P = Perils in Public Speaking

I am The God.
I am The Supernatural.
Before me lies the devastated ruins of a forgotten planet – called Earth.

Those were the opening lines of a speech I wrote and delivered in a Grade 8 Public Speaking competition many years ago.

P

It was a bold story of my dissatisfaction with how mankind had turned out and my decision to destroy the planet.  This time – instead of water – I decided to use wind to blow away the failure.  There was no Noah, no Arc.  Everything was cleared away, nothing survived, and I was starting over.

god20creation

Image from mythicalbiblecontractions.wordpress.com

Surprisingly, this speech was very well received.  It was different and audacious – and I was ‘promoted’ from school competitions, to District level and then the Regionals. That’s when things started to unravel.

It was a 3-hour car drive on a cold Saturday morning to attend the Regionals.  I knew my speech, I had practiced the delivery endlessly, and I was prepared …. except for one thing I couldn’t have predicted. When the judges walked in and took their places, it was like the floor opened up underneath me.

One of the judges was a Catholic nun.

I had only recently transferred to the public school system.  In my post on St Joseph Catholic School, I talked about the unhealthy, deep-seated fear I had developed of nuns. How was I going to pull off this speech with one as a judge?

It was about to get worse.

There were only two people competing in my category and the other contestant was delivering her speech first.  She was the quinessential ‘perky girl’ – a tiny blonde cherub chirping about Happiness to a captivated audience which mirrored her enormous smile back at her.

I was doomed.

By the time she was finished, the entire auditorium was high on Happiness and I was about to bomb them with the destruction of the planet by an angry and vengeful God.

My confidence deflated like a balloon.

I think it goes without saying that if you’re going to be cocky enough to play God, you need to display the confidence and authority in manner to pull it off.  I couldn’t.  I didn’t.

I was a terrified, squeaky-voiced young girl frozen to my spot of the stage by the stern and increasingly hostile stare of the nun before me.  I couldn’t tear my eyes away from her – caught like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming tractor-trailer.

It was not my finest hour.

Happiness won the day and this humbled ‘god’ went home defeated in more ways that one.

Over the years I’ve delivered numerous speeches and presentations to audiences both large and small.  None ever came close to bombing as badly as that horrible experience. For years I wanted to blame the stern-faced nun who crossly stared me down that day.

In truth, I had defeated myself before I even started.

Public Speaking

1970 – Trophy from District Finals

April A to Z Challenge 2015

Thank you for visiting today.  Hope you enjoy today’s treat of Pecan Pie.

Pecan-Pie

Image from askmissa.com

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
This entry was posted in A-Z Challenge - 2015, Memories and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

61 Responses to P = Perils in Public Speaking

  1. jannatwrites says:

    It’s good you didn’t let the experience cripple you. I’m not a public speaker. No, really… in front of people, my voice just disappears. It’s quite embarrassing. I did make it through some presentations I had to do at work several years ago, but it was maddening. Geez, I have trouble approaching a store clerk to ask a question 🙂

    Like

  2. hilarymb says:

    Hi Joanne .. I’ve always had a fear of it – which I’m trying to overcome now by giving talks to various classes I attend – history and social history. My father who was an excellent public speaker wanted me to read the lesson in church .. aged? 7 perhaps … it was a disaster and from that time onwards I hated it … I was Rat in Wind of the Willows .. and forgot my lines once again … that sealed it .. !! I still don’t like it – but force myself to give it a go … cheers Hilary

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I think it’s excellent that you are giving talks. You might have a fear of it, but staring it in the face and doing it anyway is wonderful.
      Who knows? With practice, you might discover you’ve unearthed a hidden talent 🙂

      Like

  3. That is some huge trophy you got for winning in the district finals! What an amazing topic you chose too. Anyone can do a little ditty on happiness but God and the sweeping clean of the planet – now that’s unique!

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      LOL – I was a little bitter I couldn’t keep it. My *keepsake* trophy was considerably smaller … ie tiny 🙂

      I remember at the time I was very proud of that speech. I enjoyed creative writing and this was one of the best pieces I’ve ever written. It’s amazing I still remember the opening lines, but the speech itself is long done. I don’t even remember how I ended it. This *God* was on a major housekeeping exercise!!

