Posts Tagged ‘Public Speaking’

The Friday Question: Speak Up!

April 17, 2009

Image by BP Perry

Public speaking. Everyone’s got their own way of getting through it.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll bark very loudly at your audience until they walk out in disgust, unprepared to listen to any more ill-mannered gibberish delivered by a human foghorn with hideous teeth, a bald head and an appalling attitude to the opposite sex.

If, on the other hand, you’re anything like WWM’s very own virtual reality punchbag Dave, a heavily-photoshopped image of Princess Leia will no doubt pop into your head halfway through your speech, making you pull down your trousers and start jizzing at your horrified guests, thus causing them to run away screaming.

Like I say, we all have our own ways of dealing with these things.

But what about those times when shouting loudly or soaking your audience in Star Wars-induced jism just don’t cut the public-speaking mustard? What about those times when you’ve found y’self stumbling and fumbling and, ultimately, failing to deliver that vital speech?

Did you fuck it up at a bought-and-paid-for after dinner event? Or fall flat on your arse in front of your work colleagues? Or did you stand before the whole school and deliver a speech of such magnificent ineptitude that it earned you the derision of every man, woman and child from that day until you skulked, a broken and bitter creature, out of the school gates for the very last time?

You didn’t end up doing a shit on the stage, did you?

To celebrate BBC2’s new series The Speaker, we at WWM want to hear YOUR public speaking horror stories.

We want to know what you did, where you did it, and what happened as a result of your dribbling inability to talk out loud for a few minutes.

Are you prepared to put yourself to shame and prove you can’t deliver the goods as well as an egg-headed child on a TV speech-delivering show?

We bet you are.

Our first speaker of the day is …

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The Speaker

April 15, 2009

The Speaker BBC Jo Brand

We’re regularly told that the nation’s number one fear is the act of public speaking. People would rather die than make a speech before an audience – which seems a bit severe. It also beats spiders, confined spaces and heights in the phobia stakes, hands down. This is strange when you consider that speaking in public is something we’re biologically programmed to do. It’s like being frightened of walking down a lane, or becoming terrified when faced with the prospect of going for a poo.

Having said that, if you’d have seen the mess I made in the little boy’s room last night, you’d find yourself utterly terrified of visiting the bog.

Ultimately, there’s no denying it’s a nightmarish experience. All of my adult attempts at public speaking have, without exception, been disastrous. Clammy hands, stuttering delivery and mind-blanks combined and resulted in speeches that seemed, from inside my head at least, to be completely incoherent word-babbles serving no discernible purpose.

As a child it was easier, or seemed to be, thanks to a heady mixture of youthful enthusiasm and childish arrogance. The fact that we were called upon to make speeches semi-regularly at my rural, all-boys grammar school must have helped, and you can’t help but feel that the primary reason most people suffer anxiety when asked to orate is a lack of practice. When called upon to address the public, most people will run a mile. So credit to the teenagers, all state-school kids, who signed up to The Speaker on the BBC – an attempt to find the best public speaker under the age of 16.

So far we’ve experienced the auditions round, in which entrant after entrant clammed up, fluffed lines or hit a mental blank. Those that were deemed good enough by a giant, a kindly aunt and a Quentin Blake illustration made it through to last night’s round, in which Deborah Meaden – that glorious spinster from the Den – wore an extremely-expensive looking hat. In addition to her millinery display, she had the youngsters stand on a soapbox at Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner, riffing on an object they’d pulled from a dustbin tombola she’d set up on the side of the makeshift stage. This resulted in an impassioned speech from Jordan, who aped his own piece from the preceding round and told the gathered crowd that embracing binoculars is the only way forward. Not only for a better tomorrow, but also for a better society (as a whole).

It was incredibly moving.

In case you’re thinking of catching up by watching tonight’s episode, having lost a couple more kids later on, we’re now left with the following youngsters:

Jordan
Appears to only have one speech to refer to in which he’ll make an impassioned plea for sanity so that we can move forward – collectively – not only for a better tomorrow, but also for a better society (as a whole).

Fahmida
Constantly looking slightly out of her depth, Fahmida is unintentionally amusing. Basing her findings on her extensive world-experience, she hates the notion of love, laughs in the face of romance and stomps on the very concept of companionship.

Duncan
Shouty Duncan’s foolproof method of engagement is to shout at the audience. His shouting technique is second-to-none and, were this a public shouting contest, it’d be game over for the other contestants. Duncan’s mother appears to indulge his shouty ways, so expect more shouting from shouty Duncan in the future.

Haroon
Graffiti-loving Haroon comes across as an educated Ali G and displays the kind of confidence when speaking to a crowd that can only come from some unfair evolutionary advantage. Either that or his brain’s been programmed for success by some mysterious, shadowy BBC agent.

Irene
Irene strikes me as the sort of girl who’s either grown up around adults who treated her as equals, or the type who stays in her bedroom all weekend watching sitcoms. Her attitude comes straight out of Smack The Pony or Green Wing, and for that she should be applauded.

Maria
Like Haroon, Maria totally lacks the negative self-awareness that should make public speaking an alarming prospect, making it possible for her to sail through each round with nary a glimmer of fear. Whatever it is that she and Haroon have pumping through their bloodstream that makes this possible should be bottled and sold.

Thomas
Old beyond his years, Thomas comes across as having the maturity and wisdom of a 40 year old man, stuck within the body of a 16 year old. When I was his age I was flailing around and shouting at policeman, pissed on cider, so it’s hard not to look at the lad without feeling a deep sense of shame.

Kay Kay
My pick to win it. When he takes the stage, Kay Kay is mesmerising. Like a black Boris Johnson, the self-professed mummy’s boy wins the crowd over with messy charm. He radiates the Churchillian ability to encapsulate Britishness, and I reckon he’ll win the thing. If he doesn’t, he should’ve.

This is a good watch.

If they offered a bigger prize than just the title – perhaps a meeting with The Queen or something similar to stick on their CV – and meddled with the format a little bit then The Speaker could quite easily become as well-regarded as that BBC behemoth, The Apprentice.

If only they’d lose the Snow Patrol from the soundtrack and stopped trying to play to the X Factor morons, they might mould a hit show from this concept.