot better than tv though because it only takes a few hours in civilian clothes and TV is an entire day affair including make-up and other annoyances.
        I definitely need to work on soundbites. Though I haven’t been called for anything other than someone’s book in several months so my moment of general fame may be over. Neil Degrasse Tyson I am not.

  3. I’ve gotten better at public speaking…but I could definitely use some more practice! I am more than a little antsy about speaking to a group of bloggers next month. Public speaking is one thing, but speaking to a group that’s waiting to tweet your every word (or tweet at others, if I’m boring!) makes me jittery!

    1. @Anne- the irony, I’ve found, is that when I’m trying to tweet while listening to a speech, I wind up not paying a whole lot of attention. I’m giving highlights to other people and missing the experience myself. I’m learning not to multi-task…

  4. I get a big charge out of public speaking. At the beginning of graduate school it was terrifying, but my program was very good at beating the fear out of its students (and providing a ton of practice). After one has been torn apart by the professors in my grad school program, people would have to have literal weapons pointed at one to be any more terrifying. That pretty much takes the fear away and allows for enjoyment.

    1. @N&M- what I’m enjoying figuring out right now is how to handle the crowd as an organism whose energy level can be managed. Speeches after lunch are bad for the sleepy factor… but with enough coaxing can be quite creative (probably because I’m working harder — so the audience eventually responds)

  5. I think public speaking is actually a great, if not so obvious, way for introverts to get themselves out there. I wouldn’t have believed it until I did it, but public speaking is lots easier than making small talk. When I speak, I’m in control of the flow. I am much more comfortable than when dealing with that out of left field question that extraverts seem to find so helpful to conversation.

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