On 03/21/13, I spoke on the Boston University Medical Campus at a public speaking workshop. Ironically, I chose to speak about not speaking. Below is the draft reference I worked on prior to stepping to the podium.
The Art of Speaking Without Having To Say Anything
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’d like to start by saying I’m not up here because of my fear of being in front of people. I believe a lot of one’s anxiety in public speaking is not being vocal but the thought of being the center of attention. I can honestly stand in front of you today and say… I’m fairly comfortable. Being the center of attention ISN’T my issue – whether it’s in front 5 people, 15 people or 50,000 people. The number of people watching me doesn’t bother me. I will however say my nervousness comes from the actual act of speaking – my inability to think on my feet, to get the information out of my head and say it confidently and intelligently.
I’m able to say I feel confident when standing alone in front of 50,000 people – because actually – I’ve done it! Let me take you back a few years to August 8th, 2007. Does the date ring a bell with anyone? It was a Wednesday… it was raining… Anyway, that morning I had packed my bags and drove out to Queens, NY. It’s a 5 hour drive from Boston and made the trip because I agreed to take a job. It didn’t very pay well (actually it didn’t pay at all!) and I was “hired” for to do something that lasted 75 seconds. So if you’re a finance person like me and are crunching the numbers in your head, yes – I drove 10 hours roundtrip for 1 minute and 15 seconds worth of work.
You probably think I’m crazy… and you’re probably right! But hear me out: this opportunity found me standing in front of 51,749 people with TV cameras everywhere and literally all eyes on me. I wasn’t in any work group, part of an audience or a member of any team. It was just me standing in 108 degree weather wearing jeans and a long sleeved collared shirt – and I was surprisingly okay. I was surprisingly okay because the beauty of the story is I didn’t have to speak – AT ALL!
Here I was standing in the middle of Shea Stadium, with ESPN cameras surrounding me and no one to rely on. All I had to do was play guitar. My “job”, that day, was to play my instrumental version of the Star Spangled Banner before the Mets/ Braves game on ESPN’s Game-Of-The-Week. In the very stadium which hosted Billy Joel, the Stones, the Beatles, Elton John – the very stadium where my beloved Boston Red Sox lost game 6 on the 1986 World Series when the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs in one of the most dramatic sports moments of all time. There I was playing guitar surrounded by it all. How well did I play? That’s up for debate… I find it a bit drastic for the Mets to demolish the stadium a few months after I left. But regardless, the beauty of performing the anthem is the guaranteed standing ovation!
From that experience, I was able to take advantage of many other amazing experiences where I stood alone before large crowds. I’ve played the anthem in other arenas, shared the stage with some of my guitar idols and even performed in the orchestra pit for a Grammy-winning musical. But again, none involved any amount of speaking – AT ALL.
With that being said, I admire the steps you are taking to build your public speaking skills, for whatEVER reason you may have, whether it be personal, professional or otherwise. I’ve looked forward to my time here with you – seeing you overcome your fears and become the speaker you want to be. I’d like the same for myself!
Thank you for awarding me this opportunity and hope you can be just as comfortable with speaking as I am with having a guitar in hands.