February 11, 2005

Public Speaking

I love public speaking. I have no fear about getting up in front of a group of people and speaking. This is a useful thing for a trial lawyer. In fact, I don't know how I could be a trial lawyer if public speaking bothered me. But Wednesday night was a bit different. I had to give a small speech to a small group -- about 60 people -- in my new role as chairman of a committee that was sponsoring an event. As chairman, I was the master of ceremonies. The dinner ran for about 3 hours and my speech was very well received. The crowd laughed in the right places and were solemn in the right places. It was very satisfying.

There is something about good public speaking that is a combination of Aikido and seduction. Aikido, in part, is premised on the belief that you can take another person's energy, control it, redirect it and then throw the person. Seduction? Well, you know what it is even if you can't explain it. When it goes well, it goes like this. You stand in front of the group. You make eye contact with some and you speak. And as you speak, you sense the energy of the group. You change your tone and your rhythm and your cadence and your volume as you speak. You force them to pay attention. To be drawn in to your words. Then you pull them along with you and make them think that they are interacting with you, that you are speaking to them. It feels seductive and you know you succeed when people you've never met before come up to you afterwards to say how much they enjoyed your talk and you can tell that they want to just linger, just to chat. You've seduced them. You've taken them from cold, although mildly interested, to warm, to hot. You can feel the energy in the room as it changes and you wrap yourself up in it. I really like that.

And the corollary, of course, is that sometimes your speech goes over as well as a "come here often" line. Happily, that didn't happen this time. And if you have a decent sense of rhythm, you ought to be able to avoid that entirely.

Posted by Random Penseur at February 11, 2005 09:39 AM

"chairman of a committee that was sponsoring an event"...Now if that isn't the vaguest line I've ever read, I'll eat my hat.

Glad the speech went well, RP. I too enjoy speaking in public, as long as I know what I'm talking about.

Posted by: Howard at February 11, 2005 03:55 PM

What a terrific description! I know that feeling ~ the charge, the energy, the excitement. Stangely, i'm much more comfortable in front of large groups than 1on 1.. Go figure.

Posted by: Indigo at February 11, 2005 04:08 PM

I speak regularly at city council meetings. Most of the time, it's so-so. But when it goes like you described, and your points are made succinctly and you're ON, it's pretty awesome. Like when I spoke about zoning changes they're trying to ram down our throats that will alter our community for the worse and forever. When I was done, I got a huge round of spontaneous applause, and that never happens to anyone else. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy while you're eviscerating your elected officials.

Posted by: Mark at February 12, 2005 07:06 PM

I love public speaking as well. I don't think that I have actually intellectualized it like you have. Admittedly, I am always a bit jittery before a speech. But it's not nerves. It's excitement. Usually, I enjoy what I am speaking about and my goal is to make people as jazzed about it as I am. That's the rush I feel right before I go "on."

Posted by: Linda at February 15, 2005 08:09 AM
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