PUBLIC SPEAKING

I forgot who told me this, but a few years ago, I got this great piece of advice about doing interviews: Try and keep your answers down to a few choice words because, chances are, the reporter only needs a sentence or two from your interview for their story. So try not to give rambling answers that go nowhere.

I wish I had learned this when I first started speaking in public.

I mean, honestly, who ever thinks that they're going to be interviewed by the media?  Not I.  And how do you really prepare for an off-the-cuff question so that you come across poised, knowledgable, and competent?  I shrug my shoulders.

I have to preface this blog by saying I, like so many others, was afraid of public speaking. I did drama in high school, but that was me being a character.  Me being me was nerve-racking.  I couldn't even raise my hand to say anything in my interpersonal communication class in college because I was so dumbstruck.  (For 20% of our grade, we were given a choice between joining in the class conversation or doing a 30 page paper.  I opted for the paper.)  I eventually got over this fear because I had to.  It was in my job description to talk to the media.  Fortunately, the interviews got easier and I've now grown fairly comfortable in my skin that I'm able to speak on a dime.  I've breezed through dozens of interviews, taught at Loyola Marymount University for several years, given seminars at several universities, and done a number of public speaking engagements in front of some pretty diverse audiences.  Mostly because I have something to say and I'm confident in my content.  On the other hand, throw me into a room alone, full of strangers, and I head straight towards something to lean on.

I wanted to share this with you upfront so you can fully appreciate all the nervousness and anxiety that lie in between the lines of  the transcripts you're about to read.  That is, if you're still reading.  You are?  Cool.  The following is from my first public speaking engagement to the media.  It took place in July of 1994 at the Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Universal Hilton Hotel. The panel consisted of Betty Cohen, the Executive Vice President of Cartoon Network, Mike Lazzo, the Vice President of Programming, Fred Seibert, the President of Hanna Barbera, Ralph Bakshi, and three new cartoon directors: Butch Hartman (who went on to create The Fairly Odd Parents), Craig McCracken (creator of The Powerpuff Girls), and myself.  The audience consisted of about 75 print journalists, Turner executives, and guests who were basically there to report and judge the programs we worked so hard to produce.

Beforehand, we were given a potential Q & As/Talking Points folder which we were to familiarize ourselves with if someone asked us a question. Which I fecitiously say, did little to prepare me for sitting in front of all those people staring at me.   The following is an excerpt from the actual transcripts. This was my first recorded line of publicity:

QUESTION: This is a question for Van, what cartoon have you created? Tell us about your character and how you did it.

VAN PARTIBLE: The character I created is called Johnny Bravo. It's this guy. (laughter) And he looks a little bit like James Dean kind of thing, but he talks like Elvis. And he's picking up on people at the zoo, women at the zoo. And he finds this animal trainer girl, and she realizes that the gorilla's escaped from the zoo, and basically he tries to pick up on the girl and all kind of stuff ensues. It takes off from there and it's pretty funny. It doesn't sound funny from what I'm saying, but it's funny. I think it's funny.

To highlight the absurdity of my existence in this panel and show how unequipped I was at public speaking, here's another excerpt from the actual transcripts:

QUESTION: Van, I have a question for you. I'd like to know how it feels having just graduated from college working next to such veterans as Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, Ralph Bakshi. What does that feel like?

PARTIBLE: It's really neat, because the job I had before this, I was working at a school. And so I'm like -- I mean, I tried applying at all these other animation places and nobody liked me because I didn't have anything to show them.

And finally they had this talent search. I guess Hanna-Barbera had this talent search. And they saw my film and I guess they liked it because they called me back in. Because I did this student film back in college, which was last year. (laughter)

And they said, develop something. I developed something and beyond that and I was like wow. So it kind of like hasn't really hit me, because I basically don't feel myself on that level. So it's really neat.

QUESTION: Ralph, you're shaking your head. How does it feel to be sitting next to someone who just graduated from college? (laughter)

Ralph went on to say how he thought the program was "sensational" and how "these kids are coming in and being allowed to be themselves," while I sat there thinking, "I just said, 'It's really neat.'  A lot."

It's been a long road, but I'm happy to say that I'm now able to take a breath and answer questions without rambling so much.  I mean, I still ramble at times, but I always try to make sure and conclude my statements with a breath and a few choice words.

I recently did an interview for The Loyolan, the newspaper at my old alma mater, Loyola Marymount University. Fortunately, they e-mailed me a list of questions that I could ponder and answer in my own time. You can find it at:

http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/lmu-originated-johnny-bravo-on-dvd-1.2243967

Before I end this post, I'd like to say thank you to everyone who has posted on this site. It's humbling to know that people actually read my ramblings and care enough to comment on them.