Another speech, with normal anxieties

by Rob Tiller

Some months back, I agreed to do a talk on software patents for the NC Bar Association’s IP Section annual meeting.  When I accepted the invitation, I thought of the task as something of a public service.  I also thought there was plenty of time to do it, which there was.  By last weekend, though, there was not plenty of time; the talk was less than a week away.  My plate was overloaded with time sensitive matters, and there was no room in the schedule for philosophical reflection.  In the middle of the week, I finally carved out a bit of time to work on some slides, and I used the drive to Greensboro for the event as my one and only practice session.

In days gone by, I would get more anxious about this sort of situation.  It’s been a long time since I experienced a full dose of the terror of public speaking, but there’s always a concern that it might be lurking with a view to one more attack.  These days, my worries are more about whether my audience will find my talk interesting, meaningful, and helpful.  Or at least not boring.  And of course, I’m hoping the audience won’t think badly of me.

In the talk on Friday, I shared the stage with a very fine lawyer, Tom Irving.  I knew coming in that Tom was a very experienced speaker, with views quite different from mine on the issues at hand, and more than enough intellectual firepower to make my task uncomfortable.  In the event he was  gracious and personable.  In fact, our presentations were an interesting contrast of views and styles.  Our audience of perhaps 100 seemed interested, asked questions, and applauded.

As usual, after the varying worries, I enjoyed doing the presentation.  Also as usual, it was a great feeling to have it behind me.  It was a beautiful warm spring day when I climbed into my 911 to return to Raleigh.  I enjoyed the drive.