Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Speech Requests Put You between Dais and Hard Place

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Speech Requests Put You between Dais and Hard Place

Article excerpt

"Before starting my speech, I have something important to say." Groucho Marx - You've seen those lists of "Greatest Fears." There, at the top, ahead of swallowing live snakes and even ahead of driving a rental car through Miami, is always the same old one: public speaking.

Why is this? How many people have actually been injured, either physically or psychologically, at the lectern of a Rotary Club? I've never heard of even one.

On the other hand, a fear like acrophobia makes sense. Somewhere in the collective psyche lie the accumulated warnings of millions of anxious mothers: "Stay away from the edge! You wanna fall and die?" But no mom ever yelled, "Look out! You're standing too close to that podium."

Which leads me to the hypothesis that speaker's anxiety is genetic. Mother Nature, recognizing the dangers of excessive speech-giving, purposely instilled the fear.

You've met those oddballs who eagerly volunteer to give speeches, those hams who actually revel in it. Imagine if we were all that way. Life on the Planet of the Public Speakers would be one endless Toastmasters meeting.

But here's another question: If public speaking is terrifying, how come so many people agree to do it? I don't know. But I do know this: Go to any bookstore and you'll find a hundred volumes on how to give speeches, but not one on how not to give speeches. Let's correct that oversight right now.

Although there's no shame to admitting to lesser apprehensions, a terror of speaking is considered weak and cowardly. Thus, it is not good form to respond to a request to speak by blurting out the truth: "WHAT? Are you CRAZY? You want me to spend days preparing and worrying, and there's nothing in it for me but a hotel meal? A meal I won't even want to eat because you'll bring it to me just before I have to give a stinking speech? …

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