Sunday 26 April 2015

Sleep Well David

I don’t know why, but for some reason I have been thinking about public speaking today. Perhaps it was because I saw a couple of minutes from the movie “Larry Crowne” while I was flipping through the channels and in the movie he takes a community college course on public speaking. Yeah, that would be why.

I don’t think it is natural to enjoy speaking to large groups, I suspect that most people have a natural reluctance. We are all at one time or another worried that we might make fools of ourselves if we open our mouths and something stupid comes out. That isn’t bad if there are only one or two witnesses, but for a large group of people to know you are an idiot is kind of embarrassing.
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I was quite shy as a boy, and it took me years to force the shyness below the surface and let a more outgoing personality take charge. I still think of myself as shy, but I doubt anyone else would.

I have never been very good at chatting on the telephone. There was a time when I had to call hundreds of parents to tell them news about their kids and soccer. It was very difficult at first, but eventually with repetition it just became a pain in the ass. I suppose most activities are like that, if you do them often enough and long enough you get very good at it. There are probably natural speakers that just love the spotlight, but I don’t know who they are. Perhaps teachers find it easy to talk to groups because they do it all day long. That might explain why my brother-in-law Mike seems to be so at ease when speaking at family gatherings.
Whenever I am in a situation that someone is speaking, I try to get a sense of their comfort level with the audience. Most of us just aren’t that comfortable being the centre of attention and there are indications such as “umms” and “ahhs”, constantly looking at notes and not looking at the audience. Sometimes you can hear a trembling in their voice or the all too studied speaker. It is tough to talk to crowds.
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There are some I have seen that are very, very good. What makes them good isn’t that they know the material well, whether they look at the crowd or that they seem to be comfortable talking. That is good of course. The best speakers for me are the ones that seem to be talking to just me in a crowd of hundreds. They don’t look at me but somehow they let me know that although there are others in the building, both of us know that we are part of a private conversation. Stuart Mclean and his Vinyl Café shows are a great example. The other one I want to mention is David Sedaris. You just know that you would be good friends if only you could meet socially somehow.
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I wonder if this is how a stalker begins? The little voices in my head are telling me that I should meet David in his darkened bedroom holding a knife I found in his kitchen late at night. We could be friends if only he would stop saying “Don’t kill me; I’ll sign your book for you…”

Sleep well David.

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