Pick up the paper

“I’m insanely grateful to make my living as a traffiker of ideas.” – Scott Berkun

I hope one day to be able to say the same thing.

I’ve just finished reading “Confessions of a Public Speaker” by Berkun and am still absorbing all of his many incredibly useful, and well presented points. I’ve read or listened to a number of books about public speaking (one of my irrational fears) as it is something I hope to do well one day.  I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone that does any form of persuasive speaking. Whether you’re in the board room, a PTA meeting, or on a dais in front of an audience of thousands.

Two major themes resonate throughout:

1. Settle down. The audience is (most likely) on your side, they will give you wide latitude and likely aren’t going to remember this tomorrow anyway.

2. Be prepared. The audience has given you the opportunity to enter their lives for a short while. Respect that by taking the time yourself to be worth their time.

With excellent examples and personal illustrations from other well known public speakers he does a good job of convincing you that everyone stumbles, and that’s part of the adventure.

My most memorable public speaking crash-and-burn was while introducing a former United States Ambassador to  Afghanistan at a World Affairs Council of Oregon event. I’d prepared the night before by reading up on his resume and accomplishments. I typed up the highlights and printed them out in an extra large font so that I wouldn’t have trouble seeing them.

We had dinner with Ambassador Eliot before the event and I felt fairly comfortable with what my job was. Upon entering the room I noticed that there was no podium as I’d anticipated, just a table. Someone handed me a revised set of notes as I walked to the front of the room in a much smaller font than I’d prepared. I scanned the notes and, for some reason, was convinced that I would have to recite them from memory as it would be bad form to read them off the paper.

That was not a good idea.

I welcomed everyone and went blank. I couldn’t remember his name, the school he was dean of and no amount of mental gymnastics brought the details back to me. The paper sat on the table only 3 feet from my eyes but I wouldn’t touch it.

A long enough pause occurred that an elderly woman in the front row said, in the way that only an annoyed elderly woman can, “Just pick up the paper!”

I was mortified and then saved moments later by the Ambassador “Thanks Brad, I’ll take it from here.”

I stayed away from speaking in front of crowds for a long time after that even though I’m positive I’m the only one that remembers my performance that night. (Except for the friends I’ve reminded of the event.)

Happy 2010. Here’s to picking up the paper.


Filed under Personal

  • Pick up the paper, indeed. You’re a great thinker, connector and speaker, Brad! Will be looking forward to hearing from you more in 2010 and beyond.

    What about doing some video-presenting that you put up and share?

  • Kelley Rivers

    Hey Brad-Kelley Rivers from North Pole Alaska. Met you in Turkey? Hope all is well! We have all had our Public speaking nightmare. You are just normal! Yes NORMAL.
    I’m still traveling ALOT. Already Sailed the British West Indies with my guy friends that we do every year. We rent sailboats all over the World. Even stayed in the Bay where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed.
    Next I took my Mom (82 years old), my wife Nancy, my daughter 17 1/2 Kayla, to Mexico where we SURF in a place called Salulita about 1 hour North of Puerta Vallerta. Stayed directly on the Beach and walked out onto the sand which is nice! We also rented a car and drove for a few days into the interior of Mexico. We are back in 35 BELOW but leave in a couple of days for our home S. of Tucson. Hope you and yours are happy and healthy! Kelley 🙂

  • One agrees with Jake – make it so!