Tom's Techno Talk

Submitted into Contest #114 in response to: Write about someone grappling with an insecurity.... view prompt


Fiction Speculative

Tom’s Techno Talk 

Tom could communicate well with other people through the computer or even on the phone (never with Facetime). But when it came to making public presentations, he was hopeless, and he knew it only too well. Tom was aware that sometimes at conferences with multiple presenters at the same time, people who went to his talk did not do so just for the information that he presented as much as for a laugh at the way that he screwed up his presentation, counting up the times he said such things as ‘what I really meant to say was.’  He had learned about his being attended for humour’s sake that one time when he was in a cubicle in the men’s washroom, and he heard two guys talking about his presentation and laughing about how clumsy it was.

Tom was an expert in his field, and he knew that if he could present well publicly that he would advance further in his position at the big technology company for which he worked. He might even get hired part-time by a university, which was a goal that he very much wanted to achieve. It was a long-held dream of his. But as long as he could not speak well in a public setting, it just could not ever happen. He could well imagine how students would react to him in the classroom. He had been a guest lecturer a few times, and each time his performance was far less than ideal. His intense insecurity was his downfall in such a situation.

He was thinking about this now, as his boss had asked him to do something that he (Tom) absolutely dreaded. Next month he would be presenting on behalf of his company, and there would be a lot of people there that his boss (who had never before attended any of Tom’s public presentations) wanted to impress with the innovative work that the company was doing. As Tom was the lead researcher on their biggest new project, the boss thought that Tom would be the best one for this particular job. Tom knew that his boss’s respect for him would plummet if he said that he could not do it. And he dearly wanted that respect for the future that he hoped for.

Tom Finds Inspiration

That night Tom felt a great need to relax. He had worked himself into a bit of a frenzy concerning what his boss had asked him to do. When he wanted to calm himself down, he would watch old television programs. He particularly liked to view variety shows, in which several different kinds of entertainment would be performed by masters of their particular art form. The Ed Sullivan show was an especial favourite of his for this type of show. He programmed to watch several of them in his collection.

Tom laughed, and smiled through the first show, making him feel a little better. But it was the second show that really got to him, because it provided him with an inspiration for how he was going to make his much-feared presentation a success. After the act that gave him the idea was over, he turned the television off, and went straight to his computer. The words “I can do this” “I can do this” he said out loud as he plotted out what he had to do.

The next day, he organized a meeting of the people that had the skills he needed, and, of course, his boss, who would not know the main reason why he had developed his particular strategy.

When he explained to his fellow employees and his boss what he wanted to do, and, allegedly, why he wanted to do it, he could sense that everyone was with him on this plan. But a lot of work had to be done for the object of the plan to be completed. 

The Big Day

It was the big day, the day of the presentation. Tom was somewhat nervous, but nowhere near to the extent that he usually was for just such a situation. When he was driving to the place where the presentation was to be, he felt confident that what they had planned would work well. Instead of taking his car, he and a fellow staff member with him rode in the company van, as he needed both to help him with what he had to do. He could not do the next part by himself. And they had to get to their destination early, for what needed to be done had to be completed before the audience knew what was going on.

The Presentation

The much-anticipated presentation started smoothly. It even began with a small joke, something which Tom never had done before. People saw and heard before them during the presentation a man who looked and sounded like the very soul of confidence, feeling secure in the situation. There was no stumbling, no uttering of Tom’s dreaded phrase, “but what I really meant to say was…” And they were impressed by what the speaker had to say. Once they began to understand what it was that the presenter was talking about, they hoped they would be given a demonstration at some point, to see how effective the new invention was. 

And as the presenter drew to a close with his presentation, he said calmly and confidently, “And now I would like to share this stage with the man who invented what I have been talking about.”

Hearing these words, Tom walked onto the stage, looking exactly the same as the one who had been talking, right down to the suit and the plastered-down hairdo. Tom then spoke slowly to the audience. “What you have just witnessed is a presentation by the latest patented project by Reality Robotics – a presentation robot. With my ideas and the constructing skills of our staff, we have developed this replica of myself, with words I have programmed it to say, even the joke, which I had to try out on staff. As you could see and hear, it had the look and sound of confidence that I could never exhibit in such a presentation. We can model it to replicate anyone of you or your fellow workers.

           I have to say that I got this idea by watching an old television program, the Ed Sullivan show, which aired long before I was born. My parents used to talk about the show a lot. The act that gave me the idea was British ventriloquist Arthur Worsley, and his dummy Charlie Brown.”

           At this point Tom the presentation robot looked over at his inventor and said, “Who are you calling a dummy? I present way better than you do.”

           Tom had programmed the robot to say that on the trigger of the word ‘dummy’.

“Quite right you are. But my mouth does not move when you talk.”

Laughter and applause ensued.

October 02, 2021 12:45

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