“Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking…” and that is about as far as I have written for a speech I have to give on Saturday. It isn’t a very big speech in the grander scheme of things but it is one in front of the RNA and is to say thank you to Katie Fforde for awarding me her bursary last year. So not long but definitely big in feelings and heartfelt thanks. And I am sitting here with my knees knocking.
Now those who know me know I am not frugal with my words. I am a talker. Some might say I love the sound of my own voice. I get paid to be a radio presenter so it isn’t that I can’t adlib and do off the cuff type stuff. But that is different. Stick me in a social situation and I can fake it. Put me in a sound booth and I’m fine. Stick me in front of a crowd where I can see them… not so good.
I have noticed that being a writer these days also comes along with the ability to do seminars and talks and “speechifying”. All quite terrifying thoughts and enough to sometimes give me second thoughts about wanting to be published. I know that Christina has talked abut it before on here and I was trying to figure out where my fear came from, I know I didn’t have it at school. I think it came during a presentation in my first year at University. I was doing a presentation on medical physics to my tutor group. I had done my research (I had scoured the Wellcome section of the Science Museum) and when the day came I put on my best interview outfit and presented.
There were a few things that I should have thought of… one biggie was that everyone else was in jeans and my beautiful Laura Ashley green skirt and jumper made me look like the posh privately educated girl I was. Also I should have done my research a little better… I managed to get something fundamental regarding prions wrong and I probably shouldn’t have argued the point with my tutor. Other than this I look back and realise it was a damn good presentation but I was eighteen and sensitive to criticism, real or imagined. So when my tutor made the comment ‘that some people had brought a lot of their personality to their presentation’ I didn’t see this as a plus point. In fact I thought I had done it wrong. So for the next decade I was paralysed in presentations. I kept my hands locked behind my back because I thought my usual gesticulating was wrong. I kept my voice even and probably monotone. In other words I got stage fright.
Then one of the companies I worked for put me in for presentation training. What a revelation that was! I turned out that all my natural instincts were correct and I had been supressing them for years!
I’d like to say that I have broken free from my bondage but I still stand in front of a crowd and look at them and feel like that eighteen year old. Ill prepared and out of place. I am still wearing that forest green interview outfit and I can’t quite remember what prions do.
So on Saturday please think of me as palms sweating I try and tell everyone how much winning the Katie Fforde Bursary has meant to me… I’ll try not to drone on and I promise that there will be nothing about prions in it.
Please come back on Sunday to find out what Susanna has to say