Monday, April 18, 2005

An Unwelcome Knee Trembler

I don't know what the deal is with giving presentations. The nervous, shrunken caricature that looks like me (just) and sounds like me (almost) doing the public speaking bit. Standing there and doing something I could easily be doing if I wasn't. If I wasn't presenting. And if I wasn't presenting, doing it so much better.

I might be chattering in a crowded room, speaking louder than the loudest - all the better to be heard. Joking, the jolly-japer, speaking louder than the loudest - all the better to be heard (and in all probability, heard being boring) in a pub. And doing it well. Churning out (you needed to have been there-type), unfunny-but-for-the-tipsy, conventional need for laughter, hilarious anecdotes around dinner tables. And doing OK. And there's always a need, always a requirement to make public utterances. Utterances in public. Rather like the formal talk. Rather like the presentation. Speaking so that others might hear.

With social interaction, "chitty-chatty, here's the skinny, guess what happend to me, him/ her/ them/ on the way to here/there/everywhere . . . Did you hear the one about, blah,blah blah", you have to convey meaning, you have to impart knowledge to groups and gaggles and crowds. As in the formal talk, as in the . . . presentation, there is expectation. A people's expectation that you will deliver. That you won't disappoint and tail off into a blind ally, forget the punchline, loose your way, bungle your lines, become incomprehensible. It's not so different. The passive actors are set up just the same. As you begin, their index of comprehension devices are similarly primed for action: ears tuned for listening, eyes zeroed for seeing, thoughts assembled for processing. The audience, any audience, are generally information hungry. They don't want to be let down.

In formal settings it's true, the scenery's a bit more stagey, the listeners a bit more remote, and their expectation for polish a little more upwardly tweaked . But for the speaker it's really not that different. So what on earth can it be that drives these demons and terrors that pervade my thoughts and haunt me as the day grows ever closer, disturbing me with feelings of doubt, anxiety and dread? Why is it so much harder?
God, I wish I knew.

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