“I think it’s very vital to rock a rhyme that’s right on time” – Run DMC
I’m not easily impressed with public speakers. Maybe it’s because they seem like they are a dime a dozen, or maybe it’s because so many of them aren’t very good. As a local banker and amateur rapper I feel fairly qualified to judge. (I realize I just dropped an “amateur rapper” on you in the previous sentence… hey, just ask my wife!)
In my profession I attend a lot of charity events in the area, and I hear a lot of speakers. The format at these events is pretty much the same – host/emcee, guest speaker or speakers, award presentation, auction (silent or public… sometimes both if you’re lucky). So I am witness to these speakers quite often, and very few are memorable. I will tell you though I am a sucker for a well prepared young speaker. And by “young” I mean someone still in high school or younger.
At the recent Boys and Girls’ Club of Benton County “Youth of the Year” gala, a deserving young woman named Fernanda Alcantara was awarded the honor (she also won the award at the state level), and her acceptance speech was outstanding, borderline brilliant. I don’t think she looked down at her notes but maybe once and I’m not sure how much of her speech was actually prepared, and how much of it was from the heart or “off-the-cuff.” I would much prefer hearing from her than many of the ones that have long been lost to memory by now. She was polished and professional and very engaging.
I attend a local adult chapter of FCA, and am always excited and amazed to hear from the kids in attendance. Most of the time they are high school athletes sharing about their lives, and occasionally they are junior high or middle school kids and I’m almost always astounded at their boldness and their sense of purpose. I think it’s good for the kids as well to get some real world practice at speaking in front of others.
I had the occasional report or presentation to give (as most of us did) growing up, but my first real practice with public speaking was in college when I took a speech class. We had to tackle a subject, prepare, practice, and present. There are not many things more unnerving in school than having to stand in front of all your peers and ramble on about some unimportant event in your life or a current issue of the day. It’s all I could do to just stand there and withstand all of the judgmental eyes shooting daggers through my face.
I don’t remember many of the speeches I gave in that class. I know one was about snow skiing, but the one speech that really stands out to me is that I once gave a speech about procrastination. The irony is that I was totally unprepared to give it! I’m pretty sure I didn’t even start preparing for until 10 or 11 the night before.
I actually put my Nintendo gaming system, a TV remote, an empty Domino’s pizza box, and a cordless cell phone in a duffel bag and shuffled off to speech class (it was my first class of the day twice a week). Once there, I was a disorganized mess referring to some partially scribbled notes I had quickly made the night before as I pulled each item out of the bag and explained how they were good for procrastinating. My speech teacher quickly agreed that I knew how to procrastinate, but I don’t think she appreciated the irony evidenced by the ‘C’ she gave me on that speech. In retrospect this could have been a great speech, but my lack of preparation doomed it from the start.
Public speaking is an interesting dynamic, and something that can easily be addictive for some. The spotlight is on, and it can bring with it a sense of entitlement, importance and even power. ‘Hey, look at me! I’m speaking! I’m important with important things to say so take notes… and be prepared to laugh at my awesome jokes like I’m Chris Rock!”
Though not natural for many, public speaking gets easier the older you get. Like many of you, through the years I’ve had to speak in front of peers at various events. I’ve taught classes for adults and children, and lead discussions. I’ve had to promote places and events, and have spoken at weddings and receptions.
Though I can’t sing (thus the need for me to be able to rap, duh), I imagine it’s not totally unlike a musical performer who gets up on the stage and performs for a crowd. If you’re good, you have fans for life. If you’re terrible then your career will be short-lived and unmemorable unless you’re really terrible, then in that case you might be memorable, but it will be for being awful, which probably isn’t the goal either.
“When I wake up people take up mostly all of my time. I’m not singin’, phone keep ringin’ ’cause I make up a rhyme.”
Thirty years ago today’s featured song and video was released on Run-D.M.C.‘s third album “Raising Hell.” This song charted on the US Billboard Hot 100 along with the R&B/Hip Hop charts. The video (“they took my chain!”) was a memorable one from my youth not only because I love the song, but the video is entertaining featuring the popular magic act of Penn & Teller. When the mood strikes, I love me some Run-D.M.C. though. They (along with Beastie Boys and LL Cool J) were probably most influential in cultivating my love of rap music growing up. Of course, today they’re not quite the same since the shooting death of third member DJ Jam Master Jay back in 2002. But back in the mid and late 80’s they were definitely the “Kings from Queens.”
As you contemplate your next speaking event, small or large, just know that I understand it’s a tough gig. I’m not judging. Really. There’s nothing easy about speaking in front of others. It can be fun and enjoyable and a bit intoxicating I suppose, but I also know it can be difficult, and frustrating, and nerve-wracking, and dare I even say maybe even a little… “tricky?”
“It’s Tricky to rock a rhyme, to rock a rhyme that’s right on time”
Here we go!
As always, thanks for reading. Now, go put on your Adidas and rock a rhyme.