Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A fate worse than death

I sometimes think that I left my lucrative career at Deloitte because I was scheduled to give a speech to the NRA (National Restaurant Association) in Las Vegas. It was very convenient how I resigned only a few weeks before I actually gave the speech. My stomach acid content improved remarkably after that.

Being in Transition Town has definitely been pushing my comfort zones and broadening my skill horizons. Over the past four or five months, my Co-Chair and I have given many tag team talks with our nifty PowerPoint presentation. Where one stops, the other picks up. In between talking, we have time to plan our next bit and therefore, little content is missed, although our enthusiasm often carries us over our alloted timeframe.

But today... today I had to dip my toe in the brave new world of panel speaking. The forum, which was titled Clean Energy and the Community, was sponsored by the American Lung Association. The panelists were myself, a representative from the Sierra Club, a physician specializing in lung disorders (lung cancer, COPD, emphysema, asthma), and of course, a manager from Chesapeake Energy.

I say "of course" because I'm not sure I've ever seen a public event in Oklahoma City that didn't somehow have Chesapeake as a sponsor. Anyway, my fellow panelist actually seemed very supportive of our transition efforts, despite the fact that our goal is to transition away from a fossil fuel based economy. I imagine he knows that there will be enough business for Chesapeake for decades to come, regardless of what we do... and they are positioning Cheseapeake as a friend of clean energy and a supporter of green initiatives. Well enough - TTOKC isn't an adversarial, us vs. them type of organization anyway. We are all about cooperation and inclusiveness, to the point of ludicrosity.

When I was approached to serve on the panel I was told there would be about 200 people at the event. Heck, how can I pass that kind of opportunity up?? But the reality was about 25 people were there. Fortunately one person from TTOKC and one person from the Oklahoma Sustainability Network were there, so there were a few friendly faces in the audience.

I was slated to speak last, but ended up having to speak first, a position that I despise with a fierceness bordering on mania. I somehow got through the 10 minute speech, noticing that I skipped several of my best bits and phrases, but managing to include the key pieces of info, including our Neighborhood Bash we're sponsoring in two months. After the panel was over, two of the audience members and one fellow panelist complimented my humble effort, but gotta take that with a grain of salt. After all, who's going to come up and say, "Wow, you really crashed and burned, lady!"

I shouldn't tell you this, but I wrote four drafts of the speech and practiced for three hours. I also read a book on public speaking and got a haircut. Originally I was going to lead with "Hi, my name is X and I have a problem - I'm addicted to oil." Attention getting, right? But I chickened out - so maybe next time.

This time I chose the more innocuous but still fairly entertaining "If you ever watch Bear Grylls, you'll learn that a human can go three weeks without food, three days without water, but only three minutes without air" (a reference to our sponsor the ALA). And then I mentioned the fact that we have a long way to go to clean up our air pollution, considering that all Oklahoma counties recieved a grade of "D" or "F" in the last ALA report card on ozone pollution. BTW, I have to say that it was nice to partner with a health organization in this way - they are very supportive of clean energy, even if I was talking more about the human energy of communities rather than the technology type of clean energy.

The best part of the whole ordeal (which I mean in the best possible way - thanks ALA for inviting us!) was spending time afterwards chatting with the other panelists, particularly the Sierra Club lobbyist, who had a lot of interesting things to say. There was also free wine and brownies at the reception. Perhaps I do prefer public speaking to death.


Chile said...

Congratulations on moving through your fear of public speaking. I hear it gets easier with practice. I wouldn't know because I haven't done all that much either! (My preference is for talking when the focus is on something else - like a Powerpoint presentation or a soaring hawk...)

Too bad the turnout was so small, though.

Kate said...

"After the panel was over, two of the audience members and one fellow panelist complimented my humble effort, but gotta take that with a grain of salt. After all, who's going to come up and say, "Wow, you really crashed and burned, lady!""

-No, no, NO! Reprogram this train of thought. You do not need to tear yourself down. The rule of thumb states that for every person who bothers to voice their positive opinion, there are at least three people who agree with them but say nothing. (It's a 10x multiplier for negative opinions, as I understand.) You did well, and while I totally understand where you're coming from - because I do the same myself - these habits of thought are non-constructive.

Speaking in front of a group really does get easier with practice, trust me. I'm always a little nervous in front of my cooking class students for about the first three minutes. After that, I'm fine. But it took about 20 classes for me to get to that point. Hang in there! It gets better.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Thanks Kate - I thought it went pretty well. In my post-event dissection, I didn't find too much to be embarrassed about. I just wanted to be a little humorous :) with my post.

Chile - Even 25 people is good, if they are not already in the "choir" if you know what I mean. New people who haven't heard the concepts before and are willing to listen are gold!

Shamba said...

I'm told, that public speaking gets easier all the time the more you do it. It sounds like it's getting easier for you as you go along.

Good luck to you!