I was walking home from a workout with my wife, when I shared with her my recent reflection on my need for a “message” in my public speaking. After a little bit of discussion, she reframed the question in a way that continues to intrigue me. “Why do you want to be a public speaker?”
I don’t have a real good answer for that one either.
My initial thought was one that I admitted sounded conceited even before I said it out loud. I like sounding smart at the front of a room. My MO for most of my public speaking life has been to jam as much research and trivia into seven minutes as I possibly can. Even as I have discovered over the years that it is necessary to condense your speech into no more than a few easy to remember morsels, I still relish the idea of being able to shock and awe my audience.
I also like to be a public speaker because I am (relatively) good at it. I am naturally very competitive by nature and I am too slow to be any kind of athletic champion and my political trivia knowledge has been relegated to mediocre at best ever since I moved to the most political city on the face of the planet. That leaves public speaking.
I competed on the speech team in high school. While I was able to build up a fairly impressive career, the achievement I was never able to crack was medaling at the Minnesota State Speech Tournament. The awards for the official post season tournaments were a simple picture of the Minnesota State High School League logo on a ribbon matching the color of your place (blue for first, red for second, etc.). While it has changed since, when I was in school that logo featured a single stem of the Minnesota State flower, the pink and white lady slipper. There were several larger, more expensive and more impressive trophies and medals that were offered at invitational tournaments throughout the year, but like the elusive wild flower itself, nothing was more sought after than the lady slipper.
When my high school career ended with no state medals, I was disappointed. I worry that now I am trying to make up for my deficiencies in high school in Toastmasters.
I have other reasons for practicing my public speaking. I know it helps me communicate in my job. Speaking is also an activity that can get rusty if it is not practiced often. It is also a goal of mine to be able to turn public speaking into something I can do professionally or semi-professionally.
But these are all pretty selfish reasons. I need to figure out how I can use my skills and talent to better serve my community and the causes I believe in. More things to work on…
Image credit: Dassel-Cokato Activities Virtual Trophy Case, 2007
Question: Why are you a public speaker?