Last week I attended Missouri Association for Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing’s annual Summer Forum at the Lake of the Ozarks. MAHPRM, pronounced “mop-rum” by us acronym-loving healthcare marketing folks, is a professional organization comprised of mostly marketing, PR, and communications people who work in Missouri hospitals. This year, we were pleased to be asked to speak during a session at the conference, which Carol and Darrin handled nicely. I nicely handled sitting in the audience smiling at them for encouragement – a role I’m really good at.
Speaking to a group of people (the dreadful PowerPoint presentation) with a preplanned script while standing and holding a ‘clicker’ that advances slides and points via laser while clipped to a microphone that never works properly is not my idea of a ‘great opportunity.’ Those that know me well will be surprised by this confession, because, well, I’m not exactly shy around the dinner table if you get my drift. I’m not shy around the conference table, or the blackjack table or any other table to which I SIT. I’m not shy, period. I communicate for a living, for goodness sake. But, when placed in front of a large group whereby I have to STAND (gasp!) and refer to my notes so I don’t SAY the wrong thing, I revert back to childhood, where I was consistently called out by my peers because I had a “boy’s name”, had “four eyes” or “raised my hand too much.”
The interesting part of this confession (I know you’ve been waiting for something interesting here) is that my inability to communicate clearly in front of an audience is a recent development. This, along with eyesight loss, slower metabolism and darker roots, is just another item to add to my growing list of Things That Happen to You After 40. I expected some of these, but this? It’s so unfair!
I’m always amused by speakers who share their disappointment in their “time slot” with the audience. How many times have you heard a speaker say, “Well, since I’m the first one today, I’ll talk slow while you wake up,” or “Well, I know I’m the last one before lunch and you’re hungry so I’ll talk fast,” or “Well, since you just had lunch, I won’t wake you,” or, my favorite “I hate it when I’m last! I know that we all want to get out of here and head to happy hour…” All beg the question, is there really an ideal time to speak to a crowd?
Nope! Not to me. Too much pressure and too many variables I can’t control. Just give me a CHAIR, an assignment or a question, and an interested, interactive audience and I will communicate nicely. As long as I have my glasses.