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Publicly Speaking

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My seven year old gave a “How To” speech at school today and knocked it out of the park! I managed to juggle my lunch break from work so I could go witness the milestone in person and I am so happy I did.

He was going to be judged on eye contact, his voice projection/clarity and his speech format, which impressed me and for a moment, I even worried that the assignment was a bit advanced for a second grader. But my son and his classmates seemed to have no problem with the task and rose to the occasion with aplomb. (I’ve always wanted to use that word! Yes!)

The assignment reminded me how much I appreciate the kids’ school and how the teachers give assignments that are tailored specifically for their classes and not just because it’s on suggested curriculum guide. Thank you, teachers! Hooker Oak School – Cursed with an awkward name, but a great place to learn!

In all honesty, I was a bit distracted by the artwork on the whiteboard behind the students giving their speeches.

Speech picture with weird background image
I’m guessing it was supposed to be a baseball bat and glove.

Did you see it?
I know. Blame it on the fact that I am immature or maybe because I’m married to a man who works in construction, but seriously, there was no way of NOT noticing that image as I stared ahead to watch my son give his speech.

Luckily, I never had to deal with any inappropriate body parts innocently pointing at my head in my public speaking experiences. (Three points for one of my most favorite transition sentences ever!)

Public speaking is one of my favorite things in life and I have yet to find another activity that gives me that type of adrenaline rush or sense of accomplishment. And no, my Runner Friends, this is not the time to start telling me about the next “Couch to 5K” program in town. You can keep your creepy toenail-less feet and lithe frames. Although I am always proud to hear of your own fabulous running accomplishments. Especially when your distances and routes fill up my Facebook and Twitter feed, reminding me of what a lazy ass I am.

Now THAT’S a bunny trail…where was I?

Back in college, you had to take a speech class to get your degree. To earn an extra unit, you could compete in a one-day speech competition. That opportunity marks the rare occasion when I actually opted into extra school work, and I signed up for that speech competition.

The competition was held on a Saturday, so already, 99% of my class had chosen to skip the shin dig. I wore my new short sleeve denim shirt and paired it with some unfortunately too-short khaki pants. That hot little number was my new go-to dress up outfit that I had purchased for my friend Rob’s graduation ceremony from the LA County Explorers fire academy.

Let’s just say he looked WAY better than I did! (Gob bless you, firefighters…)

What in the world was I thinking? I’m sure I paired it with some big, chunky brown shoes, too, to really cap off the feminine appeal of the ensemble. Could you believe I was single?

On Saturday Speech Day, I had planned on giving one of my speeches that I had already written for class. You can see that doing something extra for school, yet making it as easy as possible, was a theme not lost on me at 18.

The speech was horribly written and focused on the crowd-pleasing topic of euthanasia for the elderly and my opinions on it. Seriously. What’s worse is that I happened to choose that little gem of a topic all by myself. Let’s just say I was new to the whole ‘playing to the crowd’ idea.

Somehow, I managed to make it to the semi-finals which I’m sure had nothing to do with the fact that some of my competitors were most likely delivering their speeches amidst the fog of the previous night’s debaucheries. Go Chico State Wildcats!

In my professional life (HA! I almost spit out my water when I re-read that. I sound so grown up! It seems now I’m just trying to show up to work without my kids’ boogers on me.)

Where was I? Of yes…In my professional life, I’ve been tasked with everything from leading meetings and introducing Marketing campaigns to customer service staff to being the pre-concert announcer before the performers take the stage.

True, the performer-introductions may not exactly be the Gettysburg Address of public speaking, but standing in front of a sold-out performance hall and trying to tell the people who paid to be there about all the other shows they should come to too, was probably the most nerve wracking public speaking that I’ve done. That and announcing the winners at a classic car show, only to realize that I happened to just award the “Best Truck” award to a very obvious NON TRUCK OWNER. But that’s another post for a different day. (And yes, the crowd DID notice my award-error!)

In my casino days, I had gotten to introduce Winona, Eddie Money, Montgomery Gentry, Gary Allen, Rick Springfield and I think even Air Supply. We had so many performers come through our northern California casino circuit, it was unreal. Glen Campbell was excited to show me his Donald Duck impression before he took the stage. And no, it was not as inappropriate as it appears when I put that in writing.

When I tried to make my announcements before the Marshal Tucker Band took the stage, that’s when things got rowdy.

“GET OFF THE STAGE!” some audience members shouted.

Um, hello! Didn’t they know that this was part of my job and even if I had gotten off the stage, it wasn’t like the band was ready to go on yet anyway? Plus, I had gotten all dressed up in my concert-night finery (heels and most likely something black) and I’m sure I wasn’t as bad to look at as an empty stage. I certainly wasn’t as bad as my 18 year old-denim + short-khakis self. {Shudder}.

I pushed on despite the crowd’s rambunctious antics and reminded them to sign up for the casino’s loyalty card for good measure. When I stepped off the stage, the lead singer stopped me to apologize for their rude fans, which was very kind of him.

I’m not sure if it was the first time I had been booed. Kids can be mean and I was often in the center of a field or court performing my full-of-heart, yet shy-of-talent cheerleading performances. But it was usually hard to hear anything over the wordless routine music or our own spirited shouting.

The heckling didn’t stop me from getting in front of crowds again, although I did vow never to introduce the Marshall Tucker Band if they happened to come through town again.

Today, my son’s classmates were the picture of perfect listening and even raised their little hands to ask questions and learn more. I think I still got that adrenaline rush from just watching him succeed and it was an amazing thing!

About Jenny Z

I love to overuse italics, misplaced hyphens and internal dialogue when I write about my usual favorite topic, myself.

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