I, like many folks, have always been afraid of letting myself go and speaking in front of a group of strangers. I may write and practice for weeks before the event is to take place, but then moments before it is to begin, I can feel those predictable butterflies start flickering around in my belly.
This past May fourth, I spoke in front of a group of thirty-five people, mostly strangers who came to hear about my time as a Reconnaissance Marine in Vietnam. I had everything ready. My PowerPoint was put together and arranged to coordinate perfectly with my bullet point presentation. I had my clicker ready, my large projector screen, and my ad libs all practiced, I even had my bottle of water handy at my side.
The friendly faces of two close friends and my loving wife were at the back for reassurance. Then moments before it was to start, the dry mouth started and the clammy hands began.
I talked about that same dry mouth and the clammy hands in my conversation; it had to do with the moments before combat. The dryness of your mouth and the sweat on the palms of your hands was the same, but of course comparing public speaking to combat…well at least no one in the crowd wanted to kill me, I think.
All-in-all, it went pretty well. Just like most things in life, once I started speaking I relaxed, and the mountain shrunk back into the molehill.
I think those who attended enjoyed themselves, for the most part, although a woman in the front row seemed queasy a few times when I mentioned dead people. But…death is part of war and Vietnam was a war after all.