It can be the most unnerving, and for some terrifying, experience. There are those who make it look so easy but I suspect their secret to success is the ability to suppress the fear and anxiety of public speaking. There are plenty of courses for those who want to become better at public speaking but no course is as valuable as practical experience. Presenting in front of a large audience teaches many lessons, and the lessons are usually painful.
There’s nothing more humbling than walking off the stage and saying to yourself, “well, that sucked”. I’ve done enough public speaking over the last few years to honestly judge my own performance. Really, that’s what public speaking is. Either you’re “on” or you’re not. There have been times when I’ve been in a middle of a presentation and I know it’s working. The words seem to flow, the pace of speech is just right and the audience is engaged. I measure audience engagement by Blackberry use. Then there are other times when I know I’m not connecting with the audience, and god forbid if I have another forty minutes to fill. That has to be one of the loneliest feelings in the world. There’s no teammate on stage that can cover for you. It’s just you and the audience wishing they were somewhere else.
Every time I go on stage to do a presentation I’m nervous. Not to any paralyzing degree but enough to get the feeling in the pit of my stomach, accompanied by sweaty palms. It doesn’t matter how many times I do it that feeling is there. It was no different last week when I spoke to a group of realtors in Oakville. For context, a great supporter of Merix, Mark Mighton, asked me to speak at event he was sponsoring. It was the Oakville Real Estate Association continuing education session, with some 250 realtors in attendance. The presentation was being held in a movie theatre. It was an interesting day to say the least. My morning started by doing the opening remarks at the CAAMP Symposium in Laval, Quebec. Off to the airport from Laval to catch a flight to Toronto so that I can make it on time for the presentation in Oakville. Of course the plane was delayed by an hour which means I would be cutting it real close. I’m providing ETA updates to the organizers of the event, and I know I was causing them some angst. As luck would have it I arrived with 10 minutes to spare. No time to decompress or really gather my thoughts, its show time. So I’m introduced by the host of the event, and I say “Thank you and good afternoon ladies gentlemen’”. Just then I noticed a woman, right in the middle of the theatre, dead to the world. I mean she is out cold, head tilted to the side, mouth wide open, she’s in a deep sleep. It’s funny what goes through your mind in about second. My first instinct was to laugh, and then I started to rationalize. “Christ, it can’t be me…I’ve been on for only 3 1/2 seconds”.
For 45 minutes I tried to avoid looking at the woman in a coma. That’ not an easy thing to do because I know she’s there and I’m wondering if she’s really going to sleep through entire presentation. She did. In fairness to the slumbering woman, when the audience clapped at the end of my presentation it startled her awake. She rose to her feet and joined the others in clapping. I made eye contact with her and mouthed, thank you. What a thrill for me. I received a standing ovation from one person in the audience who didn’t hear a single word I said.
Until next time,