The One With the Fate Worse Than Death

I’ve been volunteered for a new! and exciting! effective leadership! training class at my company. (There are always a lot of exclamation points when you get volunteered for something.) It’s a seminar designed to brush up on presentation skills.

I am on board if only because A. It means time away from my desk and incessant emails, and B. My current role doesn’t require me to give many presentations. I like it that way. We’ve covered the Myers-Briggs scale in a previous post (Any fellow INFJs in da house?) Things began to go terribly wrong when I received a reminder about the class, and in the small print, it said each student will need to prepare a 15-minute presentation which will be videotaped and critiqued. If we have visual aids to accompany our presentation, there will be projectors and screens available. *

public speaking

I’ll speak in front of small groups when necessary without going comatose. For example, when I was teaching, I didn’t mind standing in front of the classroom. And when The Subway Chronicles was published, I did several book readings and didn’t need to imagine the audience naked. Then I was asked to be interviewed on a local television station about the book. The glare of the lights. My reflection in the camera’s giant lens. The microphone pinned to my shirt. I broke out in an anticipatory sweat. I still can’t bring myself to watch the clip.

I think I can trace my public speaking problem to high school, which seems to be the genesis of most of my problems. Our class hosted a fashion show for a local charitable organization. Somehow I ended up as the emcee of the event. I can’t even remember to agreeing to that. I must have been absent from class that day. The auditorium was full. I held a Bob Barker microphone in one hand and my notecards in another. The little red light flashed on the camera and I froze. My notes got out of order and I was announcing the wrong people in the wrong outfits. I knew my future career would not involve news anchor or game show host.

The worst part about my upcoming presentation is that we were told to pick “any professional topic that interests you.” Now I have to write a 15-minute presentation and then stand in front of a video camera while I melt into the ground like the Wicked Witch of the West? I’m down to the wire and I’m still brainstorming ideas. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  1. Tips on surviving the zombie apocalypse (kindly suggested by a co-worker)

    I promise I won't include any gratuitous personal hygiene shots.

    I promise I won’t include any gratuitous personal hygiene shots.

  2. Video montage of Reggie
  3. Top 10 reasons I love John Hamm
  4. One word: Zumba
  5. How I Met Your Mother series finale—yay or nay?
  6. Puzzles: fun hobby or torture device?
  7. 101 uses for paper clips
  8. Tennis balls: how do they make the yellow fuzz?
  9.  Slideshow of my trip to Martha’s Vineyard
  10. An exploration of my feelings for grilled cheese
  11. A 15-minute silent meditation




* In corporate-speak, “if” equals mandatory. If you are available for this meeting… If you have the numbers ready for the report… If you finish the report by the end of the day… If you want to keep your job…


Do you have any suggestions for topics? I’m open to ideas! How do you feel about public speaking? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 



  1. I’ve been reading Eat, Pray, Love so I’m all for the meditation bit. But Reggie is pretty darn cute so I would like a slideshow of him while I meditate. Best of luck to you. I hate speaking in public, but like you, I was fine when I was teaching.


    1. I think that when I was teaching, the group was small. Also it was more of a workshop setting so there was a dialogue rather than a monologue, which makes the experience more inclusive.

      For my presentation, maybe I’ll do a slide show with Reggie and include Miles and Red Ball. 🙂

      How are you enjoying Eat, Pray, Love?


      1. I finished it last night and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. One of my characters in a book I’m working on mentioned the book so I decided I better find out what it’s about. I remember when this book was flying off the shelves back in 2007 and I wasn’t all that interested. But I found her writing engaging and her honesty refreshing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fellow INFJ here and I feel your pain. I’ve been through such classes…when I’ve had to give presentations over the years in various jobs and volunteer positions. It’s never easy for me and I always need to prepare a 30 minute talk because somehow I talk SO fast that I sound like I’m in fast forward. (When I look around the room I see everyone with mouths dropped open in amazement okay, that may only be in my imagination, I hope!). I’d say give a presentation on fear of public speaking…symptoms, signs, solutions. That should be fascinating to all 🙂 And then ship me the power point, I need a refresher!


    1. I’m not a fast talker. I’m a you know-er. I probably say “you know” or “but um” after every fifth word. It’s embarrassing.

      If I give the presentation on grilled cheese, do you still want the power point slides? 🙂


  3. I’m an INFJ, as well, by the way. I’ve always done well teaching. And I usually do readings of my work about once a month here In Cuenca, but that doesn’t mean I’m not nervous before each reading. I have no suggestions for presentations, though grilled cheese sounds good to me! Hope you and Reggie have an awesome weekend!

    Hugs from Ecuador,


    1. I think it’s the camera that really gets me nervous. It’s one thing to stumble over a presentation with 10 people in the room, and quite another to have it recorded for posterity. 😛

      BTW – -How are your readings going?


  4. I’m afraid I’m no help as the only part of my corporate job I liked was giving presentations. I’m a bit of stage person, that said – large crowds don’t intimidate me as much as one or two people. I’m odd that way. But I do feel for you. I knew many who hated it and thought it was dreadful, some even had to take tranquillisers. Good luck. I think you’ll be fine. I’d love the presentation with Reggie but the grilled cheese topic sounds like fun. I wonder – do you love or hate it?


    1. How can I get you to fly out here and give my presentation on my behalf? 🙂

      I’m a big fan of grilled cheese. On a chilly or rainy afternoon, there’s nothing better for lunch than a grilled cheese and soup. I bet you have some wonderful cheeses in your area that would make for a delicious sandwich.


  5. I don’t mind the public speaking but always have a few butterflies ahead of time no matter how well prepared I am. Your topics all sound…..engaging. How about a step by step demonstration of eating Graze nibblers? Oh wait—is it all gone already? Scratch that. Back up plan could be how to write a wonderful book!!!! 🙂 You’ve got this.


