Give Me A Crowd

Vladimir Lenin speaking to a crowd.

Vladimir Lenin speaking to a crowd.

Today’s Daily Prompt: “Are you comfortable in front of people, or does the idea of public speaking make you want to hide in the bathroom? Why?”

They’re not the the only alternatives though. I’m not comfortable in front of people or with people. Social anxiety. If I’m surrounded by people I can get tightly wound and feel like everyone is judging me. In any given social situation I feel like I’m “in front of people”.

Strangely, though I am nervous beforehand, I have no problem with public speaking. I’ve spoken at weddings, funerals, birthdays and conferences without any real problem. Indeed people tell me I do well speaking in public.

That, of course, may be part of the reason. Success always makes subsequent performance easier.

I believe that’s not the only reason. I think the core reason is that public speaking has a structure. Going in you already have all the information you need to get to the end.

I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I’ve been diagnosed with mild Asperger’s and one of the symptoms I have is a difficulty in reading people. In an unstructured social situation the people you are talking to give you a multitude of signs about the conversation such as when they want to say something, if they are interested or bored and so on. I have trouble reading those signs. It makes me nervous and uncomfortable.

Give me a situation I can understand and prepare for in advance then my intelligence, love of theatre and strong command of the language come to the fore. I actually enjoy that first moment when the nervousness of the preparation disappears with the first intake of breath ready for the first sentence.

Just a few weeks ago I spoke at Jessica’s 21st. It wasn’t a large crowd, perhaps twenty of her friends, but it went well. Every time I speak in public I like to put a small joke close to the front. The experts say something about the effect of that on the audience but I do it because it has an effect on me. When you get that laugh back you know you have an audience.

So give me public speaking ahead of cocktail party conversation. How about you?

14 thoughts on “Give Me A Crowd

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  5. With cocktail conversation, sometimes I can tell someone is bored, but I can’t figure out a way to stop harping on my subject without making it evident that I realized they were bored–thus exposing the unspoken awkward undercurrent of the situation–so I keep talking. I have to wind up elegantly, I think, instead of just stopping dead in the water, but the real result is I just keep boring the listener. It’s terrible! Presentations are much nicer. I like the idea of keeping a note card.

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