It might surprise you, or it might not that I get sick to the stomach before I have to stand in front of a crowd and present. Five minutes before I'm due to start, I'm ready to bottle it and do a runner instead. What I'm learning the more and more I make myself do it, is to channel the fear into exuberance - and if you know enough about your topic, you won't need any notes, maybe just a few prompts - and it will be your enthusiasm that wins the audience over. I usually do masses of prep beforehand, create way too many note cards, practice in front of a mirror blah blah blah, but for my latest efforts, I just thought about what I wanted to say over the course of a few days. Thinking it over and over was calming and made sure I got some sort of order fixed firmly in my head. I used the visuals to prompt me rather than spilling over my notes. This method forced me to look at my audience actually in the eyes (er scary!) and talk to each and every one of those children (and their teachers), making it a personal (and fun) delivery of my travel experiences. I also gestured a lot to take my mind off my pounding heart beat. My other trick is to deflect the attention off myself every now and then with questions and debates - oh, and games. Give yourself a breather if you can. It will settle the nerves. But this wasn't solely for my benefit. I was thinking about my audience and anticipating their boredom threshold. When I saw a few yawning faces, I knew it was time to change it up. Always have your audience in mind prior to putting the presentation together, then you can be prepared whilst remaining in control.
Why was I putting myself through this? Well aside from being one of my 30 Things, it was also due to the fact at some point or other, if I want to sell copies of my books, I will have to do public speaking. And I need as much practice as I can possibly get. Also, I'm pretty fed up of always feeling sick and nervous over something I actually do want to enjoy. What do they say? If you don't like something - change it!
Going back to my old school (previously Warmley CofE and now St Barnabas CofE) was a great experience. The school was bigger (more buildings meaning more classrooms / activity rooms) but the actual amount of classes had been slashed by half (only 7 now) making the school feel more like a cosy, friendly village school, which I guess was the idea. Break times and lunchtimes were staggered unlike the way I remember with hundreds of us kids running around the playground and the school field that seemed to go on and on forever into the distance and a handful of dinner ladies trying to keep us in line. The gym still smelt exactly the same after lunchtime - that made me chuckle. No sweets or chocolates or crisps in the lunch boxes. Toast at morning break. Calming music to start the day. Maybe I'm just out of touch, but school was a completely different beast when I was a youngster. A different way of thinking, a different syllabus, a different type of discipline...
One thing that doesn't change is a child's unbridled enthusiasm. It's still infectious. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to all the age groups from Reception up to Year 6, but I have to say talking to Reception was the most fascinating. The absolute wonderment on their faces of learning something new was magical and their innocence endearing. They haven't had a chance yet to be tainted by all the bad things of this world and their minds are receptive, open and honest. Nerves aside, I had a marvelous time and I'm glad I made myself do it.
One step closer to conquering the fear!
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Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.