One of my first evaluated public speaking events was a disaster.
In high school, my teacher filled a basket with index cards. Each card had a "topic" printed on it. One by one, we had to go to the front of the room and pick a random card from the basket. We then had 60 seconds to prepare a 5-minute presentation on the topic we selected.
When it was my turn, I went to the front of the room and picked out a card. I looked, and my card said, "Break on through to the other side". I put the card in my pocket.
An abbreviated version of the next 60 seconds inside my head went something like this:
What does he expect from this? A motivational speech? I can't give a motivational speech! What are we suppose to break through? School? What's on the other side of school? This is terrible. I don't know what to talk about. I should say I'm going to the bathroom and pull the fire alarm.
Wait - this is a Door's song. Jack likes the Doors. I remember seeing another song called "Peace Frog". What a strange name for a song. "Peace Frog". Frogs eat flies.
Is my fly open? No.
If my fly was open in front of class, Melanie Weigel would be laughing and telling the whole school. She's such a drama queen. One day I'm going to fill her locker with shaving cream – just to see the scene she creates.
Frogs are green.
Kermit the frog is green.
I loved the Muppet show. Especially those two old guys sitting in the balcony, razzing on everyone. I wonder if the show is ..."
With no escape in sight, I put on my bravest face and stood behind a little podium at the front of class. Having completely forgotten my original topic, I proceeded to ramble for 5 minutes about characters on the Muppet show. You can't go wrong talking about Muppets. Everyone loves Muppets!
I could tell by my teacher's expression he wasn't loving Muppets. He asked me what was printed on my card. When I pulled out my card and announced my topic, there was about 10 seconds of dead silence. Everyone was trying to figure out how I went from "Break on through to the other side" to a television show about hand puppets named Miss Piggy and Dr. Bunson Honeydew.
I've worked really hard over the years to get better, and stay on topic.