Last week I made two ‘performances’. Firstly, I made my first prepared speech at Sutton Coldfield Speakers’ Club and then, as a shortlisted contender in the Winnie the Pooh Laureate Competition, I read my children’s short story out loud on the telephone for final judging.
Speakers’ Club. Prepared speeches are usually between six and eight minutes long and the subject matter should suit the theme of the evening – the exception being first speeches when the advice is to talk about something you know well. So I veered off the evening’s topic of ‘Love & Romance’ and talked about my hobby of church bell-ringing instead (exciting stuff I hear you say!).
I spoke for 7 minutes 40 seconds (everything is timed with a stopwatch) and the speech was then evaluated by another club member. This is a bit like giving feedback at a writers’ group when work is read aloud. My evaluator was very kind and full of praise but also had some useful advice – I’d positioned myself to one side of the lectern and that meant that half the audience couldn’t see me properly and also the majority of my eye contact was down one side of the room. So some good advice to take away.
My next speech is in around six weeks and the evening has the theme of ‘Springtime’. At the moment I haven’t a clue what to talk about – all that comes to mind is cute lambs, chicks and rabbits. Anyone got any ideas?
Winnie the Pooh. I dialled into the conference call at the appointed time, only to find a lovely Scottish lady in full flow. I sat very quietly whilst she finished a wonderful story about Pooh visiting a park in Glasgow, complete with different voices for all the characters.
Then it was my turn to read my story, ‘Winnie the Pooh and the Birmingham Iron Man’ – needless to say I didn’t do any special voices. The judges made some polite comments and said they’d let me know.
So now, like an actress after an audition – I’m waiting to hear from them …
#1 by Wendy Clarke on February 18, 2014 - 8:04 am
Just the thought of what you did sends me into a cold sweat! Well done, Sally, and good luck.
#2 by Sally Jenkins on February 18, 2014 - 5:55 pm
Thanks, Wendy. The Speakers’ Club lot are very supportive but I was still worried about my mind going blank!
#3 by jakill on February 18, 2014 - 9:32 am
Springtime – when nature wakes up from its winter hibernation – not just squirrels and hedgehogs, but also crocuses and snowdrops, then daffodils, tulips and irises – then the trees put on their leafy green coats. Hope that helps.
#4 by Sally Jenkins on February 18, 2014 - 5:56 pm
That all sounds very poetic, Jean! But ‘waking up’ isn’t a bad theme if I could build something on that …
#5 by susanjanejoness on February 18, 2014 - 9:52 am
I think Pooh and the Brummy Iron man would be best Sally:) Good luck with it. Everyone will talk about daffodils and lambs and primroses. How about – to spring clean or not spring clean. Not many people do it nowadays I don’t think. I do, and it’s a lovely feeling to chuck out old clothes, get cobwebs down and paint. Good luck with whatever you decide to talk about. I think you’re brave.
#6 by Sally Jenkins on February 18, 2014 - 5:57 pm
Sring-cleaning – Susan, I like it. But can it fill 8 minutes, I wonder?
#7 by Harliqueen on February 18, 2014 - 10:54 am
#8 by Sally Jenkins on February 18, 2014 - 5:58 pm
Thanks, Harliqueen. I thought I might have heard about the Pooh thing by now but still no email.
#9 by Anne Harvey on February 18, 2014 - 12:19 pm
So brave of you, Sally! I’ve done public speaking myself as I used to be a Leeds tourist guide, also done various talks to groups so know it’s not easy. You asked for suggestions about springtime, what came to my mind first, being a gardener, was to see the new shoots coming on plants and trees.
#10 by Sally Jenkins on February 18, 2014 - 6:00 pm
You sound an experienced speaker, Anne. I’ll have to pick your brains next time we meet. And Spring is all about new beginnings, isn’t it?
#11 by Tracy Fells on February 18, 2014 - 3:16 pm
Two very different speeches, Sally! Reading a story over the telephone must have been hard without any eye contact or audience feedback – good luck and hope you hear good news on that one!
Re springtime themes – I always love hearing about ancient pagan myths, traditions etc re spring – and how they’ve been transformed. And there’s bound to be lots of different ways of heralding spring around the world.
#12 by Sally Jenkins on February 18, 2014 - 6:01 pm
Thanks, Tracy. Old myths and traditions is a good idea – perhaps I can make a magazine article out of it and kill two birds with one stone!
#13 by Jenny Roman on February 18, 2014 - 6:20 pm
The conference call sounds terrifying – there’s something really unnerving about not being able to see the expressions on the faces of your audience. Well done for even having the nerve to take part!
#14 by Sally Jenkins on February 18, 2014 - 6:39 pm
I’m used to taking part in conference calls for work, Jenny so that didn’t bother me as much as the stand-up speech. But I agree it’s nice to get an audience reaction rather than talking into a black hole.
#15 by Susie on February 18, 2014 - 8:24 pm
Hi Sally, After reading about the Winnie the Pooh contest on your blog, I entered and was also short-listed. I don’t think it matters about the lady from Glasgow, as it’s a different region, so we’re not in competition. In my story Pooh and Piglet got lost on Brighton beach. Best of luck. I don’t do voices either.
#16 by Sally Jenkins on February 19, 2014 - 12:51 pm
Susie – it’s great that you got shortlisted too! Fingers crossed for both of us!
#17 by networksue on February 18, 2014 - 9:10 pm
Springtime – how about planting seeds and germination, seasonally available food and foraging for local fresh leaves?
#18 by Sally Jenkins on February 19, 2014 - 12:52 pm
Thanks, Sue – that’s got potential with all the green shoots coming up.
#19 by Linda on February 19, 2014 - 2:33 pm
How exciting – and good luck with the comp! I always read my writing out loud to help me spot mistakes, but only when I’m on my own behind closed doors.
#20 by Sally Jenkins on February 19, 2014 - 3:25 pm
Thanks, Linda. Reading out loud definitely helps. Sometimes I pretend I have an audience because it makes go slower and throws up more mistakes.
#21 by hilarycustancegreen on February 21, 2014 - 9:30 pm
I am admiring and envious of your enterprise. i find public speaking seriously alarming. My mind really does go blank. Powerpoint helps, but is not much good in most non-academic situations.
#22 by Sally Jenkins on February 22, 2014 - 8:07 pm
I’ve never used Powerpoint, Hilary. But imagine its useful when trying to get over a lot of facts – and to stop the mind going blank!
#23 by Mary Skehill on February 27, 2014 - 4:00 pm
Thanks for all your very interesting posts, you always seem to have new projects on the go. For ideas on Springtime how about a hassled farmer’s wife who is so busy during the lambing season (that is me), just snatched a few spare minutes to check my emails and read your interesting posts. Still thinking about writing something but now have to wait until the sheep have all the lambs and are grazing happily in the fields.
I was so excited today to see the first daffodils of the season, I love Spring seeing everything come to life. Makes me thankful to have survived the Winter and see the long evenings even if it is still wet weather here.
#24 by Sally Jenkins on February 27, 2014 - 4:56 pm
Thanks for that lovely picture of rural springtime, Mary. You’re right, I should mention all the hassled farmers’ families who are rushed off their feet in Spring. I hope everything goes well for you and that when it’s all over you can put your feet up and write about it all!