How I began.
I started giving talks at the age of seventeen, having gone with my friend to an over-sixty-five club to perform musically – or so we thought. She had her accordion and I sang with my guitar. As far as we knew, we were booked for a twenty-minute musical slot.
As we got ready beforehand in the large hall, which was packed with about two hundred pensioners, the woman who was presiding came up to us, welcomed us warmly, informed us when we would be performing and asked us when in the programme whichever one of us was speaking would like to give the talk!
My friend immediately found something wrong with her accordion that needed to be rectified, so she couldn’t possibly think of speaking. I explained that there had been a misunderstanding. The woman’s face fell.
I had a few thoughts on a particular subject that had caused me to make some notes the day before, so I boldly said that perhaps I might manage a few minutes, if that would be all right. I hadn’t brought my notes but the thoughts were fresh in my mind but probably no more than five minutes worth.
We played, sang and I stood up to speak – aged seventeen, naive but calm. Twenty minutes later I sat down to enthusiastic applause – I thought it was probably because they were glad I had finished but they were genuinely pleased! The president thanked me for a thought provoking talk and, much to my surprise we were invited back, providing I gave another talk, as well as singing. My confidence soared.
I learned a lot from this experience and it was the beginning of many talks on various subjects throughout my life. It also helped me when I became a teacher. Oddly, I found that a lot of practical things were not taught at college such as voice projection, how to address a class or writing on a board.
There are ‘dos and don’ts’ when it comes to public speaking and I have discovered many of them over the last forty years.
Many retired people are asked to give talks because of experiences they had had, their hobbies, interesting jobs or travel. They also are assumed to have more time, although this is not always the case. If someone has gone through life without ever having spoken publicly before, it can be daunting but with a few helpful pointers, it should not be a problem.
The most important thing of all when giving a talk is preparation. You can know everything there is to know about a subject but without good preparation your talk can be messy and boring. It does not need to be. This is where we must begin.
Next post: Be Prepared!