Silence After Speaking
In the lull after any speaking event, I get a little down. I tend to not know what to do with myself, since I end up practicing a ridiculous amount before each talk.
Even though it’s two minutes, I always viewed 20×2 Chicago as more of a performance, and so I preferred to rely more on memorization over notes/reading. And the best way for me to get something like that down is to just practice, over and over and over again.
I’d practice a few times each morning in the shower. I’d practice walking to work, with music playing as a kind of distraction – forcing me to focus. I’d even try to run through the thing right when I woke up, before my feet touched the floor… because if I could perform the talk as the first thing I did (while groggy), I knew I could do it when I was nervous, the night of the event.
It’s a weird and obsessive process, but it works for me.
For the topic of my last talk, I focused on my friend Ann, who died many years ago.
At first, I was nervous about the subject matter. I didn’t want to take advantage, somehow, of her death, using it as a topic. Ultimately, I think the piece was a bit less about her – and a bit more about me, about grief and guilt.
I was expecting to get choked up on stage, but I don’t think I did – not really. I was expecting to lose it on stage, but ended up mostly keeping my composure.
The times I practiced though, I got worked up each time. It’s been a few weeks of this, with a lot of sadness getting brought to the surface each time I ran through the talk.
Normally, when I get on stage – it’s a very self-centered thing. I want to do well, I want to perform well, I want the audience to think well of me.
For the last talk, I did want to do well – but I wanted to do well because of Ann. I kept thinking “When is the next time someone will talk about her, in front of a large group again?” and I didn’t want to screw it up.
I’m glad to have given the talk I did, as it was a personal one – and not something I’d ever done before. But in many ways, I am glad to not be practicing the talk anymore. It was a difficult thing to walk through, numerous times per day.