The Perfect Speech

VGI have been speaking in front of audiences for nearly all my adult life.  Even in college, I was a fraternity president, running fraternity meetings.  Professionally, my public speaking consisted of technical presentations, accompanied by what have been for as long as I can remember been called viewgraphs.  Very early in my career, they were painstakingly mounted in glass frames by the art department, meaning they had to be designed several weeks before the presentation.  Later, the art department designs were produced on paper, then copied onto clear plastic sheets.  The large projectors known as viewgraph machines were permanent residents of every meeting room.   The growth of personal computing and software like Microsoft Powerpoint revolutionized the process, allowing engineers to make their own viewgraphs … right up to the moment of the presentation.   These days, the viewgraphs are projected directly from the computer onto the screen.   When I was a presentation newbie, I would carefully write out everything I wanted say on sheets of paper attached to each viewgraph.  Writing it out helped me remember what I wanted to say and gave me notes to keep nearby in case I lost my place.  Some years later, my mentor and current business partner, Paul, taught me know the critical members of the audience and anticipate their questions.  By knowing how I’d answer those questions, I increased the possibility that the customer would buy into the conclusions my presentation offered.

This tendency to be hyper-prepared sometimes haunts me in personal situations when I have to talk to someone about a difficult subject, particularly something I know they will not want to hear.   The tendency is even greater if I have had confrontations with that person in the past.   I find myself doing something I describe as rehearsing The Perfect Speech.   Knowing what I want to say is always a good idea but this goes far beyond that.  I find myself rehearsing every word over and over while I’m driving … walking in the park … working in the garden.  I want the exact words that will avoid confrontation at all costs.   I want the person I’m talking to say, I thought I wasn’t going to like what you had to say but your logic is undeniable.  I’m all in.  This has happened exactly 0% of the time that I’ve rehearsed The Perfect Speech.

When I first started speaking in 12-Step meetings, it was the same way.  I’d plan my shares, sometimes, a week in advance, to sound as if I had everything together.   I wanted to be a 12-Step star.   Then, my sponsor told me to have an idea of what I wanted to say in mind, but turn the exact words to say them over to my Higher Power before speaking.  I’ve learned to do that but in meetings there’s not usually a desired outcome involved.  I’m just communicating what I think.  Or feel.  Communicating.  For years I considered myself a great communicator but what I was doing was presenting my (or the company’s) point of view with the intent of convince.   When I find myself rehearsing The Perfect Speech, I’m trying to control not only the outcome of the discussion but assuring that we arrive there without any confrontations or issues.  I wouldn’t be rehearsing The Perfect Speech if that was going to happen.  It is much harder to turn my words over to my Higher Power when that also means turning over an outcome, but that’s why Let Go and Let God  isn’t always easy.

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