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discover's avatar

What was your most embarassing public speaking incident...and how did you cover it up?

Asked by discover (734points) March 19th, 2009

I just read that people are more fearful of public speaking than death!!

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6 Answers

MrItty's avatar

First semester teaching, about 45–50 college sophomores and juniors. We were covering matching and search-and-replace in Perl. In Perl, the operators for matching and search-and-replace are m// and s/// respectively. At one point, in summary of the lecture I had just given, I said to the class, “Okay, so remember, it’s S & M, folks, S & M”.

The class burst out laughing, my face went beat red, and I vowed to remember to always refer to them in the opposite order from now on.

suzyq2463's avatar

I teach Old Testament, and I’ve had more embarrassing public moments than I want to admit. One was due to my ignorance about euphemisms common among my students. I was teaching about Yael (anglicized Jael) who kills a Canaanite general (Sisera) using a tent peg and a hammer. I always tell this story with a great deal of drama because it is so good. At the end, after building things up, I always said, “And she nailed him—nailed him to the ground! Wham!” The students laughed uproariously, and I thought it was because I told a good story. But my husband explained to me one day that “nailed” has very different connotations in today’s lingo. God I feel old.

critter1982's avatar

Prior to giving my final presentation on my thesis for my MBA, I went to the bathroom, only to get some pee on my pants. Thinking quickly, I splashed more water on my pants, stupid me I splashed way to much water to the point it looked like I pissed in my pants. I walked into the classroom and quickly mentioned that I got splashed by the sink. It was a good ice breaker, but I’m not so sure everyone believed me.

cak's avatar

Hmmm….which embarrassing situation to share.

I was presenting the capital expenditure budget for the following year to the board of directors. Instead of saving the company name that I was currently working for – I mentioned the company name that I had recently resigned from…not a great start in from the of the board. When I finished, I realized my mistake. One of the board members said, “Well, that is great for that company; however, would you mind sharing the plans for this company?”

I wanted to throw up. They rolled with it, though. I caught a fair amount of crap for it…a lot of teasing, but I survived.

loser's avatar

I had to publicly introduce my parents once and was so nervous that I said my own last name wrong. All I could do was laugh.

dalepetrie's avatar

I get incredibly nervous, flushed, and shaky in front of people, so naturally I thought it would be a good thing for me to take on a speech class when in college. Bottom line is, I don’t like to be the center of attention…even if I’m just talking to a casual group of people, and suddenly realize that I’m the only one talking and I have everyone else’s rapt attention, I become extremely flustered and nervous. So, I decided I’d face my fears and take this night class which only had like 18 people in it.

Early in the term, we had an assignment to do a speech defining a word or term, and I had only gone up in front of the class once before this to do an introduction speech, which was fairly easy but still nervewracking. And I simply did not know what to define, and I was thinking about it for the entire week (the class met Tuesday nights)...I couldn’t come up with an idea. Come Saturday afternoon, I didn’t have an idea yet, much less a speech, and I was at the mall with my mom and aunt and couple of cousins, and my mom told my cousins and me to wait at an appointed place for a “minute” while they looked in the store. That “minute” felt like an eternity, and was clearly more than a minute. The next day, my cousins and my uncle turned on the football game and I had never been a football fan or really a sports fan of any kind, but I knew they watched this game for like 3 hours, yet I knew there were 4 quarters in a game and that each quarter was 15 minutes.

Then on Monday, I had to go to the doctor, and when I got there, I was told on check in that they’d call me in a minute. 15 minutes later they called me in the room and said that the doctor would see me in a minute. 15 minutes later the doctor saw me, and spent literally a minute with me. Right then, I knew, even though I was riding the ragged edge of disaster, being Monday afternoon and not having my speech written for Tuesday night, that I had my term to define…I would define a “minute”.

So the next night, I went up, made an introduction about “what is a minute?” Is it 60 seconds, 1/60th of an hour, 1/1440th of a day, 1/525,600th of a year (and this was before “Rent” btw), was it the time it took the earth to rotate 1/4 of a degree? I posited that minutes actually had different meanings, depending on exactly what type of minute you were talking about.

Then I launched into what could best be called a “comedy routine”, there’s the mall minute…which can be as short as 2 minutes or as many as 20, these occur when you are shopping, usually with women, and one of them says, “will you hold my bag, I’m going to check out this store for a minute.” Then there’s the football minute, which is right around 3 minutes in duration, one calculates this minute by realizing that there is 60 minutes in a football game, but that the average televised football game lasts 3 hours. Then of course there is the longest minute known to man, the Doctor’s Office minute, which always comes in pairs, and can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes for each of the two minutes, and this occurs when you are asked to wait a minute to be called and another minute to see the doctor.

And basically I nailed it, I had all sorts of flourishes to bring what stands above, which is in its present form “mildly amusing”, to making it just an extremely fun, humorous and entertaining speech, which I should have been happy about.

But the problem was, it was INCREDIBLY well received. My audience, aka my classmates, started to bust out in fits of laughter about 1/3 the way through my presentation. My teacher was nearly falling off his chair in hysterics. People were turning purple, eyes were watering, you could barely hear me over the reaction of the class. And that made it EXTREMELY difficult to continue, because this was no notes, and I KNEW what was coming, and I had to deliver it. Somehow I managed to get through it, but even after I left the stage, they just kept laughing…laughing and LOOKING AT ME.

Now as I said, I don’t like to be the center of attention, and even after my time in the spotlight was over, I was STILL the center of attention. It took about 10 minutes to get the class to the point where the next speaker could go up, but the crowd was still twittering, and the speaker was busting out in fits of laughter while trying to give his speech. So the teacher just said, “you know what, why don’t we go home, regroup, and come back next week?” Then of course I had to have all my classmates coming up to me to personally thank them for getting class dismissed early. So I guess, even though I was “successful”, I was still mortified. And I STILL don’t like to speak in public if I don’t have to.

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