When you’re The Toronto Star’s Fixer, public speaking is part of the job.
But there is no fixing the apprehension I feel whenever I speak to a group of people.
I break out in a sweat at almost every time, a clammy dampness under my arms and sheen on my forehead that every member of the audience is keenly aware of.
Or so it seems, even if it isn’t quite true.
The Star has what it calls a Speakers Bureau, which takes requests from service clubs, community groups, school classes and just about anyone who asks for someone from the paper to talk to their group.
Star staffers are not required to do it, but with a column that’s as interactive as mine, requests for me to speak inevitably roll in, and I feel it’s my duty.
I spoke today to the Guildwood Probus club, which resulted in the usual case of jitters before I began.
When I first look at those people, waiting expectantly for me to regale them, I always wonder who in their right mind could possibly be interested in my opinions.
I once spoke to a service club mostly made up of retired men, after a breakfast of bacon and eggs. Half of them were nodding off five minutes after I started.
Another time I was asked to speak to a Grade Two class in Pickering. They had not the slightest idea of what a newspaper is, and didn’t care.
It was the toughest crowd I’ve ever faced.
But every time I finish, people come up to me and say the enjoyed it, and I’m pretty sure they aren’t just being nice.
I usually end up talking about local politics at some point, and my time as a reporter in the Star’s city hall bureau, which always perks them up.
And by the time I move on to Mayor Rob Ford, whom I knew well when he was a city councillor, I have their undivided attention.
The sweating stops and the fun starts. Everybody wants to talk about the mayor.
It’s one more reason why I am a fan of Ford and consider him the Big Bonus.
By the time I’m done, I’m feeling pretty good about the experience.
Until the few minutes before the next one