Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Imagine a Naked Audience

I came across the below-mentioned piece on 'public speaking' and it offers food for thought. 

“In fact, public speaking may be primal and quintessentially human, not limited to those of us born with a high-reactive nervous system. One theory, based on the writings of the sociobiologist EO Wilson, holds that when our ancestors lived on the savannah, being watched intently meant only one thing: a wild animal was stalking us. And when we think we're about to be eaten, do we stand tall and hold forth confidently? No. We run. 

In other words, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution urge us to get the hell off the stage, where we can mistake the gaze of the spectators for the glint in a predator's eye. 

Yet the audience expects not only that we'll stay put, but that we'll act relaxed and assured. 

This conflict between biology and protocol is one reason that speechmaking can be so fraught. It's also why exhortations to imagine the audience in the nude don't help nervous speakers; naked lions are just as dangerous as elegantly dressed ones” (Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking). 

I haven’t thought of it this way – but yes, I can buy into the argument. That explains perhaps why I have this nervous twitch and an urge to want to leave the stage even before I say anything. 

Even with Toastmasters’ training, I am surprised I am still nervous, believe it or not! And mind you, I have delivered so many speeches at Toastmasters’ meetings. 

But having said this, I have this unexplainable desire to speak – and once I let my words emerge, I no longer have the urge to flee. I begin to enjoy it. 

That’s right, once I speak, I lose myself in my speech – and therefore, the reception I get is entirely up to my audience – they can lap it up or they can show me their disinterest. 

But rest assured, I will speak because I am a Toastmaster. I'm sure all Toastmasters can agree with me!

Yesterday, I was in Bandar Puteri Puchong in Selangor to attend the Puchong English Toastmasters meeting. Thanks to club president Ernest Tham for kindly agreeing to let me speak at his club. Also special thanks to VP Education Chan Sze Yin for her first-class follow-ups.

There, I delivered my CC #4 speech titled Tongue-tied No More – this represents my 749th assignment speech.

I was even voted Best Project Speaker. Nice!

It has been a few years since I last went to this particular Toastmasters club and I must say, I am impressed with the energy, enthusiasm and exuberance that their members exuded at the meeting. Overall, an exemplary meeting.

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