Sometimes when I’m listening to a podcast I think wow, this is fantastic, I wish I ran a podcast. Sometimes when I’m listening to race commentary I think wow, this is terrible, I wish I was the one doing commentary.
And then sometimes I’m asked a simple question and my arrogant desire to have the world hear me speak, arrogance that looked like a tiger when I saw its reflected shadow but is revealed as a sloth on all fours when it steps into the light, collapses into “um”s and “ehm”s and “well”s.
I had such an experience at the Sunday Times Sportswomen Of The Year awards last weekend. I may have set myself up to fail by panicking so much beforehand, but I’m struck with panic before every bike race I do and most of those go quite well. This wasn’t the same.
My speaking style, unfortunately, is that I don’t end sentences.
I start without much sense of where I’m going which leaves two options: (a) find out on the way or (b) find out once I’ve stopped. The problem with option (b), an option I often go for, is that if I only settle on what I want to say once it’s already been said, my tone never makes it clear where the climax was.
An interviewer will keep looking at me assuming they’re experiencing an ellipsis when in fact it’s a full stop. Fine one-on-one. Less fine when there’s 100 people watching.
The universe did what the universe does, however, and sent me a sign in a glossy magazine that came in the awards goodie bag: an advert for a book on improving your public speaking. You might be wondering if the universe sends me lots of signs, like ads for clothes on Instagram, and you’d be right; the universe knows me (and maybe my browsing history) very well.
So I’m going to order this book, learn how to speak by reading about it rather than by speaking, and bamboozle you all with my new ability to tell a story that plants a flagpole right where the punchline is.
Even if it’s not funny, at least people will know where in the story they’re meant to fake laugh.