Editor’s Note: Bill Haurton just returned from a trip to his alma mater, the place where he delivered his valedictory, along with not one, but three speech contest finals. But public speaking is a lot harder when it isn’t chalk-full of inside jokes. He was awful and limped into a Q&A session, in which he wet himself on stage, the only thing that saved him from his later attempt at self-immolation. He recovered and, like any American who fails, is now blaming the audience and shopping around a self-help book on public speaking, Speaking to Piss Ants in Piss Pants. Below is an excerpt from what will be his seminal work.
If you’re going to give a speech, make sure it’s worthwhile, and if you can’t do that, at least make sure you don’t announce that you bombed in the presence of TSA. They’re going to see you naked anyway, why make them feel awkward and necessary at the same time.
I made both mistakes last week in what was my least successful speaking engagement since asking for my first date. So, here is a how-to if you ever find yourself talking to a room full of teenage hormones and suffocating silence.
DO: Speak to your audience. If you start insulting Mark Zuckerberg and the demon behind Twitter in front of a bunch of high schoolers, don’t be surprised to find you’ve been the subject to an online smear campaign. American 12th graders may not be able to read or write, but they are trolling at a rate far beyond their Chinese peers.
DO: Keep on going. Your alcoholic father may have taught you if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, but this does not apply when you are at the podium. The only thing worse than speaking to a room full of people silently judging you, is to hear the judgments aloud when you have gone silent mid-sentence. The trick is to picture everyone in their underwear, then point at one teen and scream “he’s got a knife.”
DON’T: Really picture the kiddies in their underwear. Just because they’re at an age when accidental boners are inevitable, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for you to have one.
DO: Make eye contact with your audience. This maintains a connection with them and lends credibility to your claim that weapons are present in the auditorium.
DON’T: Read from the script with your head down. When your speech blows up in your face, your audience will realize you actually put time, thought and effort into your terrible prose. Better to play it off casually and say you didn’t even try.
DO: Go up there with a glass of water. Coughing is poor form and you can always pour it on the microphone and claim technical difficulties.
DON’T: Bring your liquor up there. High schoolers need alcohol just to communicate with one another. They expect more out of an adult. Grow up and score some Xanax.
DO: Maintain good posture. Body language is very important to communicating your ideas. Nothing works better than a middle finger to wake up an unresponsive crowd.
DON’T: Get too long-winded. People have short attention spans. It’s best to keep your sentences short and to the point. EXAMPLES: “They’re not paying me enough for this;” “Yeah? Well, screw you too;” “This is awful, I’m sorry.”
DO: Watch the State of the Union Address tonight and see which Supreme Court Justice finds a knife under his robe. Check back in the afternoon for Crooked Copy’s list of drinking game rules for the address. We will also live Tweet the event, so be sure to follow us HERE.
APPENDIX A: This series of jokes was run by a number of editors and fans to see if it was appropriate. Amazingly, 1/3 of those consulted objected to the “knife” joke because it conjured up images of the Tragedy in Tucson. It was not Crooked Copy’s intention to expose those of you who share this view as tolerant of pedophilia.