So what have I been forced, therefore, to learn? Mainly that
public speaking is even harder than it looks. You may be quite the Peter Ustinov or Dorothy Parker in company – but company is not public. Company is your friends, your peers, at your home or theirs, over a meal or at a party, all of you pitching and rolling together. It is natural, warm, intimate and safe, like marital sex (is supposed to be). Public speaking, on the other hand, usually takes place under conditions more akin to a regrettable one-night stand – you’re overexposed, trying too hard to please and the lighting’s generally unfl attering. Aſt er many, many dreadful experiences that, alas, don’t lend
themselves too well to anecdote, (it’s hard to fashion a punchline out of several minutes of choking sounds meeting a wall of increasingly and legitimately contemptuous silence from the audience), I have realised that PG Wodehouse’s dictum about an Englishman being permanently two drinks below par is never more appropriately applied than to public speakers. Unless you have the giſt (and there are some lucky, lucky people who do, a few of them neither sociopaths nor chronic narcissists), you have to learn the hard way that your normal personality – even your normal party personality – just won’t do. A microphone dulls and fl attens your tone and a large room fl attens your everything. More. You need more. It’s not talking – it’s giving a performance.
iny 2 TALK THE TALK
Is orating to an audience a petrifying prospect? Whether it’s for an important work presentation or a big family wedding, simply follow these pearls of speech-making wisdom.
1. Amuse yourself. Just before you step up to wow the crowd, conjure up a funny memory and
You have to stand still, but imagine you are a capering monkey and hope that the audience responds to your energy and eff orts with a few peanuts of laughter and crumbs of applause. Oh, and you can’t just read out a piece you’ve written for print. The two forms are hopelessly diff erent and the frothiest magazine article will drop leadenly, uselessly from your rapidly drying lips. I refused to believe that one for a long time but it’s the truest of all the truths I’ve told you. But you do need a script. Just don’t be afraid to deviate from it from time to time. Got all that? Great. Well then I guess I’ll see you at the next capering monkeys’ roadshow.
‘My favourite shiny thing is my engagement ring. It’s the only thing I’ve ever spent silly money on, and I don’t regret a single penny, largely because it IS so shiny!’
have a quick chuckle to yourself. The laughter will loosen you up no end. 2. Keep it moving. Make those anecdotes short and snappy – if one falls fl at you can swiftly move on to the next before anyone even notices. 3. Fool your brain. Don’t focus on just how huge the audience is. Instead, tell yourself you’re about to have a brief word at a, fairly large, dinner
party. 4. Practise. That way, there’ll be no awkward moments with cue cards as you desperately try to crack the code of your own handwriting. 5. Change your tone as you go along. Monotonous, mumbled words will always sound utterly boring, no matter how fascinating they may be. For more tips on wowing your crowd, go to skillstudio.co.uk/public-speaking
>To enjoy more of Lucy Mangan’s words of wisdom (strictly written, of course), check out her hilarious weekly columns in The Guardian and Stylist <