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Urban Junkie

Friday, September 16, 2005

Of wobbly knees and chattering teeth...

The BIG conference in Cannes is two days away and the symptoms are beginning to kick in. My teeth started to chatter yesterday, the knees are distinctly gelatinous and my face has acquired that about-to-burst-into-tears look.

I do envy those who present with panache – people with that mysterious X-factor called Stage Presence. They stroll out onto the stage with hands nonchalantly in pockets, they throw a lazy grin at the audience and are immediately granted complete silence and attention. A wink here, an engaging smile there, a witty remark tossed out casually and off they go. They don’t need to clear their throats to silence the room. They don’t tap repeatedly at the mike to ask if they can be heard (they know they can be). They don’t shuffle their notes anxiously, having misplaced the title slide (there is no visible sign of notes). Their audience can intelligently differentiate their jokes from their brilliant points, and does not mix up applause with laughter.

I, sadly, do not belong to this privileged club.

Not only do I lack the mysterious X-factor, the presence of a stage seems to bring out in me an entirely detestable Y-factor which consists of a carefully measured mix of incoherence, monotony and idiocy. I would come across much better if I could just present from behind a curtain, but for some reason they insist on a clear view of the speaker.

This time, however, things will be different. I have been programming my unconscious for two weeks. For those who belong with me in the Y-factor zone, here are a few instructions I have been sleeping with under my pillow, which would have hopefully seeped by now into my mind and altered my default responses.

  • Do not babble. The audience is not filled with morons, and they do not need you to repeat everything thrice and examine it from multiple angles. Also, stories from your childhood will not make the conclusions of your research more forceful.
  • Do not, on the other hand, swallow up half your intended presentation. You have 20 minutes to fill up, and if you wrap up in 7 minutes you will face the prospect of standing in agonizing silence for the remaining 13. Should this happen, however, resist all temptation to go back to the first slide and begin again. Hopefully some generous soul will have mercy and ask an intelligent question.
  • Do not believe people who say that imagining the audience naked is a cure for stage fright. Sometimes the grotesqueness of the image can actually induce stage fright.
    Remember the mike lurks below your collar. When you curse in an undertone to yourself, you are also speaking to the entire room.
  • If you MUST faint in relief after the presentation, it is better done at the chair than at the lectern.
  • If they don’t get your joke the first time, don’t repeat it or try explaining it.

As you can see, the preparation this time is strong. So … deep breath, and here goes. Hopefully I will return victorious, having kept Y-factor completely at bay.


  • Nice to see you intrepid enough to make a post out of your nervousness ;)
    But seriously, i haven't been able to fathom how imagining unknown men and women naked, can help overcome stage fear! I am sure this is a conspiracy hatched by a lot of desperate men and women missing the 'action' in a research conference!
    All the best and have a great trip. Just imagine that the presentation is just an impediment that must be gotten over with quickly so that you can then proceed to soak-in Cannes.

    By Anonymous Tara, at 11:26 PM, September 16, 2005  

  • Hey Anjali! Nice to see a fellow sufferer at the altar of public speaking. I am a lecturer and yet, every time (and i mean every single time) before i begin my lecturer, i start praying and drinking gallons of water. The former makes my mom happy and the latter makes my bladder trigger-happy.
    And yet, i manage to do a good job more or less always. So you will too. Just believe in yourself. Going by your post, you seem to have a great sense of humour and that gets people through no matter what the odds!

    By Anonymous amitav, at 3:24 AM, September 17, 2005  

  • Hi Anjali,
    according to Simran, who teaches public speaking, the fear of public speaking is the biggest fear...bigger than fear of death, heights,and loud sounds. Glad you can laugh about it. The last time I saw you on stage, you were great(you were 10 years old, and the topic was, were our forefathers happier than us?)This time you will be brilliant. Good luck!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:35 AM, September 17, 2005  

  • Nice post. So you are going to Cannes for a presentation? Wow...is it for the awards or something?
    My tip for public speaking:
    Think of yourself as the next best thing to electricity. Those guys are lucky to hear from you and soon they'll hear of you ;)

    By Anonymous sreekanth, at 10:10 AM, September 17, 2005  

  • Very different from your other posts.

    Thanx for sharing. Keeping fingers crossed for you. May the force be with you!

    By Anonymous seaman, at 9:19 PM, September 18, 2005  

  • Loved ur post. Esp the tips about imagining your audience naked and the one abt fainting in the comfort of your chair rather than the lectern. LOL

    I must make it a habit to read your posts from now on. I read all the other posts that you have put up and fell down laughing. U r very funny. Esp the one about sexual appendages.

    I am new to blogging so have no idea if comments shd be long like in an email or whether they should be short like an sms. So pls forgive me if i am flouting some unwritten blogging etiquette.

    Do you have any other blogs as well?

    By Anonymous Naved, at 9:27 PM, September 18, 2005  

  • ESOMAR??!! and yup, the basics are right, breathe in, breathe out, so i guess u'll do well :)

    By Blogger manuscrypts, at 10:52 PM, September 18, 2005  

  • ESOMAR as in the European Society of Market Research?
    Wow...you must inti dude!
    Good for you. I agree with Tara. Get the damn presentation over with and have a blast in Cannes.
    Now that you have proved to be full of 'zee grey mahter mon ami' i shall read all your other posts.

    By Anonymous aniket, at 5:45 AM, September 19, 2005  

  • Looks like you've whipped up public emotions with the stage fear thingy!

    Lemme know how the ppt goes! Knowing you, i would imagine great!

    By Blogger Tara, at 7:50 AM, September 19, 2005  

  • Let me know how it went. I too am a terrfied public speaker. In fact, i am going for some classes to help me overcome stage fear so that i can handle my trips abroad better. I find that my technical skills are very strong but the minute i have to talk to a crowd (that's any number more than 1), i find my voice falls several decibel levels. I wish that it would atleast turn out to be a sexy undertone atleast and not a whimper more associated with dogs that are being flogged.

    By Anonymous kriti, at 9:59 PM, September 19, 2005  

  • I once went up on stage to find before the presentation that people were gesturing madly towards the my hands. i of course took that as a sign that i was gesticulating too much and delivered a presentation with my hands absolutely still and my arms folded across my chest. After the presentation i found that my fly had been open all the time. so relax. Nothing can be wprse than that.
    Needless to say, i needed to write this comment anonymously!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:29 AM, September 20, 2005  

  • Hi Anjali, good luck! I used to be like that, but not any more. I find that my problem now-a-days is there is not enough time! I have too much to say. Anyway, it's tuesday today, and as I'm writing this, you must be at your presentation. here's sending good vibes!

    By Blogger Sujatha, at 11:20 AM, September 20, 2005  

  • Thanks, everyone, for all the good wishes, the positive vibes, the tips ... and the sharing of personal tales of woe, even if anonymously!
    I am happy to report that Y-factor was vanquished, this time round at least. Just returned from a great trip :) ... I was lucky enough to be scheduled in the first session of the first day, so the rest of the conference was truly a holiday!

    By Blogger Anjali, at 3:10 AM, September 23, 2005  

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