Our Executive Director was out of town for the last Chamber of Commerce meeting and asked me to preside over the monthly luncheon. No biggie, and I was a little more excited than most would be since I’m actively looking for speaking opportunities. Of course this is no inspirational tear-jerker, simply running a meeting. So I brushed it off… maybe a little too much.

All I did to prepare was copy/paste bios about the day’s guest speaker as well as a couple new member businesses, then check to see if there were any upcoming events (there weren’t). Being the “accomplished speaker” that I am, I dismissed reviewing the info or practicing. Mistake #1. And pretty much the only mistake that mattered.

I showed up without much time to spare, especially considering I was needed to help setup the A/V equipment. Left no time to meet the guests or gather my thoughts. I opened without any fanfare, without inspiration or even a catchy one-liner. I read the bios for each member, quickly realizing that I had not read through this…. at all! There were incomplete sentences that I stumbled over. Stuff they wrote that didn’t make any sense. But even the sentences I didn’t screw up I simply regurgitated without any flare. Realizing the sticky situation, I got more nervous and naturally tried to rush through the rest. It was straight and tedious and…

boring! It was boring. I bored myself. Honestly, ask anyone at that lunch to name one person I introduced or any fact about them. I bet they couldn’t. I COULDN’T. I literally couldn’t tell you what I, myself, just read.

On top of that, I neglected to get a volunteer for the pledge or invocation, so I did it myself. So now I’m boring and hogging the stage. Maybe this is overreacting. But I’m holding myself to this standard. I’m better than this. Anyone could be better than this. Grab a guy off the side of the road on the way, give him 30 minutes to prepare and it would’ve been better.

There is never an excuse for not preparing. (double negative?) You should always prepare no matter the situation. (better?) It encompasses so many other aspects of speaking. When you prepare, you unconsciously think about pace, posture, content, order, audience, reception, etc, etc. Just now I happened to click on a tweet about 10 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking. There are thousands of these types of lists online, but as far as this one goes I’m not sure I did any of them. I may have smiled, #8. At least I think I did. Still, if this was a graded speech, then I got a 10%.

You can even prepare for impromptu situations. If you knew you would be called on at the next business meeting, you’d at least review the topic ahead of time. I’ve been through dozens of these luncheons before and could have easily given thought to how I would do it. Simply showing up early and being “on guard” is a step toward mentally preparing, whether or not you’re asked to utter a single word.

As for this time, I squandered a perfectly good opportunity to practice while simultaneously doing a disservice to the community. (Points for multitasking!) I’ll take the 10% grade for a lesson learned.

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