Sunday, April 13, 2008

Exposed In Public

I joined a local Toastmasters club recently. I started attending meetings in January and finally bit the bullet to become a member a month ago. I've always liked public speaking. I even fancy myself to be somewhat good at it, if not being terrified at the thought can be considered "good". Whether I'm as effective as I imagine is quite another matter; hence the new membership. I thought it would give me a chance to practice and to learn that craft from the bottom.

The meetings are fun. The club meets in a conference room where I work. There's an agenda for every meeting that is rigorously adhered to. There are roles to play, rituals to follow, rules to enforce. There's a portion called "table topics", where individuals are asked to come up and speak for 1-2.5 minutes on a randomly assigned topic. At the end of each meeting ballots are distributed, and best speech and table topic are voted on. I've spoken on a table topic twice, and both times I was voted "best table topic" for the day.

I'm going to give my first speech in nine days, and I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about it. It's not the speaking that concerns me, it's the topic. The first speech is intended to be an ice breaker. The new prospective Toastmaster-in-training should talk for 4-6 minutes about a topic that they know well: themselves.

I started writing out what I wished to say this morning, and I'm finding it to be a "naked in public" experience. I feel exposed! I don't know the audience so well. How far should I go? The two first speeches I've seen focused on family, education, and employment history. Everyone else in the club is so young. Will they laugh if I say that I remember when Kennedy was shot? I have vague memories of the image of the funeral on a black-and-white television in a neighbor's house. My friend's mother was weeping hysterically, but I didn't understand why.

I can hear their reaction now: "Black and white television!? Ted Kennedy was shot!? Dude!"

Will that expose me as a member of their parents' generation? As if my gray hair didn't give that away already. I feel the cold hand of ageism on my shoulder.

The Internet is making privacy harder to maintain. Blogging like this on the Internet feels like I'm on a soapbox, standing on Speaker's Corner in London, yammering away for an audience that could include the entire connected planet. I don't have a Facebook page yet, but most people in my family do - except for my older sisters and me. Is this a generational thing?

I don't know that I've had a single reader yet. I've told no one that I've got a blog. There hasn't been a single comment left. I don't know if Blogger makes it possible to find out how may views my page has had. I'm trying to find a voice for myself, and blogging on technical and personal topics seems like a good way to go.

But it sure feels cold out here.

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