Public Speaker

Butterflies? What butterflies? That's excitement in the gut!

Since I Could Read

Dennis giving his TEDx talk

I gave my first public reading when I was a child right before the whole congregation. I sat down next to my father and he leaned over and whispered "Where's the fire?" So I had a few things to learn. Pitch, Pace and Power are the three that always stick in my mind, mostly because, well, you know why. Since then, I've given quite a number of public talks. I lost count.

"Yeah, but aren't you nervous getting in front of a crowd like that?" Well, actually, two-way conversations are stressful, because I'm an Autistic. But in a speech, its written, rehearsed and, most importantly, its one-way. I don't have to deal with questions or differences of opinion. I just give my talk. I have fun coming up with creative illustrations, finding the words that engage all those minds... all of it. The only time I'm uncomfortable up there is walking up to the podium and leaving; that's when my shyness kicks in, believe it or not.

You've already seen my TEDx Talk, right? That was the worst talk I ever gave. Because of the time restriction and the complexity of what I was trying to get across with its myriad of points, I decided to do that one word-for-word from a teleprompter... and it shows. Usually I just use an outline like you're supposed to. But it came out pretty good anyway.

Engagement

If your audience isn't listening, why bother? How do you engage your audience? You have to learn the rules of public speaking and practice them. I've done a ton of practicing over the decades. You have to vary how fast or slow you talk at the right moments, change how forceful or quiet you speak, as well as the pitch of your voice.

I like to shock people, especially at the beginning. I do that on a regular basis anyway. For instance, I tell people I can't be around young children and babies. Usually people immediately switch to danger mode which gives me their full attention and then some. Then I finish by explaining that they scream and squeal at a frequency that sends me into an instant meltdown and its getting worse with age. That's when my audience's compassion and understanding comes out. Its wonderful.

Its always nice to hear the applause at the end; the louder the better. It really irks the shy in me. No, I don't want it out of ego; I hate egos. I just enjoy connecting with the rest of humanity. And if I can motivate people, educate them, open their minds to new thoughts and ideas, that's what its really all about anyway.