    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence! Can I hire you to give my presentation in my place? I can offer you, umm, one empty Graze box, and Reggie says he will give you a slobbery kiss of thanks. 🙂


  6. Hi Jackie. I feel your pain. I’m also an INFJ. Why don’t you talk about the power of the quiet leader…that’s the “hot” leadership topic now. Leadership has “woken” up to the idea that not all extroverts are great leaders. The book Quiet is all the rage. Have you read it? It talks about the power of the introvert. Also look at the Harvard Business Review for ideas. ** Can you tell I used to do leadership training??? Best of luck! When you find your topic, you’ll feel much more relaxed about it.


    1. I have read Susan Cain’s book. What an eye-opener. Quiet made me realize that it’s okay that I’m not an extrovert. Wouldn’t it be great if there were more introverts in leadership positions?

      Patti, I didn’t know you were a leadership trainer! Thanks for your tips. I’m off to find a good topic now.


  7. I think that meditation idea is a great one. One minute of intro, 30 seconds to pull them out of it. But, really, you can talk about the other volunteer work you do with animals, and you can talk about the writing life.

    Immediately when I know things are recording, I make less sense, I ramble. Many phone messages back me up. But you must think of only the people in the room. Imagine you are with your students. Be funny. It disarms everyone–you included.


    1. That was my thinking exactly. I could turn the lights off, light a candle and play a recording of a woodwind instrument while I quietly slip out of the room and run far, far away.

      Yes, I think the moment I’m being recorded — be it a video camera or a voice mail or even a still photo — I come off like Quasimodo. That’s a great tip to think only of the people in the room. This Wednesday, I’ll tell you all about it.


  8. I think a video montage of Reggie will clear the fences. You’re probably aware that in Spain the authorities euthanized Excalibur the 12-year-old dog of the nurse who contracted Ebola. On top of being so sick, now her dog is dead. Pile it on this poor suffering woman! And think about her husband: on top of his wife being so sick, his dog is dead. Talk about killing that dog unleashed an outpouring of response on the Twittersphere to spare his life, followed with an outpouring of grief in the aftermath of his death. Even though close to 4,000 people have died from this horrific virus, Excalibur’s fate anguished the world so much, that news went viral. When it comes to pets, you instantly score about a hundred empathy points from the start. And if the pet is as handsome and lovable looking as the Reginator, you’ll probably start with a thousand points. Your photogenic dog might even score you the unthinkable: a raise. But I doubt that even he can work the miracle of getting you out of having to give the presentation.


    1. Yes, I’d heard about Excalibur. A very sad situation all the way around to say the least.

      I think a video of Reggie would certainly be a fine subject, though he does spend quite a lot of time napping, Then when he wakes from his nap, he stretches for a few minutes and goes to sleep from all the exertion.


  9. Ha ha, great list! I vote for Jon Hamm, as I’m currently streaming Mad Men on Netflix. Now I know why everyone raved about the show. 🙂
    I too feel your pain–I’d rather clean bathrooms than speak in front of a group. My only advice is to talk about something you know really well so you don’t have to refer to notes all the time. Just pretend you’re talking to a couple of friends and it will look more natural. Good luck, Jackie!


    1. Are you all caught up on Mad Men? The final season begins early next year, I think. It’s fun to watch the episodes back to back like you’ve been doing. You can really get addicted that way. 🙂

      Thanks for the suggestion to talk about something I know well. I get the most nervous when I lose my place in my notes and don’t know what comes next. Fingers crossed.


      1. I am on season 7. Isn’t that the last? I’m seriously addicted and don’t know what I’ll do when it ends. 😉 Jon Hamm really makes that show–it could not be without him.
        It is a real luxury to be able to watch without commercials and season breaks.


  10. Ugh! Poor fellow innie, I feel for ya. Your list is hilarious. I love #11, of course, but have the feeling it would earn you a reputation as a smart aleck. If there is any part of publishing that makes me sweat (and want to drink), it’s the thought of public speaking.


  11. I’m so bad at public speaking, that I’m actually excused from it. I turn a violent shade of red and stammer. It’s really awful. Good luck…I vote for the grilled cheese, because really, what’s better than cheese melted between two crispy buttery slices of yummy bread?


  12. Definitely a slide show of Reggie! I’m fine with presentations but hate the idea of being filmed (was filmed once and pretended it wasn’t happening, ugh!). Another horrible presentation experience is when I had to give one using those head microphones (the ones you see Britney Spears use while dancing… no I wasn’t dancing). For some reason, I felt so awkward, like I was wearing a over-the-head retainer!

    Best of luck on your presentation- let us know how it goes!


  13. Such a broad assignment. Yikes! Wish you had more perimeters. Maybe silent meditation is the way to go. Just kidding! I’m sure you will do a great job. (Felt your pain in that fashion show story.) How about the topic of doing what’s important instead of what *feels* urgent. So, important task before email. Stuff like that???


  14. I think the grilled cheese angle sounds strong, but then I march on my stomach. My daughter gets excruciatingly nervous and found she could perform in front of a hall of 300 people by choosing something from her obsession (she’s a Phantom fan) and sang ‘Think of me’. How about talking about something doggycentric?


    1. There’s so much one can say about grilled cheese. I’d like to give a step-by-step tutorial with samples at the end. That would be a big hit with the participants.
      Or I could bring Reggie for show and tell. But everyone would have to beware their socks. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d say fashionably late, Peg. Come on in, you’re the life of the party. I’d love to be a professional blogger… just waiting for the fame and fortune to start rolling in. In the meantime, I’m an editor. 😉


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