Public Speaking: The Difference Between Tina Fey and Me

Thomas at UCINF

Public Speaking: Do you know what the #1 thing is that allows you to convey and demonstrate authority and expertise to your audience?

Answer: Confidence.

Credit: Fame Pictures, 2008

Credit: Fame Pictures, 2008

When Tina Fey accepted the 2008 Emmy Award for Leading Actress in a Comedy, she said:

“I want to thank my parents for somehow raising me to have confidence that is disproportionate with my looks and abilities.” (Source: Speak Schmeak)

Public Speaking: For me, it’s not as easy as it looks. It looks like you just get up in public, and you speak. In my case, again, it’s not that easy.

My legs feel like they’ve turned to jelly, I can barely walk on them. My palms sweat. My heart beats fast. My vision blurs.

My stomach turns over and ties itself into a knot. I’m aware of all this, and it’s all I can do to just be there, in the moment.

Thank God my bowels behave themselves… 🙂

And then, somehow, I begin to speak, something, anything, and magically, from that moment on, I’m OK. Well, to be honest, I’m fine once I begin.

Because I usually know what I’m talking about. I’ve prepared my material, crafted an introduction, planned for timely transitions, audience engagement, a conclusion that wraps things up, and I’ve addressed the concerns of the audience as I went along.

Or, if this was a topic that was fairly new or had experienced some recent developments, I would take questions from the audience at the end. Either way, I’m usually always smiling at the end of a class, at the end of a presentation, at the end of a talk.

Now you might think teaching conveys some kind of a bonus. Trust me, it doesn’t. Teachers do a lot of talking, sometimes too much, in their classrooms. But it’s not the same, trust me.

In a classroom, it’s you, the students, and no one else. You’re the adult, so what’s there to be nervous about? Nothing.

Yet the moment you have to actually prepare to stand in front of your colleagues, and make a presentation or lead a discussion about some topic, it gets to be almost impossible to do.

So, that brings me back to where we began. To get around all this, in my case, I don’t fight it. I know it’s going to happen.

I know my knees are going to be wobbly, my legs will feel like jello, my heart will be racing at 500 beats per minute, my palms will be sweaty and my eyes will be narrowed to almost millimetrical diameter, causing me to have reduced vision, blurry at best.

What gets me through all of this is one thing: Confidence.

I am confident that I have prepared myself well. I am confident that if I can manage to just speak one word, simply say, Good morning, or maybe, Good afternoon…

After that happens, I forget about how nervous I am, and focus on how well prepared I am.

Public speaking, therefore, can be summed up on one word, for me: Confidence. Confidence, you see, that’s the difference between Tina Fey and me. Hers is disproportionate to her looks and abilities. In my case, confidence is all I have, and it’s working out pretty well for me.


About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Culture, Education, EFL, Reflections, Teaching Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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