When You Give The Audience More Than They Bargained For. A Public Speaking Cautionary Tale.
Twenty seconds before I was about to get up to pitch to a crowd of two hundred people, one of the organizers of the pitch competition whispered to me "your shirt's on backwards, I can see your label."
Twenty seconds and I needed to make a decision – flip my shirt around in front of the crowd, or keep it on and take the chance that it will distract me during my sixty second slot. I made a decision: hoping that the dashing master of ceremonies, bright lights and general excitement were enough to distract the crowd, I did the old shirt swivel. You know the one where you bring your arms inside the trunk of the garment, and turn the neck around to face the right way.
Now, many people say that when you do public speaking, one trick to keep focused, is to imagine the audience naked. I enjoy public speaking. It invigorates me. I am good at it. But during those sixty seconds, what was flashing through my mind was wondering whether I had inadvertently flashed the crowds. Perhaps instead of me imagining the audience naked, I had given them an opportunity to imagine me naked instead? The possibility fizzled inside like a soda drink waiting to be released. I felt an urge to burst out laughing. I digressed from my pitch and finished a second over time. When the gong sounded, I laughed out loud and instinctively pulled down the material of my shirt. I stared out into the crowd wondering whether I had given them more than they had bargained for. And not in a good way.
There's something I need to tell you. A confession of sorts. Wearing things backwards and/or inside -out is a thing with me. I can't explain it, but it is how I roll. Never on purpose, mind you. My family and friends laugh at me as they point it out. I am sure that I am the only person in the world who has worn cotton pants inside out – zipper on the inside.
It wasn't my best performance. I will admit. It also wasn't my worst. There will be thousands more. But I have one regret. I should have gone on with the shirt backwards. Not because of the distraction, or the funny images that raced through my mind at the time. Not because of the digression in the pitch, but because if wearing something inside out is how I'm configured, I should embrace the madness and declare "this is me".
Maybe I will even start to do it on purpose.