Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Stage fright? Me? Hmmm...

Me and my big mouth. I offered to give a presentation to my fellow members at OPEN sometime early next month and I haven't even begun to prepare. Actually, that's not entirely true because I have chosen my subject: spelling and grammar.

First off, let me explain what OPEN is. The word "OPEN" in this case is an acronym which stands for "Outstanding Professionals Employment Network." It's a chapter of Experience Unlimited, which is overseen by the California Employment Development Department. In order to join OPEN, you must attend a five-day workshop that is offered several times a year. You must complete the entire workshop and receive a certificate. Click here to go to OPEN's website so you can learn more about it. In a nutshell, OPEN's purpose is to help unemployed people learn skills to improve their resumes, interviewing skills, etc. in order to help them return to the workforce.

Let me tell you a bit about OPEN. At OPEN, we attend twice a week and listen to presentations given by fellow members or guest speakers who are knowledgeable about the fine art of writing resumes, interviewing, professional social media (LinkedIn), programs like Microsoft Word® or Excel®, and so forth. For members, we offer what we call "resume scrubs," which is where we break into smaller groups and go over someone's resume, offering tips on better ways to present their qualifications, accomplishments, and so on. Many members have taken their "scrubbed" resumes to job interviews and were hired! The only thing we ask of soon-to-depart members is that they bring us some goodies on their last day at OPEN. It is hoped that everyone at OPEN will find a job. It is one of the few organizations whose purpose is to shut down due to lack of participants. We all look forward to that day when OPEN is closed.

So, about my presentation. One fine day when I was obviously not in my right mind—which could be any day, really—I was talking to our current OPEN president, Bob Minder, and mentioned that our members might benefit from a quick lesson about spelling and grammar. As we all know, there are a lot of people out there who either didn't learn in school, have just plain forgotten, or are too damned lazy to use correct English when corresponding with others. With friends or family, you might get away with it, but employers see things...differently. In their eyes, if you don't know the difference between "to," "too," and "two," then you just might not be a good fit in their company. Better to do things right, I always say. Since I'm an officer on the Spelling and Grammar Police Force, who better than I to educate my fellow OPEN members on the finer points of our language?

On a side note, I've always wondered why we call our language "English" when it's only vaguely similar to what they speak in England Why not call what we speak here in the U.S. "American?" But I don't make the rules; I only enforce them.

What will make this upcoming presentation even more fun is the fact that I do not excel at public speaking. I am a walking case of stage fright if ever there was one. Even in my dreams I can't speak before a crowd. In one dream some years ago, I had to get up before an audience of fellow parents and sing something called The Peanut Butter and Jelly Song, whatever that was. Thankfully I woke up before I could get too far into the song—which I had to make up as I went along, so said the lady in charge. Talk about having something stuck to the roof of your mouth...

To be honest, I'm going to feel a bit awkward telling other adults how to spell and define some very basic words—ones which they should have known since childhood. But it amazes me how many people really don't know. Some of them use "it's" when they mean "its." Some folks use apostrophes to denote plurals. More than one car? Then you have "car's," right? No, you have "cars." And for the ultimate gasp: some of these people actually made it through college and earned a degree! My own degree is a basic, off the shelf Associate of Science degree, and if memory serves, I didn't take any English classes on the way to earning that degree. I learned to speak, read, and write English when I was supposed to: in elementary school and to some extent junior high and high school.

Meanwhile, back here in real life, this presentation will require me to speak in front of no more than 15 or 20 people. Most of them have been with OPEN for awhile and I feel comfortable with them, so maybe it won't be too bad. I also need to come up with a PowerPoint® presentation and handouts to go along with it. That'll take some time, but once I figure out what I'm going to present, getting it onto paper should be fairly easy. But the hard part is coming up with what amounts to a lesson plan. So far, no date has been officially set for my public speaking debut (not counting my college speech class), so I have time to work up to it.

And, for your inconvenience, I plan to record this presentation and share it on Facebook. I may even get bold and put it up on YouTube so the entire world can see it. We will see...