      Like

  4. Mrs. P says:

    Some people want to be king…you wanted to be god…you have moxie, my friend. It took a lot of guts to say that in front of a nun…I can only imagine the wrath playing in her head over your certainly blasphemous words.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      LOL! The formerly devote Roman Catholic in me suspects I’ve been on a super-highway to hell for a long time 😉

      I like that word moxie! I’m flattered to have someone actually use it to describe me 🙂

      Like

  5. I am in awe of you even giving it a try. The whole Idea terrifies me.
    Thanks for the pie. Getting fat, but need ice cream with it.

    Like

  6. Wow, what a ballsy topic for a speech, and, at the risk of appearing sexist, for a speech by a girl!
    I have to second the notion that a nun (in full habit, at any rate) as a judge was a truly boneheaded idea. Speaking before a panel of judges is fearful enough. Speaking before one of the Big Guy’s brides? pffft. Game over.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Exactly!! … and they were the original Bridezillas too …. although that’s just the terrorized schoolgirl talking 😉

      I think I might have been a wee bit before my time 🙂

      Like

  7. bulldog says:

    As a youngster I could never have stood before an audience and given a speach…. today I’ll stand before any size audience and babble on for howevr long they want me to and off the cuff too…. I think the only reson I can do this, is lessons I received later in life….
    My admiration of you grows with every post…. is there anything you can’t do…?

    Like

  8. treerabold says:

    At that age I was constantly fearful of drawing attention to myself. The fact that you got as far as you did is impressive to me!
    Darn that nun! What made those people think a nun would make a good judge! They aren’t supposed to judge….Jesus said so!! 🙂

    Like

  9. Sue Slaght says:

    Joanne it sounds like it was a very valuable painful lesson that served you well over the following decades. I was cringing reading your post that is how vivid an image you painted of the scene. Well done!

    Like

  10. Oh, I hated those perky girls. I bet her mother was perky too (and probably dressed in the same colour-scheme as her daughter). It’s a learning experience, I guess.

    PECAN PIE!!!!! Pecaaaaan piiiiiieeee. “I would be pleased to partake of your pecan pie. Peeecaaan piiieeee.”

    Sorry. My all time favourite scene from When Harry Met Sally. I can’t see pecan pie without putting on a silly voice. (Funnily enough I have a post half written about this. Hopefully it will come out this week. Sometime. Maybe. Sigh.)

    Like

  11. greyzoned/angelsbark says:

    I was nervous just reading about your experience! I am terrified of public speaking. Hate it, hate it, hate it! I’m impressed that you not only survived that experience but went on to deliver speeches to big audiences. Wow, I bow to you… 🙂
    Michele at Angels Bark

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I’m nothing if not rather ballsie 😉

      I know that most people are terrified of public speaking. I would HATE to do it off-the-cuff, but I have no issues delivering a well-prepared presentation.

      In my job, I was eventually trained on public speaking. It would have been very helpful to the me from Grade 8! 🙂

      Like

  12. Heyjude says:

    I’m back. Forgot the pecan pie. I like that. Can I have some cream on it?
    😉 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Heyjude says:

    Oh how I wish you had won! Defeated the perky blonde and stared down the nun! Jo the fearless strikes again! I love these fascinating insights into your life, and Sammy is right, it is interesting that so many of us share similar experiences. I hate drawing attention to myself and struggled being a trainer when I had to stand up and present to a room full of people, all looking at ME! A small group was not too bad, but sometimes I had to run programmes for larger ones including very senior staff! Gulp!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A speech competition in Grade Eight? Nerves do horrible things to us. A staring nun would scare the living daylights out of me as well. You are full of surprises, Joanne. Fantastic ones. You are good at so many things. You have every right to be proud not matter Happiness won instead.Taking on the salvation of the planet is not for the weak at heart. You made an awesome stab at it. ❤ ❤

    Like

  15. Sammy D. says:

    ‘Happiness won the day’ LOL Sorry I couldn’t help chuckling. If only you’d been able to pull off the confidence I bet the Nun would have gone foe a gloom ‘n doom wrathful God. You are so precious and vulnerable telling us these pervasively human foibles from your own past. Have another piece of pie to soothe your trauma, my luv .

    Liked by 2 people

    • joannesisco says:

      Thank you Sammy for recognizing how uncomfortable it has been sometimes to share these stories … not because they still cause me pain in some way, but because it feels very self-absorbed.
      To my surprise, I’ve discovered it’s been remarkably cathartic and I can embrace the ridiculous. I’m glad I could make you laugh 🙂

      Like

      • Sammy D. says:

        I lnow what you mean about the ‘self-absorbed’ notion. If that’s all we ever wrote about, it’d be true. But the value I find in sharing these stories – telling or reading – is finding out how universal our experiences and emotions were/are, plus -as you say – the cathartic value. I find often someone else expresses what I experienced more clearly, or with a better example, and that helps me understand my own feelings better as well as continue healing.

