This friday just gone I gave two talks at a school near Wolverhampton. The school was lovely, it was in a former manor house and the history of the place created an aura of "old school" charm. The staff were so warm and welcoming, the students were mature and well behaved, and asked so many (unprompted) great questions, that their obvious intelligence and empathy inspired me tremendously (just as I hope that I inspired them). The communication between myself and the teacher organising the talks was clear and concise, I knew what was expected of me from the outset; the day went as planned.
Having said this though, the facilities for my talk weren't the most comfortable. Don't get me wrong, the school hall was a lovely old building - very Harry Potter-esque - and it was a perfect size for the grandeur of the school, but also the intimacy required for an inspiring talk. The issue was, it was cold. So very cold in this hall, (yet I still felt it necessary to remove my coat and address the students as professionally as I could), that it made my ability to speak, as well as I could, a bit of a challenge. Also, the equipment to present my presentation and video on wasn't as high-tech as I had been able to use before, and this meant a little more fiddling on my part, with my head down looking at a computer screen; it did do its job though.
I don't want to come across as complaining or whinging.
I am not a diva that expects the best at all times (because frankly, sometimes "the best" is to over-rated).
The purpose of this post is to compare and critique, and above I have done this, I have critiqued, and now I am going to compare.
A few months ago I was supposed to do two talks for a charity. I was very excited about being involved at their conferences and hopefully engaging successfully with their clients. The first talk was a dream - the room was perfect for my talk, the equipment was top notch and allowed me to just speak, without having to put my head down to search for things on a computer screen. The room was cozy warm, I was watered and fed, and ready to present.
My jokes fell flat, I developed a cough, people didn't seem to be engaging with me and I felt trapped behind the lecturn that was provided for me. I didn't get many questions at the end; only a round of applause that seemed lukewarm at best. This wasn't to be the worst of it though.
I was supposed to talk at another of this charity's conferences the week after. I didn't. I arrived the day after I was meant to talk. Was I embarrassed? You betcha!! Was I angry? You betcha. Obviously there had been a breakdown in communication between myself and the organiser. Dates had been mistaken, expectations were never clear enough, and I felt like I had let myself down professionally (not just the charity, BUT myself). I learnt a lot about myself from doing these talks with this charity - as I learnt a lot working with the school last week. This is a good thing.
You see, I have developed the ability to compare and critique myself. I am never going to be perfect (no-one ever will be), but in critiquing myself I am pushing myself to improve, not just on the big things, but the small things as well. You see, what I learnt from my experience with the charity was that I have to take control of communicating over my role in the talk. I have to double check dates, I have to find out exactly what the client wants AND triple check this, I have to ensure that all communication is clear and concise - just as I did in organising my talks with the Wolverhampton school. My talks at the school, in my opinion, were way more successful then my talks for the charity. This is simply down to critiquing and comparing myself, my talks, and the way that I respond to potential disasters, leading to learning and growth as a speaker.
To gain a good reputation as I speaker I believe that you have to be professional, authentic, confident, and above all aware, aware of the process, aware of how you deal with the good and bad, and aware of yourself in the act of giving and sharing with the audience.
What are your thoughts?