Speaking Out

What was the one thing that made us all nervous in high school? That’s right, speaking in front of our peers. Whether it be presenting a report or just speaking off the cuff as part of public speaking class, we all had to make presentations. I know it used to scare me to death – and it still does. Despite my job of presenting the morning headlines to a large TV audience, I still get scared make public addresses.

Why? Because when I’m on TV, all I see is a teleprompter ( OK, we cheat ). When I speak towards a teleprompter, I’m looking at an object. I don’t see any reaction so when I make a joke, there is nothing telling me it’s not funny. But when you speak in front of a room, the reaction is instant. You know if you are bombing.

There are pictures from a recent address at Westmoreland County Community College. I was asked to take part in their Wednesday night lecture series. About 80 people were in the audience including the president of the college, Dr. Steven Ender and his wife, Karen, as well as the long-time music director at Hempfield HS, Rod Booker:

I had about a month’s notice – and I agonized over the speech. Why? Because I was asked to speak for an ENTIRE HOUR! My job at channel 4 is to sum up big stories in 35 seconds and suddenly I’m supposed to have a compelling hour-long speech? So I sat down and wrote a speech and spent two weekends working on it … and kept fine tuning it all the way up to that day.

As I arrived on campus, I started to get nervous — and when I do that I begin to speak way too fast. Even while meeting some of the school dignitaries, I was getting tense on the inside. Finally, it was my turn to take the podium — and I started by talking about my background. Well, before I knew it, my life and path to WTAE had taken 45 minutes – and my nerves had disappeared. I found when I started talking about something I knew ( my life ) and something I believed in ( my mission as a TV reporter ), the time zoomed by. I actually went over the limit because there were questions afterwards.

Afterwards, I felt good about my presentation – a presentation that wound up being ad-libbed. I never actually got to my speech. What was my subject to be? I’m not telling. I can use it for another occasion when I speak.

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