The school of hard knocks for speakers
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.