We all know them, you know, those people who enjoy going out and being with and speaking in front of others. I however am not one of them. I am an introvert. The dictionary describes an introvert as “one who turns inward.” And I am one such person. Always have been, always will be. But although I am an introvert, I do have my opinions and ideas on issues. So how do I express those opinions? Through writing. In fact, I would prefer to persuade you by writing more than any other way, and here’s why. Through writing I can better think about what I want to say without fumbling my words. Through writing I can lay out the points that better explain what I am saying.
However, in early 2000, the first of three speaking engagements presented themselves. The first was during a final oral presentation in my Adult Education Class. The speech was about alcoholism. We were given this assignment at the beginning of the semester, so we had plenty of time to research and prepare for it. In this speech I quit drinking and charted my progress as I wrote my speech and practiced it over and over. We were told to pick something we were interested in so giving the speech would be second nature. We were also given permission to use index cards to write specific notes, dates, ideas, or whatever would help us get back on track if we began to get nervous. Finally the day came and I got up there and took a deep breath and began, and before long it was over and I had accomplished my goal.
The second time was June 9th 2000 when I graduated from the Adult Education Department getting my high school diploma. The coordinators of that program had asked if I would present an award to one of the other graduates; a woman I had come to know over the course of our year together. I of course was honored and said yes, then set out writing this speech. With this speech I had also practiced and practiced, but the thing that helped me this time was knowing the person I was honoring. I knew what she had been through to get where she was and I high lightened that. When I gave that speech I was a bit more comfortable than the first.
The third was months after graduation. I was contacted by an administrator from the Adult Education Program who asked me to consider giving a speech to a group of people regarding funding for the Adult Education Program I had just gone through. I told her that I would consider her request and hung up.
I sat in silence as I thought about the previous year and how great I now felt. I also began to remember how speaking in front of others made me feel. Just sitting there I felt the butterflies in the pit of my stomach already start which would soon be followed by my heart racing, rising to an ear pounding volume, the dry mouth, the numbing fear, not to mention the vial that would come up in my throat as I stood in front of these aliens trying to ask for money for a program I now believed in.
But then again, if my standing up there asking others to help keep the dream of so many that would come after me how could I say no? Before I could talk myself out of it, I phoned Carol to say that I would give the speech. After I hung up I began writing it. Once the speech was written, I transferred it to 3×5 cards, numbered each card and punched holes before sticking them into a ring. That way if by some chance I dropped the cards, I could easily and promptly put them back in order and proceed on.
The dawning of the speech the speakers arrived early to have breakfast, take photos, and find their seats. The four ladies who were in charge of the Adult Education Program and I met and I was shown where I would be sitting. Before long the presentation began and I was starting to feel the fear again rise in my throat. At last the time came when it was my turn, Carol walked up on stage and introduced herself and the program she was in charge of. When I heard the words “May I introduce to you…” I found myself taking several deep breaths trying to calm my heart. After she introduced my name I began up the stairs while she came down and the moment we drew our arms brushed against each other and my cards flew out of my hand. She bent down to retrieve them and as she put them in the order I stepped up to the microphone.
Feeling those eyes on me, I knew this was the moment that would forever define me; would I sink or swim. Within seconds Carol handed me the cards and retook her seat. I looked at the cards, then over the crowd. I took a deep breath and began. “Good Morning ladies and gentlemen. As you can see I am not a morning person.” Suddenly the room filled with laughter, not at me, but with me. The ice had been broken and I was able to relax and give my speech. It was a powerful speech because it spoke not only of what the Adult Education Program did for me, but what it could also do for others who would come after me. When all was said and done, the program received the money they needed to continue for another year.
During the year I was getting my diploma I gave a total of three speeches; one, for my oral communications class, which was about alcoholism. The second, the one at graduation, and finally third, the Adult Education Program. When I reflected back on these I learned several things: the first, know your material. Research it if you have to but know it as best as you can. Second, if you are paying tribute to someone know them as well as you can. Interview them or those who know them the best. Get a sense of who they are and where they come from. Third is comedy. I saw firsthand comedy does help alleviate stress when entering into something unknown and last whether I am giving a speech or writing about something, it must be something I am passionate about and am interested in. Otherwise, I lose focus, ambition, and attention thus allowing fear to overtake me and I fail. And that is one thing I cannot live with- failure.