What Not to Say to Someone Giving a Talk
Published on December 11, 2011 by Sara Foss

I gave a talk the other day to a friends of the library group affiliated with a local university. I don't enjoy public speaking, although I generally find it interesting and rewarding. Which might explain why I always accept invitations to speak to groups. I don't get a lot of them, so that makes it easier. Anyway, my speech the other day, which focused on my job as a reporter and column writer, went fairly well.

What I didn't appreciate, though, was having the person who introduced me essentially say that nobody in the audience reads the newspaper for which I work. Now, this could very well be true ... that I was invited to speak to a group of people who are almost completely unfamiliar with my paper. I have no way of knowing. But even if it is true ... why would you say that in your introduction? Why wouldn't you just omit that part? Out of politeness, you know. Of course, if someone says something like that in an introduction, you have to understand that you're dealing with a person who has no idea that they're being rude. Also, how hard is it to give an introduction that's informed and complimentary? Take a half hour, and put together something that doesn't make you sound like an idiot. After all, the person giving the speech probably spent some time preparing to speak to you - you could do the same for her.

Also, after I've finished a talk, I don't really need to hear critical feedback. Just say, "Good job," or "Thank you." If you didn't like the talk, that's fine. Just don't tell me. It was free, after all, and there were cookies - it's not like you spent a fortune to listen to me, and you were free to leave at any time. Even if your criticism is correct, I don't want to hear it. I'm just relieved the speech is over, and am plotting my escape. In this case, the criticism was: "You should try not to say 'you know' so much." Yeah, you're probably right. But you know what? I don't want to hear it. What's fascinating about post-speech criticism is that it always comes from old men, under the guise of friendly advice. They mean well, but really. Sometimes honesty is not the best policy.


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