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  16. UGH! I’m petrified of public speaking which explains the whole writer thing. 😉 When I was in the 8th grade, I had to take debate class. I was horrible at giving the speech but the speech itself was well-written so I got good marks. What is it about a set of eyes watching me talk that makes me go weak in the knees? Who knows, maybe I got stage-fright coming out of the womb. My mothers told me during delivery, I didn’t want to come out. LOL! Love pecan pie, thanks Joanne! 🙂

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I think public speaking ranks right up there on the I’d-rather-die list 🙂
      Over the years I got considerably better at it, but I’ve never been good at the ad-lib, off the cuff kind of speaker. I’ve always had to be meticulously prepared.

      I smiled at your story of stage-fright being born 🙂 It appears you were comfortable and not ready to leave!

      My mom told me I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck and it was several minutes before I was finally revived. I’ve often wondered if that’s why I feel like I’m suffocating and can’t breath when I get stressed.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I excelled at public speaking when younger too. I never had any fear of this until, like you, one day I froze. I was supposed to teach a lesson in Grade 12 biology class. Piece of cake, right? Inexplicably I had what can only be described as a panic attack – I couldn’t catch my breath and I squeaked out the lesson. The teacher, the class AND myself were baffled. To this day I have no idea what happened. There were no nuns in the room 🙂
    Thanks for sharing Joanne. Nice to know I was not alone in this!!

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I know that feeling! Not being able to breathe and nothing but a breathless squeaky voice. When I get really nervous, it still happens to me! I’m guessing it was brutal to get through that class.

      Like

  18. There are so many times when nerves can get the better of you-don’t even get me started!! It happens! That being said, it sounds like a brilliant speech. I was truly waiting for you to say it was written by a famous politician…but an 8th grader!! Kudos for having written it!

    Like

  19. Alex Hurst says:

    Yikes. Sounds like it was an amazing speech, though… but definitely not the audience it was intended for! I would have bombed it, too. One of the worst things about being a teacher, sometimes, is when you are stuck in a conversation class, and the conversation turns down a thread you know you need to deter, but are powerless to stop… and then the offended, awkward, or questionable topic bombs the class mood for the rest of the day. 😛

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I’ve never thought of that from a classroom perspective, but I’ve certainly seen it happen at dinner parties. The mood of the group can change on a dime. You’re right – once that bomb is released, you are powerless to stop the inevitable carnage.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alex Hurst says:

        Especially when the topic is something like “My twin sister died last week.” or “I had a miscarriage.” “Teacher, do you have a boyfriend? (no one knows I’m a lesbian)” or “I need to balance my energies, because there is a lot of dark energy in the universe…” to name a couple. 😛

        Like

  20. I was always too tall and Teutonic to qualify as perky. And it infuriated me when the tall boys would choose those perky little girls. Hey! Yoohoo! Tall girl over here! I digress…..
    Seriously, Joanne, I can totally relate to your public speaking meltdown at the appearance of Sister Mary Sadistic. It is entirely her fault as I’m sure she was shooting you death rays with her eyes. Pecan pie, good choice. My daughter’s favorite!

    Liked by 2 people

    • joannesisco says:

      hahaha – no one’s ever accused me of being perky either 🙂
      … and yes, I have noticed that tall men more often than not, have very short wives. What’s up with that?!!!
      If I was to ask Gilles what his favourite pie was, he’d likely answer pecan too … although the truth is, he simply likes pie 😉

      Like

  21. What imagination, though, Joanne! Grade 8 and you’ve already installed yourself as God and decided the planet wasn’t worth saving? I mean truly! 🙂
    Those ‘perky girls’ are so annoying, aren’t they? You may have lost the competition, Joanne, but at least you had great substance and were truly creative in your content! Anyone can tell people what they want to hear, it takes alot more to show things as they actually are (especially when you know these ideas are not going to be well-received!) 🙂

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Once upon a time, I loved to do creative writing and I wrote some really funky stuff but one day in a fit of ‘purging the past’, I threw it all away.
      Now – there just doesn’t seem to be anything there.
      I must admit that playing God was pretty outrageous at that time … not that anyone has ever accused me of having control issues since then 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Lynn says:

    Meh, you have bombed but I bet you gave that nun some food for thought!

    Liked by 2 people

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