Saturday, December 26, 2009

Resolved: A year of public speaking

Would you try this? British journalist Robert Crampton writes in this article about his decision to spend a year focused on public speaking--getting and accepting more engagements, and doing better as a speaker. He decided to get honest with himself about his lack of skill, even though he might be considered a "good enough" speaker:

Speaking well in public always felt like something I should be good at. I make a nice living from the written word, and among small groups I can handle the spoken word too. But increase the number much beyond half a dozen and I’d founder. Nerves and self-consciousness and a history of failure would take over. I’d dry up, go surly, or platitudinous, or seek recourse in jokes that didn’t quite work.

He'd done some speaking, then stopped for a while. Here's his own diagnosis of where he stood when he started this project:
Inexperience got the better of me. Stories fell flat. What I thought were telling points sounded trite as they left my mouth. As I wrote in my appeal for more speaking gigs, “Each time was like the first time.” These occasions would loom large in my diary and my head, blotting out everything else for weeks in advance. I just wanted them to be over, and when they were over, I felt my life could begin again.
Anyone who's seeking to improve as a speaker will find this a realistic look at a year well spent--and this is as good a time as any to think about your own speaking resolutions. Leave a note in the comments about what you're seeking to improve as a speaker in 2010.

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