Fear and Technobabble

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007, 10:25 am

Did my little presentation at BootCampPGH this past Saturday, I guess if I had to assign a grade I’d give myself a solid B-minus. I was more nervous than I thought I’d be. I’m the quiet sort (unless I’m on the court, or I’ve had 2 beers) and while public speaking doesn’t scare me THAT much, I was more nervous than I expected. But I guess it all went all right, and hopefully Pittsburgh will soon be home to scores of bloggers and podcasters raking in the dinero.

Public speaking is usually listed as one of the greatest fears people have, but most of that particular terror was burned out of me in one ghastly moment. I was in 7th grade and in one class we had to give an impromptu, one-minute talk about a random subject. The bell was just about to ring and the teacher who was substituting for a week (who I later took tennis lessons from) picked my name out of the hat and told me to speak about my favorite foods.

Now, my longtime readers know that I can go on at nauseating length about this subject. No pun intended, but this should’ve been a piece of cake. Instead, I froze. I froze SOLID. I think I got ten words out. I nearly threw up on the floor. A deer, in the headlights. I got a sympathy D for not voiding my bowels.

For some reason, that nightmarish experience liberated me from the worst of the public speaking terrors. One thing I try to do, at all times, is project a sense of absolute confidence. Even if I’m speaking on a subject I know nothing about (like, oh, poker) I maintain an air of serene omniscience. Because the audience can smell fear. They can smell it. And then they attack.

I also tend to speakveryquicklysothatmywordsruntogether, and when I speak in public I focus on how fast I’m talking and how clearly I’m enunciating. Which helps me come across as calm, cool, collected. Even when my belly is full of writhing eels.

It didn’t help that this past weekend was, well, an emotional roller coaster. Now, I do have a fear of roller coasters, one that dovetails nicely with my fear of heights. But you know how when you get off a roller coaster you’re laughing and exhilarated? Yeah, that was me this weekend. Am I being cryptic enough for you? I certainly hope so. Hoo boy.

Oh, I actually have a question for yinz. Does anyone use Netvibes? I read about it over at Slate and now I’m obsessed with creating the perfect information-loaded home page. Hearing about all sorts of neat stuff at BootCamp got me into this techie state of mind, I feel like I’m missing so much neat stuff that’s out there. I’m behind the times. Out of the loop.

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4 Responses to “Fear and Technobabble”

  1. TripJax Says:

    I’ve been dabbling in netvibes, though my primary source of info is Google and Yahoo still. If Netvibes had a decent RSS Reader like Google has, I might make the full leap. To be determined.

    I’ll let you know if I dig deeper and like what I find.

  2. Otis Says:

    Me likely Netvibes

  3. Justin Kownacki Says:

    Gene: Thanks for speaking at BootCamp. I think most presenters are in your shoes, especially coming from tech backgrounds where they’re used to interacting with people in NON-real time. As they say, the best way to overcome a fear of anything is to dive right in.

    On that note, please excuse me while I find the nearest beehive and rub it on myself…

  4. Scott Says:


    I thought you did just fine at Podcamp – you didn’t go that fast, your voice was steadier than you thought (I have the same problem when I do public speaking), and you injected the right amount of humor in as well. Plus you inspired me, anyway, because you showed that if you do something you love, it can lead to a great opportunity. A job well done, I thought.

    Scott McWilliams

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