Public speaking and I have a strange relationship. We’ve had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day we get along pretty decently. Which is astonishing, considering that when I was a toddler I refused to speak to strangers or any of the uncles.
I was a shy kid from a boisterous family that encouraged loads of public speaking. At family dinners and parties this meant being volunteered to give toasts and little speeches at any given time. You never knew when one of the adults would point at you, everyone would stare, waiting for you to stand up and say something. For me this meant I was anxious until we got up from dinner.
When the time came in elementary school for us to all stand up in front of the class and their families to present memorized speeches, again I was very anxious. But there I stood, all 4 feet of me, and much to my surprise, I was cool, calm and collected. The words flowed out with ease, the group of people watching me faded away and before I knew it, I was done. And I had done a good job! The only people more surprised than myself at my newfound skill were my parents. Not only had I spoken in front of people I didn’t know (and therefore didn’t trust), I had done it with seeming confidence. Where did that come from?!
Over the years I did speeches on golf carts, lemurs, my dad, skiing and Germany’s political climate at the turn of the 19th century. I was also a drama kid and the same thing would happen. During practice if someone paid too much attention to me I would get shy, blush and not be able to concentrate, but in front of a large audience this mysterious confidence would appear. I am comfortable in front of a crowd, and much funnier than usual.
When I spoke at my grandfather’s funeral last year the same thing happened. I didn’t really want to speak, but I had a speech prepared that I thought he would have liked so I went for it. Afterwards, my best friend said it was like a different version of myself. Apparently, I stood up straighter, enunciated, and appeared charismatic. People congratulated me on how well I had done, with clear surprise in their voices.
Not that I’m offended, I’m still a shy person. Which is what is so strange about my hidden skill. My theory, is that the more people you’re in front of the more likely that theres at least one person that will appreciate and or like what you’re saying. Whereas, in front of a smaller group, the numbers aren’t on your side.
So there you have it, public speaking is my secret talent. Maybe its innate, maybe I have my dad forcing me to give toasts to thank for it.