No Brown M&Ms

I haven’t blogged much about CASBS, which I will do. But part of the deal (for now) is that each fellow delivers a lecture. We meet once a week. Yesterday was my day. I’ve given a few talks this year and each one has been an experiment to see what my voice will handle and how I can figure out a mode of delivery. This seems so simple, but given that my performance style was very much structured around a level of power in my voice that is simply not possible to reproduce now that I only have one vocal cord, I’ve been wandering in the wilderness a bit.

For now, I think I’ve finally found the solution:

1. Sit down. I have a lot of adrenaline pumping when I deliver a talk. Sitting forces me to, well, sit still rather than pace, and focus on my breath and delivery.

2. Don’t read. I’d originally though reading would be a good idea because it would allow me to focus on the mechanics of speaking. But that’s not actually true. Working from a script means bending my speech to written language. So yesterday I used notes and did a more “torture by powerpoint”* type of presentation.

3. Use the speech amp instead of a mic. The key here is that I’m wearing it on my head, rather than on my lapel, or leaning into a stationary mic. I guess if I had a nice strong mic on the table that would be one thing, but lapel mics and the like don’t give me the same feedback (the good kind), and I’ve had several podium mics this year that wouldn’t cooperate. Anyway, it’s sort of like walking with a cane instead of hanging onto the guardrail.

4. Know the material cold. For formal presentations, at least, I need to go in absolutely sure of what I want to say and how I want to say it. I don’t actually have to be finished with the project, but I have to be very comfortable with what I want to say. That way, I can focus on the delivery but in my own voice. How this will work with work in progress or things I haven’t been working on for seven years has yet to be seen.

All this means that I will be a more demanding guest speaker when people invite me to give talks. Which is fine–I already am. Now I just know what to ask for.

I also wonder whether this means I will be delivering large lecture courses while seated and how that will work. I have a year to figure that out and work on my delivery more. And to see my speech therapist in Montreal. We shall see.


In other news, the mp3 ms is with my research assistant who is editing it. Then it goes back to Duke. I’ve got a few loose ends (acknowledgments) but sometime in April it will be off my desk.

* “Torture by powerpoint” was coined by Jenny Burman to describe the insipid practice of putting up slides and then reading them to the audience with additional content. I didn’t actually do that, but I did have a few bullet points.