I was probably about ten years old when I stood in front of a portable podium, note cards bouncing in my trembling hands. My oral report was on flags. I made a construction paper flag for no less than fifty countries. I’d never even heard of most of the countries, but they sure did have pretty cut and glue flags. I thought nothing could be worse than standing in front of my classmates and speaking, but then worse happened. Every one of my flags flew from the podium and scattered countries across the floor. The result looked like a worldwide earthquake struck and displaced entire continents. China suddenly shared land mass with Canada. I was doomed to geographic failure.
I vowed never to use construction paper props in another speech for as long as I live.
Saturday morning I am speaking at a Ladies’ Tea in Maine. My stomach is jumbled in happiness and fear. Oh, I’ve spoken to groups of women before, but I never really get over the pre-talk jitters.
The fear comes from my own head. Self-doubt says well, maybe you should have chosen a different topic. Maybe it’s not what they expect. Maybe your voice will crack a hundred and twenty times while you’re speaking and you’ll sound like a pre-bubescent boy attempting to sound like a grown-up woman. Or worse, maybe I’ll just forget everything I planned to say.
I’ts terrible. I have been this way for as long as I can remember. My freshman year in college, I had a professor pull me aside and tell me to never, ever erase an answer on a test. He warned me to always go with my first choice, because it was right. He noticed that every single time I erased an answer, I got it wrong. I should live and die, pass and fail by my gut instinct.
Doesn’t that sound easy? Simply writing down or doing the first thing that comes to mind, the thing you know is right?
Not if you live with my mind. I am queen of second guessing myself and God. I do a good job of cutting everyone else some slack, but I pretty much terrorize myself for absolutely nothing.
I’m funny that way.
So in order to counteract my stinkin’ thinkin’, I over-prepared. My time frame is 20-30 minutes.
TWENTY TO THIRTY MINUTES!
Yes, at first I thought, oh, no that’s a long time to be the only one talking, but my husband assured me that I have plenty of words to fill 30 minutes a hundred times over.
Turns out he might be right.
This morning I asked to him to guess how many pages I prepared.
“Six.” He guessed shooting for what he thought was a high number. Since he speaks publicly every single week, he’s estimating based on personal experience. Then he added cushion, knowing I am a woman with many words.
“Thirteen.” I said, hating to admit to each and every page.
I guess I went just a wee bit overboard, but I did not make one single cut and glue prop.
Now I’m slashing, crumbling, skipping, and crossing out. It won’t be so difficult to remember everything, not when I just threw half my words into the trash.
I do hope nobody from Maine is reading this. I may scare them into not coming to the Ladies’ Tea.
Girls, I promise not to retrieve any pages from the trash, and I’ll try not to bore you to death. Really, I will try.
All that to say this, I could use your prayers this weekend. So could the ladies who will have to listen to me.
How are you when it comes to public speaking?
Do you thrive on an audience or do you run screaming to the bathroom.