Public speaking: practice, practice, practice

I have loved public performance and public speaking for as long as I can remember.

Tonight a MacWorld article about public speaking converged with an issue I had experienced this morning while teaching a preschool class.

The article in question is How Steve Jobs Beats Presentation Panic.

I came across it by surprise late Sunday night after coming home from working my usual evening sports design shift.

The article cites several examples of Apple CEO Steve Jobs overcoming technical glitches during presentations — problems that might derail less-capable presenters.

The article quotes “communications coach” Carmine Gallo extensively. His first piece of advice for presenters is that they “practice, practice, practice.” He guarantees that Jobs “put in more rehearsal time than 99 percent of people ever will.”

The reason this caught my eye is that that Sunday morning I had taught a class of almost 50 preschoolers at church, and this very advice had saved me.

Let me back up a minute and describe my history with teaching kids.

It all started in 6th grade, when I became eligible to serve in children’s ministry. I jumped at the chance.

It didn’t take much time for a leader in the ministry to suggest that I become a teacher. I had never considered the possibility and didn’t take the idea seriously at first. But eventually I tried it, and soon realized that teaching was a calling — something I loved and at which I was gifted. I continued teaching weekly (or at times monthly) until a short time after Jadzia was born. 10+ years.

There were several changes in my life and in the church that happened concurrently and led to my teaching hiatus. I had always wanted to get back into it, but the right opportunity never really came up until recently.

So this morning was my first time back in the saddle. I was really revved up about it. We got to church early so I could get everything ready. As I was setting things up in the room, I realized I had misplaced my lesson and notes. I spent a while looking everywhere to find them, but couldn’t.

This was the big glitch for my “presentation.” I was frustrated — but not beaten.

I guess one thing I have in common with Jobs is that any time I am going to speak or teach in public, I always practice. A lot.

I practice internally, monologuing or even dialoguing in my mind. Then I write things down in paragraph or semi-script form. And then I perform aloud many times.

So when it comes time to actually talk to college students, teach preschoolers, be interviewed or whatever, I don’t have to have my notes. I know my material inside and out, and I’m comfortable enough to improvise and handle curveballs.

As it turns out, I had left the notes in the minivan. I hadn’t brought them up to the preschool rooms like I thought I had. But the kids didn’t know it. All they saw was a tall guy dressed like a hiker with a huge backpack talking about maps and lights and teaching them about the Bible.

It felt so good. I’m glad I did it. And glad I practiced, practiced, practiced.

About Josh Renaud

I'm the Emperor of the Renaud Empire, which is to say that I'm the husband of a Boliviana and the father of three daughters and one son. When I'm not conquering lands and expanding borders, I'm a newspaper designer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Find me on Twitter (@Kirkman) or Google+.
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3 Responses to Public speaking: practice, practice, practice

  1. Anita says:

    Were you back in your old classroom, Josh? Were any of the girls in your class to see you and Yoli teach?

  2. Justin Renaud says:

    That was a good read Josh. Thanks.

  3. Josh Renaud says:

    Mom, yes, I was back in the barn room. I also made a point of busting out three of your old “Betsy and Brian” posters at the end.
    Jadzia is now the in the 5s/Ks group, so she wasn’t there. But Ludi was in the class. When we were going home she (unsolicited) repeated a lot of details of what I did and talked about in the class, which was encouraging.

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