Sunday, June 15, 2008


Today I did a little speak on Father's day at my church. It was a short one, about some of the things my Dad taught me and some of the things I was trying to teach my kids. And it had to be in the context of camping. Sounds easy, right? Actually it was not.

I haven't really done any public speaking for almost two years now and I found myself a little . . . rusty. Actually, downright scared is more like it. There was a time (when I was a youth pastor and a camp director) when I had to do some sort of public speaking at least once a week. And back then I hardly got nervous at all. But last night as I was preparing my thoughts (which of course I did last minute) the old feelings of inadequacy and stage fright returned. I did eventually get to sleep but it was fitful and uneasy.

I remember some of my earliest public speaking moments. The Church Christmas play. My baptism. When I went to college the ante got upped: Homiletics class. We had to preach two sermons in front of our whole class. Later I had to do a presentation in front of one of my other classes and I actually started to pass out in the middle of talking! Luckily I did not go down but I did lose my spot reading and started again in a completely new place, confusing my classmates entirely. And in what might have been my most terrifying moments, I had to address the entire student body (over a thousand people) to give announcements about our GAP (Go And Pray) events. I remember the first one clearly because I felt so sick and then spoke my two minute announcement in about 25 seconds. Jobina was there and just smiled at me when I sat down.

Fast forward to today. Rationally I know that speaking won't be that bad and yet I can't stop the nervousness. All I can do is desensitize it by speaking often - something I haven't of course been doing. As is usually the case the anticipation is worse then the event itself and midway through my speak I felt OK. Truthfully, like hiking, the best part of public speaking for me is when it stops! The sweet feelings of escape and relief! Perhaps it's worth speaking just to feel the joy of not having to worry about it anymore after you finally do it.

I'm a "mediocre at best" speaker and I really admire the people who can do it without feeling nervous (and do it well). Perhaps you are that sort of person. So why did I do it if I despise it so much? Now that I'm graduated I want to get back into serving my church and this one the first thing someone has asked of me that I had the time and ability to do. I also want to challenge myself - to step out of my comfort zone. Lastly, camping is one of my favorite subjects and it was supposed to be short so I had no excuse. Although it was a little nerve wracking I'm glad I did it. And I'm really glad it's done.

Happy Father's day everyone!


Jay Boaz said...

So I guess you're not really looking forward to your speech at the wedding, eh? :)

For what it's worth I think you're a great public speaker!


Mark said...

What? I have to do a speech?!!! (just kidding)

As for me being a good speaker you have to say that (you're my friend). Thanks though.

And no worries about the wedding, although public speaking is not my strongest suit, it will be an honor to say a few words. But if I pass out, I hope you'll forgive me!

Keith said...

I thought you were good up there, didn't see any nervousness at all.

I noticed that we have speakers until the end of summer at church, and it says to expect at least a year to find a new Pastor.
what will you be preaching on? [wink] [wink]

Jay Boaz said...

Actually I didn't have to say you're a good public speaker; this is a blog, I could've ignored the topic altogether!

I mean it seriously, I have never thought of you as a poor public speaker.


Mark said...

Hey Jay. Yes, you could have ignored it. I suppose it's pretty difficult to unbiasedly judge one's own speaking ability. I have met some people who think they are terrible but I would rate them an A+. Others think they are great orators and teachers but actually I would rate them overall a C-. When one judges oneself, one's ego or insecurities almost always color our judgment.

I find that the best way to gauge how you are doing at speaking is to find at least one or two people who will give you specific feedback. Admittedly finding even one person to give you honest and specific feedback is almost impossible - more then one is even harder. But these people are out there. Also, another problem is that everything is so subjective. I might love a speaker and you might hate him. There is no universal good/bad when it comes to speaking (just like art).

Lee said...

I thought your talk yesterday was great Mark - it was a bit like "hearing" you blog - I was so pleased to see you up front! :)
Are you planning to post it for those who didn't get to hear it?

Mark said...

Um . . . maybe? Not sure. . .

Lifelines said...

Your blog is definitely one of my favorites to check write very well and your topics are always interesting. So, if you speak like you blog, you must be quite good at it.
I think everyone is nervous when they public speak, but some know how to use it to their advantage more than others.