Wednesday, 25 July 2012

How to Experiment on Your Friends #1

In my last post, I said I would let you know how my first ‘public’ run-through of my Rhemalda Publishing ‘Got Stories?’ conference talk went. I was pretty nervous, even though I would be delivering it to good friends. Apart from a few poetry-reading competitions at school (years ago now!), and my little talk at the King’s Envoy book launch last year, I hadn’t done any speaking in front of an audience. The poetry competitions were not too stressful because I was only reading what was printed on a page. And the talk I gave at the book launch was pretty easy too, because I was only telling people about myself and my writing. But at the conference, it would be different. I would be putting myself up as someone qualified to give advice to other writers – advice that might actually be used. How scary is that? I felt it was a huge responsibility, and something I had to take seriously. Yet I also wanted to keep it lighthearted, and hopefully, fun. For me, as well as my audience!
In that respect, I had the best helper anyone could wish for. Not only does my husband Dave have a mischievous sense of humor, he is also experienced in giving talks like these. He had helped me put together a series of slides to illustrate my talk, and had also sometimes helped me see things from a different angle. So far, so good. But although I was happy with the slides and the headings I’d chosen, and also the text I’d written, I hadn’t yet put them all together in front of an unsuspecting yet expectant audience.

On the day I’d chosen to deliver my maiden speech, we spent a very enjoyable time in Houston. We went out in the car and my husband showed me all the places he’d worked when he’d been there on business. For those who have never seen it, Houston is VAST – over 6 million people live there, I was told. I had expected the place to be rather industrial and not very attractive, but I was pleasantly surprised. Much of the newer architecture is in an older style, and lends the city an almost quaint atmosphere. After some welcome lunch we visited the new Hall of Paleontology in the Museum of Natural Science (awesome!) as well as the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals. Stopping off for refreshing margaritas ended this excursion on a suitably alcoholic note. Well, a bit of Dutch courage never went amiss!
Hiding in the shade waiting for supper to cook!

After yet another delicious meal in Dave and Janet’s back yard (yes, sitting inside the sprinklers again!) I could put it off no longer. Gathering my notes in one hand and my courage in the other, I prepared to enter the lion’s den.

I had asked my friends to be critical, and to let me know if I needed to alter anything about my talk. I watched them while I delivered it (trying hard not to actually read my notes and mainly failing) and was pleased when I got either a smile or even a laugh in the right place. Whoo-hoo, I thought – this is going well! Until I finished, of course. No, I have to be fair. The talk did go well, and my audience was appreciative. I was pretty pleased. But once we began the post-mortem, it became clear that changes would have to be made. For one thing, the talk was too long. Rhemalda wanted 15-20 minutes, and I had gone on for around 35 minutes. I also had too many slides and too many small headings. Something would have to be CUT!!
But that would have to wait until we got to our next set of friends, who lived in Austin. They, I knew, would have a computer that I could load my talk and slides on to, and a printer so I could print out my new, improved – and shortened! – talk. Little did I know things would not turn out so simple!   

No comments:

Post a Comment