Personal Development - I Believe I Am Therefore I Can

September 5, 2010

The art of breaking the ice in a public speaking forum

'Let us all stand to welcome, the legendary author and public speaker, Paula-a-a-a-a Thay-r-r-r-o-w-w…' Steve's strong voice thundered out, quickly followed by the deafening and thunderous applause of the audience.
I smiled at Steve as he moved from the podium to make way for me. I went over and gave him the usual good-will-for-public-image hug, then proceeded in a calm walk to take my place behind the podium.
He smiled knowingly at me, because he knew there was nothing I could do about his little display of public mischief. You see, Steve was the typical public figure entrée de elegance commentator. He loved to be dramatic! His official script was to make sure the audience were comfortable, energized, and ready to listen, before the key-note speaker came up on stage.
Creating drama was what made Steve enjoy this bit of his work thoroughly. He came up with all sorts of amazing pimp-them-up type of titles for the various speakers at these Personal Growth and Achievement Seminars.
I had told him myriad of times not to use euphemisms that meant little and he happily ignored my instructions every time he went on stage to introduce a speaker.
I mean, of all the titles in the world, 'Legendary' was not one I had grown up thinking of using. Women take on such titles as 'Mrs', 'Justice' or such like. And we now had new generation titles like 'Bishop', 'Dr' (that were honorary or bought off the internet), 'Honourable' (for politicians who would turn up their noses in disgust at anyone who dared call them Mrs So-and-so) and some very pretty ones like 'Lady'.

But to Steve, I was simply Legendary, and no matter how much I protested the title, he still used it to introduce me at whatever forum.
So here I was again; I lifted my eyes and smiled calmly at the audience as they continued to clap their hearts out. Sometimes, I was not sure if the clapping was for Steve's great energiser performance, or the sheer joy of being in this program.
Whichever way, Steve was a great worker and I loved these Personal Achievement Seminars with all my heart. They were what I lived for; and if the audience was happy to be here, so was I.
I waited calmly for that slight lull that would indicate they were ready to stop clapping. You see, Public Speaking is both an art and a Science. Some things are as indefinite as art and others are as precise as science.
Then I took a step to the right, smiled at the participants again, and said,
'Thank you! You may happily take your seats.'
I smiled again as I waited for the usual scramble to find the seat-landing took place. Once again I waited until it had slightly died down indicating most people had effectively figured out where their seat was. Then, knowing I now had the attention of the majority, I spoke again with a pleasant smile.
'Kindly turn to the person sitting next to you and smile at them,' and I paused to allow the audience to smile at each other.
'Then turn to the person on the other side and shake their hand. If you're a man, and the lady next to you is pretty, this is a good chance to prepare to get her phone number over tea.'
As if by a switch, the audience burst out laughing and like every public speaker knows, that is the make or break of your session. Breaking the ice is a science; if the people laugh, then you know they are sure you are human after all. Merrily oblivious of how important this was, the crowd started to exchange greetings.
Then I continued when the din had died down slightly, 'now turn to someone else, shake their hand too and tell them, these are your personal greetings from Paula.'
I loved the opening moments of every presentation; there is something so powerful about the energy that fills a room of happy people that it is almost surreal.
I loved it! Then as I went back to the podium, smiling because I felt nothing but sheer love and appreciation for this day, the audience and everyone there, I felt the characteristic brush of my cheek against the pillow. The buzz of the crowd of over 2000 people slowly turned to the buzz of my alarm clock.
Alas! It was all only a dream!
Or was it?

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