March 12, 2016
This, the momentous week of March 9, 2016, I finally graduated from software
developer training and am now a full-fledged employee of the university! I did,
however, have to give a demonstrative speech beforehand in front of everyone
who's helped me through the process and it was terrifying for a
genetically quivery person like myself, but now it's over and I am over the moon.
The good mood's actually because I have a blemish so bright I probably
don't need headlights at nighttime and guess what? Another one popped up
in exactly the same spot on the other side! Symmetry, y'all. Blemish 1
is just the matching pillar to Blemish 2 and they join together to support the
awesome volleyball net that is my mouth. I've always loved volleyball.
For any of the absolutely nobody I share this post with (except, Mom. Hi, mom!)
who suffer from physiological stress in public speaking situations, I want to say that
it CAN be a good experience. I am just about thirty and it never has been, but
it was this time. So, 30 years of shaking like a circus tent in the wind while
my word animals somersault out to maul the confused crowd, but success all of a
sudden? Something was done differently!
What did I do differently? I can tell you exactly that. Life lessons. Mm mm mm.
I accepted that I would be so shaky that Sally Fields would probably show
up and tell me to drink my juice and there wasn't much I could do about that.
The only way to handle this was to not stand still, which meant swaying like a
troubled elephant in a circus cage (boy, I'm really railing on circuses today.
I saw a video of a bear walking on a ball. Made me sad), clench my hands together
as though crushing a palm-sized entity that would otherwise perm my hair and
give it a bowl cut if I did not succeed, and gesture very quickly and wildly so
as to both confuse and distract the audience.
I rehearsed. In fact, I chose not to go to a small event where I could have
had the opportunity to mingle with Amanda Palmer (goddess of my bad feelings)
and Neil Gaiman (British God), instead choosing to stay home and memorize
what I could of my speech. In my previous life as a musician, before transitioning
into the humbling world of software development, the thing I had the most trouble
with was memorizing my piano parts. Oh, and the crippling stage fright that I
felt made me look and sound like a distressed and panting llasa apso. For some reason,
the words were second-nature to me. Not so when speaking. Oh well! It worked!
I practiced for three days, multiple times a day and recorded myself to listen
while running. It was OK. I didn't do the BEST, but it was OK. The point is,
I didn't kiss Amanda Palmer, but it was worth it. I mean, celebrity worship
is also weird. Would she have come out to shake my hand when preparing for her
TED talk? The scale/importance of our scenarios is very different, but
the personal success is what matters.
A look at previous speeches
I incorporated humorous bits that I hoped would keep the audience interested.
Memes and jokes might backfire when people don't laugh and make you feel worse.
This is what I was afraid of, especially after practicing in front of several
people who laughed not once! My career as a comedienne began and ended on practice day 1.
But, luckily, my audience was a bunch of very kind people who either share my
sense of humor or pity laugh out of a sense of responsibility to be nice.
Either way, it helped with the whole relaxation thing.
Let people know you're nervous. Or don't! Beyonce probably
wouldn't. Wake up and watch Beyonce videos. I'm sort of an open book
when it comes to what's going on with me at any given moment. I will throw in
comments about my cold, clammy hands when nervous and I'll make self-deprecating
comments when I feel people might expect something I know they won't get from me.
Perhaps, a better idea is to fake it so well that they never have any doubt!
At some point I started watching Beyonce videos and realized she probably never
speaks that way about herself. I think I try to lower expectations as a mode of
self-defense, but how much higher will the opinion be if it starts from a decent
level already? Either way works. Just something I'm working on in myself.
Remember you're going to die. Not during or because of your speech,
but eventually. Whatever those people think of you won't matter then, so even
if you finish with tomatoes on your face, the grand scheme of the universe cares
not and neither should you.
That's actually all my tips. It didn't go THAT great. I will say that the
preparation was worth it. I left feeling tremendously better than I do on most
days and it has sat with me since. I've gotten to puff out my chest a little
and, this time, not just to scare off predators by making myself bigger, but because
I feel proud of myself. I didn't fully choose this opportunity for growth,
but it's the stuff great days are made of. Then the week ended by Obama
coming to town and telling jokes about GOP anti-intellectual culture and the
world laughed and laughed. I wish you well, non-existent reader. Remember,
this world is just a safari of animals to hunt and mount on your wall of e
xperiences and achievements. Deck the halls!