Adventures in Public Speaking

In my years at NPR, I've been called on to read essays on Morning Edition, speak extemporaneously in roundtable discussions, and (for the first time this week) talk live on the air without relying on NPR's editing magicians to turn my apelike grunts into coherent commentary.

I'm still a rookie at this public-speaking stuff compared to Bob Boilen and Carrie Brownstein, with whom I've gotten to co-host many of our live streams in the past two days. Bob's been hosting All Songs Considered for years, while Carrie has stood in front of gargantuan crowds while in Sleater-Kinney. Still, when it came time to decide who would introduce last night's Yo La Tengo webcast/broadcast on stage, in front of a thousand or so people at the Austin Music Hall, Bob and Carrie and I all turned green simultaneously.

As the most easily discarded member of our particular broadcast team, I was chosen for the task — no matter how many times I insisted that Bob is the ruggedly handsome face of NPR Music, or threatened Carrie with plans to incite an audience chant of "Carrie! Carrie! Carrie!" to bring her out on stage in my place.

In the end, I got out there, flapped my yap for 30 or 40 seconds, and did not burst into flames and die of embarrassment.

But it got me thinking: We had three natural candidates for this particular task — an experienced host, a veteran rock singer, and an attention-starved toddler — and the thought of talking on stage terrified all three of us. Why is that, exactly? Barring an actual study on the subject, I'll blame every elementary-school play ever performed, starting with my own.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I'm sure that if Carrie had her SG with her she would have felt more comfortable.

Sent by Gary Drechsel | 3:35 PM | 3-14-2008

doing introductions seems like a delicate balance. you're acutely aware that no one really cares what you say and probably the only way to get noticed is to do something wrong which could be almost anything socially awkward. being fan-ish is "lame" and the most egregious offense of course is seeming like you're upstaging the main act -- which there's no chance of unless you're justin timberlake. if that isn't a discomfiting set of circumstances for a self-aware human being, i don't know what is. also, it's a lot harder to throw a cup of beer over the airwaves or at someone with a large blunt object/guitar.

Sent by jk | 4:52 PM | 3-14-2008

Dont' sweat it, you probably just need more experience. It comes with time. James told me you did just fine.

Or try PLAYING in front of an audience. The first time I played CBGBs, a 350 lb skinhead gave me the finger the whole set. Turns out, he was just trying to say how much he enjoyed the show.

Sent by An Chi Get | 11:06 AM | 3-15-2008

It just takes time and practice to get comfortable with public speaking. I'm sure with more experience you'll be more comfortable. James said you did just fine.

Also, try getting out and PLAYING in public. First time I played CBGBs, a 350 lb skinhead gave me the finger the whole show. Turns out he was just saying he really liked the set.

Sent by An Chi Get | 11:22 AM | 3-15-2008