This is exactly why public speaking is scarier than death and rattlesnakes

I’m getting ready to head down to Round Top, TX, this weekend to speak at a ladies’ retreat being held there. I’m really looking forward to it; although, speaking is not nearly as safe or predictable as writing. When you’re writing, you can sit there in your pajamas eating cookies and no one cares. But speaking is harder. You have to be flexible going into different churches and events because you never really know what’s going to happen. And I worry about things…probably because of that lady who stood across the luggage carousel thingy from me one time at the Nashville airport.

Have yreenactmentou ever accidentally come out of the restroom with toilet paper stuck to your shoe? Well, this was 10X worse. No, 20X worse. She, a very well-dressed woman, had a piece of toilet paper hanging out of the front of her pants all the way down to the floor. It had to be at least 3 feet long, y’all. She was standing there talking to another woman who I’m sure was there to pick her up to take her to the church where she was the guest speaker later that day. She had come all the way down the escalator to baggage claim like that, and no one had told her. My guess is that she walked up on stage a few hours later before she even noticed. You’re probably thinking that I could’ve told her myself. And you’re right; that would have been nice. Or, I could have taken a picture with my cell phone and sent it to some friends who thought it was really funny.

Anyway, there are all kinds of unexpected things that can happen when you’re traveling and speaking. What if your maps app gets you lost on the way there? What if no one laughs when you mean for them to laugh? WHAT IF THERE’S NO CHICK-FIL-A IN THAT TOWN? No wonder public speaking is the world’s #1 fear. Just think of the possibilities:

I have a tremor. No, really. It’s bad. I’ve had it my whole life, just like my dad, brothers, and now my children. It’s kind of funny when I’m holding out my hand to get change from the cashier at the grocery store, and for my friends who like to mock me; but it’s not so funny when I have to hold a hand-held mic in front of a large crowd of people. Naturally, I’m a huge fan of the headset and/or lapel microphone varieties. 

There’s medicine for that, you know. Yes, I do know. But the side-effect, “intense, unusual urges, such as compulsive gambling,” listed on the warning label makes me think that may not be the best idea for a ladies’ retreat, either.

No Sonic within 20 miles. As part of my preparations this week, I googled Round Top. It has a population of 91, a retreat center for out-of-town groups, and that’s about it. Much to my dismay, none of those 91 people enjoy a daily Sonic Happy Hour beverage. I’m guessing that means that Chick-fil-A is out of the question.

The wardrobe malfunction. Once, I had to share a lapel mic with the lady who sang right before I got up to speak. The plan was that after she finished singing, someone else would use a handheld mic to pray, and we would switch out the lapel mic during that prayer. As we tried to discreetly make the quick switch, the cord got tangled up in my shirt. The prayer ended, and everyone looked up just as we were trying to get that tangly situation worked out. It was very nearly a Janet Jacksonesque moment right there in front of about 200 people, which, now that I think about it, probably would have made this story more interesting.

Throwing up on the royal family. If you missed it, you can read the whole sordid story here. But lets just say that when you’ve been invited by the Queen Mother of Uganda to come lead a women’s conference, you should do your very best to not get carsick in the royal caravan. Although, if you’re sick enough, the Queen Mother might be kind enough to insist that you ride with her the rest of the way in her fancy car instead of in the back of that little SUV with all the other commoners. Always a silver lining, friends. 

No stand for your notes. But there is a stool on the stage that you can pull up and use for your notes. Never mind that the stool is only 3′ tall, and has the diameter of one piece of paper. Also, you have a tremor, and you’re using a handheld mic.

People might fall asleep. That’s probably because it’s a weekend event for teenagers, and they came to the Saturday evening session wearing pajamas and slippers, and carrying blankets. It’s not so bad, really, except for the part where that one kid starts snoring.

One of these is not like the others. It’s important to ask what people will be wearing, otherwise, you might show up in cute casual wear for a Saturday morning holiday event where everyone else is in semi-formal attire. On the other hand, you might be overdressed, as in the case of pajama-wearing events. Either way, you might as well have toilet paper hanging out your pants to the floor.
So what are your fears about speaking in public?

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My greatest fear is being so overwhelmingly persuasive, so unbelievably charismatic, so frightfully engaging, so undeniably hilarious yet so gut-wrenchingly profound, and so ridiculously good looking that the people in the audience have room for only one emotion and response: joyously rushing the stage to proclaim me King.

But hey, we each have our battles. Such is my Pauline “thorn” in life.

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