The school of hard knocks for speak­ers

The Leader (Tasman) - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - STU HUNT

As a young lad, about 11 or 12, I was forced to do a bit of public speak­ing.

Noth­ing too se­ri­ous; just get up in front of the class and say some­thing about some­thing.

I learned quickly there’s no wing­ing it.

You get up there with­out a care­fully or­ches­trated game plan and you’ll be left dan­gling with 30-odd pairs of dead eyes pen­e­trat­ing your soul.

It’s a lucky thing 12-year-olds are too busy try­ing to keep a lid on their hor­mones to hone their heck­ling or I would’ve run the very real risk of be­ing torn to shreds.

So we get to now where largely I’ve man­aged to skirt public speak­ing al­most en­tirely.

And yet like some sort of karmic stalker it still lurks around mak­ing a nui­sance of it­self.

So you make bat­tle plans, try to stock­pile some ammo, work on your aim and pray to be spared a lin­ger­ing death.

Trou­ble be­ing, the best ma­te­rial I have could gen­er­ously be de­scribed as dad jokes. Which is a ba­si­cally a eu­phemism for lame. So be­ing funny is out.

I ad­mire Jimmy Carr whose hu­mour is fairly crass but no mat­ter how low he sinks peo­ple still laugh. A lot.

I’m not Jimmy Carr. If, hy­po­thet­i­cally, I was to try that ma­te­rial, in­stead of laugh­ing peo­ple would clasp their head in their hands and mum­ble ‘‘oh dear God, no’’.

Or look up at the ceil­ing as if be­ing tele­ported was an op­tion.

So my last speak­ing en­gage­ment MID­DLE-AGED MAN was to a class­room full of teenage girls. All due re­spect, prob­a­bly a bunch of fine young women, in­tel­li­gent and driven.

But as an au­di­ence - good lord. I felt like I’d stum­bled into the zom­bie apoc­a­lypse.

Dad jokes were like tak­ing a wa­ter pis­tol to the gates of Hell.

So, short of bolt­ing for the near­est exit, I fell back on the largely untested tech­nique of speed­ing up.

The more I felt them slip­ping away, the faster I went, un­til you had to be a whip­pet to catch the de­tails.

Mer­ci­fully, no heck­lers.

But the fi­nal stake straight through my heart was the front row tex­ter.

That might have slipped past me if it had been dis­creet but given the fact her phone was vi­o­lent green there was no get­ting round it.

Come ques­tion time and three of them took it in turns to try to haul me in and charge up the pad­dles but not even 50,000 volts could re­vive that speech.

So mid­dle age has not mag­i­cally pre­pared me for public speak­ing or done any­thing to kill the nerves.

For the fu­ture I think I’ll go­ing to stick to au­di­ences of lit­tle kids – I’m sure they’d be glued to me read­ing the shop­ping list.

Just keep it short and no Jimmy Carr jokes.

OK, so this is an ex­ag­ger­a­tion but you get the idea.

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