Bizarre-O Happenings in the Public Speaking World

I keep listening for the Twilight Zone music in the background. Had a BIZARRE speaking experience this morning.

About two weeks ago I was contacted by a new communications instructor at a community college. I'd been recommended to her as a speaker and she knew I was a writer and wanted me to speak to her class about how their coursework is applied in the workplace. I assumed it was a writing or general communications class, which was my first mistake. Assume nothing, ever! But we agreed that I--along with my friend and fellow scribe Ed--would speak to her class from 10-12 today.

Ed and I were running a few minutes late.  We raced up to the stairs to the classroom at 10:05. As we approached the room, the door was closed and we peeked in to find the students bent over a paper at their desk.

"Hold on," I said, digging in my bag. "That looks like they're taking a test. Let me make sure I have the right room."

I did, so we knocked and went in. The instructor didn't look surprised to see us, but we were surprised when she announced that the test they had been getting ready to take would be put off to listen to the guest speakers.

Test? Aren't most tests planned? Why was there a test on the day we're scheduled to speak for two hours?

Ed nudged me and nodded his head toward the front of the room where an overhead proclaimed "Public Speaking Is An Art."

"That's probably just a side topic," I whispered. We were led to the front of the room where we were again surprised to find ourselves introduced as two speakers that would attest to the importance of public speaking in the business world.

Um...what? We came prepared to talk about writing and finding writing opportunities, and magazines and books and pay schedules and expectations, etc. Thankfully, Ed and I both think fast on our feet and we switched gears and talked about how much we use public speaking in our careers as authors and then backtracked to former careers and talked about how we used speaking/writing skills then as well.

Meanwhile, I get the feeling this instructor is trying to politely bring our session to a close as she inches closer and closer to us. The upshot was that we went in to teach a 2-hour writing course and ended up with 30 minutes on public speaking.

Ed and I walked out of the building. "What was that?" he exclaimed.

"I have no idea," I said. "I can show you the e-mails that confirmed the day and time we were to speak. There was no mention made of any public speaking class or talking about public speaking."

There's a bit of not following my gut here. Yesterday and even this morning I kept expecting to see an e-mail arrive from the instructor, reminding me of the class or just one of those, "Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!" reminders. I always send those out to people I have scheduled to speak. But, nothing. I thought about e-mailing her to confirm I'd be there but decided, "Not necessary."  Another reminder to always follow your gut.

It was just a weird experience. We felt awkward for interrupting their exam and it didn't seem like they were expecting us. But on the other hand, I almost feel an apology is due us. Ed drove almost 90 minutes to meet me for the class. We both interrupted our mornings--and our work--for it. I agree with Ed--What WAS that???

I'll take it as a lesson to do a better job confirming what topic I'll be speaking on and for what purpose. Meanwhile... the experience did at least draw me out of my bad mood from this morning. Always look for the positive.