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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Unaccustomed as I am to Public Speaking

I sponsored a Kiddush in the shul this past Shabbos, and I got up to say a few words. Since I, and most of the members in the congregation actually despise when anybody interrupts our munching and schmoozing with a speech, I tried to punch it up with a few choice clichés, including the opening line “unaccustomed, as I am, to public speaking,” which is usually funny because the person uttering it is almost always known to be an unstoppable blabbermouth who needs to be forcibly yanked from the podium. Except in my case it was funny because I NEVER get up to speak. Period.

Still, I said my piece, and afterwards, quite a few people came over to tell me how much they enjoyed what I had to say. And one fellow in particular said, “I know you said you’re not accustomed to speaking in public, but you obviously speak frequently.”


“Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure. I never give speeches.”

“But you sounded like someone who gets up and speaks all the time. It was a very well put-together speech. Did you prepare it in advance?”

And the answer was no, I didn’t. And I almost never speak publicly. I hate speaking. I hate bothering other people when they’re trying to socialize. I absolutely have zero confidence than anyone would want to hear anything I have to say about any subject.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve given a speech:

  1. My son Moe’s bris. But that was really just introducing Rabbi T, who’d flown to NY from Milwaukee.
  2. My son Curly’s bris. Apparently I skipped my son Larry’s bris.
  3. My father’s 80th birthday party. I did speak, but actually I got up to sing him “Those Were the Days, My Friend,” a song that he taught me when I was two.
  4. My father’s funeral. Again, less of a speech and more of an incoherent rambling sob-fest.
  5. This Kiddush.

And I didn’t exactly write a speech or prepare anything, I just went over a few salient points in my mind during the services prior to the Kiddush (oh, and I also did the Haftorah and the Mussaf service).

Of course, it was after the discussion with this fellow, and after another with Fudge, that I realized how unusual the whole circumstance was for me. It was only then that I realized what I had done.

I had treated the whole thing as a blog post. I did what I typically do before writing a post. I mulled it over in my head. I tried to boil it down to a few points. I envisioned a certain flow to it. And then I came back to it later and thought about it again. And the parts that I still remembered were deemed good and included. And then I delivered it.

It’s pretty clear to me that I would not have been able to do that prior to starting this blog. Over the course of 700-odd posts I may have actually learned how to organize my thoughts. Accustomed, as I am, to public blogging.


Ezzie said...

That's really interesting. I've long felt that blogging has helped me in certain ways, and I recall a post (I believe by Shifra) that noted that her openness on her blog in certain aspects had somehow transferred to real-life... and for the better.

I think it's partly a confidence and realization that people actually ARE interested in what we have to say.

A Simple Jew said...

I used to get incredibly nervous speaking in public but found that after I led davening for a few months I got a confidence that bled over into being able to confidently speak in public -whether at work or shul.

You can call me, 'Sir' said...

I suppose then, technically, you owe your audience a small fee. Y'know, for helping with the blog thing. Technically.

Personal checks are fine. I'll just go ahead and email you my address.

RaggedyMom said...

RaggedyDad gets nearly sick over speaking in public. Presentations at work are torture for him. Someone had better tell him he won't be able to play that sweet, helpless foreigner card forever :)

At our son's bris, I wrote his (brief) speech and he actually attempted to abandon it in the middle.

Although I'm rather shy, the years when I taught and had to be observed by The School District Powers That Be prepared me to get over my inhibitions.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

that's great! it's nice to see this blog thing is good for something besides entertaining the rest of us ;-)

Jewish Blogmeister said...

Umm You sound like someone who is fishing for a compliment? do you fish much? do you prepare your tackle before you throw out your line (pun intended)...I think you got the picture..

Jacob Da Jew said...

The Cong. probably liked that you did not speak for too long and let them get back their herring.

the only way i know said...

I love this post because I can see it being so true for me too.
Blogging has certainly done alot for me in many ways. And recently I've also spoken in front of people - although not in 'speech' style per say - but with confidence that my words were short, sweet, interesting and to the point.

Excellent observation

RaggedyMom said...

Speaking of herring - had some the other day - it's really not as bad as I thought it would be! Tell the 70+ set to save some for me!

Doctor Bean said...

Great jorb!

You're not going to tell us the occassion for the kiddush?

PsychoToddler said...

the only way i know: Now THAT'S how you do a compliment. Jewish Blogmeister, you could learn a thing or two from her.

Doc Bean: The answers are all in this blog...

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

When I spoke at my son's Bar Mitzva, someone came over to me aftewards and said, "That's it - YOU are Jameel from the Muqata blog"

I said, "huh?"

And they said..."Doesn't matter what you say...you spoke exactly the same way that you write your blog posts..." (And she was right).

PsychoToddler said...

People have gone out of their way to tell me that I sound nothing like my blog.

"Oh, we thought that you were FUNNY..."

Rhea said...

You may have struck it rich. You can sell blogging lessons instead of Valium to people who want to overcome their fear of public speaking.

the only way i know said...

Jameel and PsychoT


Juggling Frogs said...

This post and its comments give me hope. I'd rather eat glass than speak in public, but I too often have to 'say a few words'. I haven't progressed past reading from written notes.

I have one last speech (next week) scheduled, and then I plan to hide under a rock for at least a few months.

Somehow blogging isn't scary. I look forward to posting to the blog, while I fantasize getting hit by trucks before speaking in public.

Maybe when I've posted another 610 times, I'll be able to say a couple of sentences without shaking or blushing or praying for a lightning storm inside our school auditorium...

Kol Hakavod to you for making a natural, unplanned, relaxed d'var that clearly was well received and appreciated. It must have been quite good.

All the best,

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