Monday, August 25, 2014

I, the orator

I was, probably, born as good an Orator as Cicero but for one small failing. I had a starting problem, like I invariably do with most things in life. Where, for most things, I would probably have succeeded but for the fact that I never started on them, in the case of oratory my failing lay in the beginning of the speech.

"L.l.ladies and G.g.gentlemen..uh..sorry...I suppose I should start with Respected Chairman, Ladies....oh...just noticed, there is only one lady...so..uh..lady and gentle...I am wrong again..nobody who boos is a gentleman..."

After that fantastic start, I found myself booming out the rest of my speech into an empty auditorium. Stymied by the start.

Then, of course, I got a lot of unsolicited advice. All well-meant, of course. One of those grand ideas is to start the speech by telling a joke. The idea, I suppose, is that the audience would be so breathless with laughter that they would be unable to walk away.

"Let me tell you a joke about Pat and...that name is on the tip of my tongue..one sec...starts with 'M'...ah, yes, Mike. They were walking down a street in...what was the name of the place...somewhere in Ireland I think...hmm...well...D..Du..DUBLIN! Yes, Pat and Mike were...hey why are you laughing...I have not even told the joke...stop...oh well...you may as well laugh..you have made me forget the joke"

THAT for the idea of joking an audience into staying around! The audience did stay around, doubled up with laughter. It was the speaker who made a hasty exit this time.

Then there was this suggestion from someone who said that I should forget that there was an audience and focus on one person and talk as though I was talking to him. Seemed like a fair idea...after all, when I had pigeon-holed someone, the difficulty for me was not in talking but in stopping.

The next time, I started off making eye-contact. The first person I focused my eyes on looked at me with such a grimace of pain, as though he had swallowed a porcupine whole and was dealing with the after-effects, that he put me off my stride. I switched my eyes around to a lovely lady and thought my task was done - till she glared at me and made an unmistakable gesture at her foot-wear. High-heeled slippers in the face is not quite an inducement for great oratory, so I switched again hurriedly to meet a couple of eyes like the guns of a firing squad and a granite face that dared me to speak any longer than the recipient could bear.

Wodehouse talks of an orator preparing for a speech by saying "Mi Mi Mi Mi" in front of a mirror in order to ensure that he was in good voice. Now you know why my career as an orator has not gone beyond screaming "Mi Mi Mi Mi" to the mirror.

37 comments:

  1. Thanks for giving a hilarious start to my day-you too have a fun-day lecturing audience out of the halls .

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    1. Stopped doing that, Indu! :) Now my only audience is myself :)

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  2. Mi Mi Mi Mi Mi, now that is hilarious :D And self obsessed at the same time ;)

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    1. Didn't you know? I was born self-obsessed :)

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  3. I could literally imagine someone swallowing a porcupine and the after effects . Thank you Suresh, a super post.

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  4. And I start my day with a smile and chuckles!

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  5. Learn to joke about the shortcomings and it's easier to overcome them... or is it?
    My teacher in school would tell me to assume that everyone in the audience is a fool and I would feel confident. It didn't work.
    Mi Mi Mi Mi

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  6. I think you chose the wrong kind of people to focus on, so it was their problem and not yours :P Btw mentioning Wodehouse was the clincher, whatever he says has to work I tell ya :D

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    1. It has worked fine so far - with the mirror\! :)

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  7. haha now that was a breath of fresh air .... In school I was too terrified to speak to an audience... I'm scared even now and my legs feel shaky but these days I pretend that I'm the most confident person in the world when I have to address a bunch of people ..Ofcourse only I know how scared I feel!

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  8. Oratory is definitely a tough job. Many of us don't even have the courage to mi mi in front of mirror.

    Regardless, hilarious post, Suresh.

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    1. Ah! The mirror does not throw rotten eggs and tomatoes :)

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  9. funny,i have a decent memory but in school i'd go blank on stage :) i don't know about how i'd do now :)

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  10. Reading your blog is a treat!! Thank you very much for very nice n hilarious post. Made my day!!!

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  11. As someone who has always been "shy" when it comes to public speaking, I've pretty much been in the same boat. Except that I usually went blank - following by a lot of stuttering and excuse me's. So I guess it's a Mi Mi Mi, in front of mirror for me too. Hilarious post, Suresh! Loved it.

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  12. I have to confess that public speaking is my worst nightmare. And I try to avoid eye contact. But happy to inform that I did not goof up at a book launch recently. Luckily the mic wasn't working so no one knows what I said. :)

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    1. Mine too - I'd probably skip any occasion where I would need to speak in public :)

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  13. Great Sureshji.
    I am reminded of a classmate who didn't need any words to narrate a joke & make us laugh... he managed without words :)
    Impressive oratory comes with practice & experience & of course, confidence...

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  14. I am just back from a similar gruelling experience, Suresh - I had to speak not for an hour but for full 5 days to a bunch of 20 Malaysians.

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    1. Hmm - Hope you did not end up speaking in Tamil :)

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  15. It's 12.40 a.m and I'm laughing uncontrollably...now my husband is making a face as if he has swallowed a porcupine whole and struggling with the after effects :-D :-D...

    Awesome one Suresh !!

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    1. Thanks Maniparna! Hope your husband recovered :P

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  16. hahaha This made for a fun read. Back in MBA, there was a batchmate who was terrified of making presentations. He was in my group. So we devised a strategy. He stood behind the podium and delivered his entire speech looking at me (seated strategically somewhere in the centre) who earnestly nodded her head and maintained eye contact. It went on for an entire semester :).

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    1. Wish I had had such a helpful batch mate :) My lot were more likely to snigger and ask inconvenient questions (Class participation, you know :) )

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  17. when i gave my first presentation , I actually saw a girl smiling at me.I forgot everything and uttered SHIT.
    That was epic shit because everyone including the principle was looking at me.
    Nice post !

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