Go Break a Leg

A couple of months ago, an email hit my In Box at work.

Congratulations, it read. If you are reading this, you’re one of the lucky employees selected to give a presentation at our upcoming member symposium in September. 

I didn’t understand how my boss could use words like “congratulations” and “lucky” in an email that announced such gut-wrenching news. A presentation? In front of a crowd? Of living, breathing humans?!

Let me put this in perspective for you. There are three things in life that terrify me:

  1. Ants
  2. Jumping out of an airplane with a parachute strapped to my back
  3. Public speaking

I’m a writer. We usually toil away behind the scenes, letting our written words speak for us. Sure, I have moments when I crave an audience and cut loose, but those are few and far between, and on my own terms. Giving a formal one-hour presentation on “Social Media Success” does not sound the least bit appealing. So, I marched into my boss’s office that afternoon.

“Why do you hate me?” I asked.

“Because you’re a Broncos fan,” he replied. “Just kidding. I don’t hate you. What makes you say that?”

“Because you assigned me this presentation when I am deathly afraid of speaking in public.”

At that moment, I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. He looked at me, genuine concern on his face, and said, “If you don’t feel comfortable with it, Mark, I won’t make you do it. I can assign it to somebody else.”

YES YES THANK YOU!!! I thought. But that’s not what came out of my mouth. Instead, inexplicably, it was “That’s okay. I can do it.”

Wait. WHAT?!?!

My boss had just given me an out, and I didn’t take it. Stupid, stupid, stupid. My thinking was, my boss must be so impressed with my work and skills, he’s assigned me an important presentation for the company’s premier annual event. I’d better man up and do it. And sure, part of me is pleased that I’ve received this type of recognition. Only a handful of employees are presenting during this meeting. I am one of the few, the proud, the chosen.

Sure. This could be fun...
Sure. This could be fun…

So now, I’m kinda hoping for an act of nature to intervene. Maybe my gall bladder will act up and I’ll wind up in the hospital that weekend. Wait, that train already rolled through the station. Damn it. Now I’m going to have to break a leg or something. And I don’t mean that in the way people wish each other good luck, you know, “go break a leg out there, Mark.” No, I mean literally. It may be my last reasonable excuse to get out of presenting. Unless a volcano erupts or I get food poisoning or something.

Ooh…food poisoning…

I kid, I kid. I don’t really want anything bad to happen. It’s one hour out of my life. Get through this, and the rest of the year is a breeze. So, I’ve actually been pouring everything I’ve got into this presentation. I’ve been doing so much research on social media, I’ve neglected my actual social media sites. Yesterday, hours went by without me checking Facebook even once. Don’t laugh. I’m the guy who posts a status update when his house is burning down, remember? So if activity on the blog has been slow, blame it on the fact that my boss thinks I’m awesome. On the plus side, I can now tell you who founded Instagram and when Yelp was launched and how many unique monthly visitors Twitter has.

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, 2004, and 250 million. You’re welcome.

Also, I’ve decided that if I’m going to do the presentation, I’m going to DO the presentation. This means opening with a little stand-up comedy routine. I don’t know what possessed me to do this – hello, guy over here who hates speaking in front of people! – but do it I am, and when I ran it by my boss, he thought it was a great idea. So now I’ve got this little riff on Portland. I’m actually going to stand up in front of a crowd of strangers and say, “You may have heard it rains a lot here, but people exaggerate. It actually only rains twice a year in Portland: October through May, and June through September.” I’m not saying I’m the next Louis C.K., but I think that’s at least mildly humorous. And will take me WAY out of my comfort zone.

End of September. I can do this. Deep breaths.

On a lighter note, remember my belly dancer stalker, Melissa? We had plans to meet up at this year’s Alberta Street Fair, which is tomorrow. It was to be our star-crossed moment, where I introduced myself as the blogger who publicly declared his lust for her (before my beautiful fiance was in the picture, of course), and she gave me a big hug and a private dance. Or…whatever. I have no idea what actually would have happened. Probably a lot of blushing on my part. But alas, it turns out her troupe (shout out to Gypsy Heart Tribal) is not scheduled to perform at this year’s street fair, after all. Upon learning this, Tara and I decided to not even attend the street fair. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed it the past two years, but without the belly dancers, what’s the point? We’d rather just bum around Hawthorne for a bit. Besides, we’ve got The BIte of Oregon in the evening. I’m already worn out from our weekend, and it doesn’t even begin for another couple of hours yet!

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19 thoughts on “Go Break a Leg

  1. Okay, this is too funny. I’m over here reading about your public speaking angst and your over there commenting something about Madonna on my pivot post. Hope you and your beloved have an awesome weekend. Can’t wait to hear how your stand up “debut” goes in September.
    btw, did you see Madonna’s Super Bowl half time show when she almost bought the farm tromping around on those bleachers? Now THAT would have been hilarious.

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  2. Just imagine them sitting there in their underwear and hold a paper clip in your hand to transfer your nervous energy to and last but not least, imagine Tara being with you. You’ll be fine!!

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  3. “Public speaking”

    Mark, I’m the same way! I can stand up and ACT in front of anyone, but ask me to share a public speech and I shake in my pants. I’ve done it and will do it, but it scares the shit out of me.

    What helps me is to take deep breaths beforehand, so that my mind and body are relaxed. And I think it’s a SUPER idea that you’re going to start off with some stand-up comedy because it will break the ice and relax you.

    You’re gonna be GREAT, I just know it!

    Break a leg, buddy! And be sure to let us know how it goes!

    Have a faaaaaaabulous weekend!

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  4. If it’s any help I’m the kind of guy who can seed your presentation’s audience with anywhere from a handful to several dozen people of whatever degree of disruptiveness you feel the situation might merit to get you off the hook in record time while avoiding you losing face to your boss. Alternately (or in addition), I can also arrange for a couple of gunny sacks of primed and loaded skunks to be released into the auditorium if that’s the route you want to take. Call me — we’ll talk.

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      1. Actually training the skunks to recognize you might be tricky but keeping you sweet smelling won’t be a problem! We’ll deploy the skunks starting at the front at the fifth row and a skunk for every three rows after that. With the kind of panic that usually ensues the skunks ought to be depleted before they get anywhere near you but, just to be on the safe side, wear a dark suit with a white stripe up the back.

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  5. I don’t know if I’ve ever said this to you before, but I used to be a DJ (music for weddings, socials, etc). Part of doing a gig is getting the crowd revved up & enjoying themselves. When I first started out, I had the most difficult time actually saying anything to the crowd over the mike – then I had to train someone else to become a DJ.! While they mastered the fine art of bleeding one song into another & learning other equipment related tasks, I did their talking for them over the mic. I didn’t want to appear to have mouth constipation, so I opened my mouth & the words just fell out & they were good! Before the night was up, my trainee was handling both aspects of the job really well & I never had the same nervousness in front of a microphone again. As you practice your routine for your presentation, try pretending your training someone else to give the presentation – see if it helps! (sorry, I added a nickel today)

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