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HOW TO GIVE A SPEECH (Humorous How-To)

Madeleine Begun Kane


In a moment of weakness you agreed to give a speech. What are you in for? If you're lucky, it won't be any worse than this:

    1. Receive invitation to speak because of your expertise in tapestry, arachnids, the World Wide Web. Succumb to flattery and say yes.

    2. Spend the next week scheming to extricate yourself from your commitment. Suffer from nightmares featuring you, your microphone, and three angry apes.

    3. Rehearse potential excuses. Try to talk your spouse into phoning your regrets. Wonder if your doctor would give you a note diagnosing laryngitis of indeterminate duration.

    4. Decide you should really give speech because it will enhance your reputation, be educational, build character. And because it's too late to pull your name from the publicity.

    5. Talk about writing speech. Read about writing speech. Obsess about writing speech. Notice an entire month has passed and you haven't started writing speech.

    6. Sit down in front of computer and stare at screen. Vow to start writing this very minute and not leave room until you've finished first draft. Leave room to fetch snacks.

    7. Enjoy leisurely coffee break, basking in your new found discipline. Start laundry, read mail, make several phone calls. Check e-mail for the fourth time today. Decide it's too late to start speech, but you'll definitely write it tomorrow.

    8. Spend the next few days studying books on "writer's block." Decide all you need is a really good title. Once that's in place, your speech will surely write itself.

    9. Wake up in cold sweat, overwhelmed by realization that you're giving the speech in fewer than 48 hours and all you've written is title. Wonder whether Toastmasters operates a crisis hot-line.

    10. Write feverishly, without taking time to think, proof-read, or visit the john. Read speech many times to spouse, parents, children, pets. Watch spouse vacuum house for first time in recorded history --- anything to avoid another encore.

    11. Attempt to memorize speech. Practice eye contact techniques in front of mirror. Practice reading speech while appearing not to be reading speech. Practice presenting speech to bellowing vacuum cleaner. Pretend it's an unruly audience.

    12. Ransack closet searching for appropriate speech-giving garb. Something dignified, yet not stuffy. Stylish and attractive, but not sexy. Comfortable and easy to move around in. Something you don't own, so your stodgy, confining, dark navy suit will have to do.

    13. Travel to speech venue by train, car, plane. Arrive late and/or in the wrong city because of breakdowns, traffic jams, canceled flight. Unclench your fingers just long enough to shake hands with fellow speakers. Realize you're the only one who doesn't have an Ivy League degree.

    14. Politely listen as presenters ahead of you speak eloquently about their areas of expertise. Make noble efforts not to hate them. Fail.

    15. Hear your name called and struggle out of seat. Panic. You've lost your speech. No, it's merely squashed into a ball in your fist. Attempt to smooth wrinkles as you stagger up aisle.

    16. Disappear behind podium. Discover the mike's been set for someone twice your height. Enter a trance-like state during which you presumably gave speech. Awaken to enthusiastic applause.

    17. Bow and skip off stage, fantasizing about new career earning hefty speaker's fees.


© 1996 Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.


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