Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Public Speaking from the Pit of my Stomach

The worst feeling in the whole world, I think, is standing in front of a large group of people and wanting nothing more than to simply throw up or faint. Either will do. I'd gladly accept one over the other if it would make me feel better. At that moment, footlights shining in my eyes, stand back and mind your shoes. I feel I've been lucky, because, I haven't thrown up yet. Thankfully, although, sometimes it feels like I can, I haven't fainted yet either.

Stage fright is normal, it's natural and suffering from it puts me in good company. The likes of Peter O'toole and Lawrence Olivier suffered from it as well. Composer and pianist Igor Stravinsky was so overcome during a performance in 1923 that his mind went blank. The conductor had to sing it for Stravinsky to get going again. Kate Hudson, Judy Garland and even Barbara Streisand get stage fright. So why should I be different?

I had to laugh as I was sitting there counting the butterflies flitting about my belly, one of the speakers who went before me said that public speaking became easier and easier the more often he did it. I disagree. My body disagrees. That guy and anyone else who thinks it gets easier has no idea what stage fright really is. They can't. It doesn't get easier. It's just as hard as the first time I got in front of an audience and frankly, after all these years, I don't believe it will ever get any easier.

I began my speech with "I have to warn you all that I suffer from extreme stage fright, so if I happen to throw up, you'll know why." Then I proceeded to give a brilliant solliloquoy that came from the heart and lit up the room. I'm so proud of me.

Then I returned to my speaker's chair on the side of the stage delicately sat down and drank a gallon of water to drown the bugs. Phew.

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