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On presenting and speeches

  • Work

During a first session with a mentee (my ADPList profile, if you want to book a session!) I discovered my latest speech habit: prefacing what I say with “obviously”, with examples like:

  • “Obviously, this varies from place to place…”
  • “Obviously, this is a sweeping statement; I don’t mean everything…”
  • “Obviously, when we’re doing this, we won’t do it exactly like I’m saying now…”

I’m trying to figure out why or when I’ve started doing this. I have other habits — using too many ‘like’, the word ‘basically’ (which, after being called out sometime last year, I’ve switched over to using ‘essentially’. Same problem, different word) — but “obviously” is new. Or at least, in an ironic way, something that hadn’t been obvious to me.

Whatever the defence mechanism is fueling this, I think I’ll do well to stop doing it. I forget things that are obvious to me might not be obvious at all to the person I’m speaking to.

Even if it’s obvious, it also seems redundant to call that out, now that I’m thinking about it. Maybe it’s my need to cushion my words with fillers to make myself less nervous about human interaction?

Observations like this used to (?) make me super self-conscious.

I remember a class called Speech Communications in my mass communications course, when during an evaluation of a speech, I was told that I tug at my shirt a lot when I’m talking. I took that feedback and suddenly I’m a rigid robot the next time I’m trying to present something.

Then, when that was called out as well, I started gesticulating a lot; big movements with my hands. It’s something that I still do now, I think.

I went away with a loss of confidence in public speaking after the class, which is pretty much the opposite of what the intended outcome was.

Now that Singapore is opening up again with a majority of the population vaccinated, and people are trickling back into the office (and we are also encouraged to go back at least once a week), I’m trying to figure out how to do presentations in-person again. I haven’t done that in the past year and a half, and I know it’ll be a curve I have to overcome.

Still, the annoying thing about skills of this nature is that the more you do it, the better you get at it. Right before the pandemic hit, I was looking into joining a Toastmasters club. Maybe it’s time to start looking again.

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