I didn’t feel nervous, I was fully prepared, I had rehearsed my words and even published them HERE.
Although I have in the past successfully delivered talks without using notes, this time, just in case, I jotted down key words on a piece of paper which I enclosed in my hand. It was to a be a persuasive talk – Number 9 in the Eastbourne Speakers Club Competent Communicator Manual. For the first time, I did’t even pass it through my mentor, who has become a good friend over the past eighteen months. I really must try and do this all by myself, I thought. I wasn’t at all nervous.
Our respected Toastmaster introduced me with the usual fanfare and welcomed me on stage. I stood in the spotlight, the title of my talk filling my head.
I stood there, before thirteen fellow speakers who had become friends, and my mind froze. I took a deep breath and caught the eye of a person in the audience who smiled in anticipation. And still my mind was blank. I didn’t even think to glance at the paper clasped in my left hand.
Forgetting my carefully prepared strong opening, I started and gradually warmed to my subject as the sentences came out in a disordered jumble – until I remembered to seek refuge in my notes. I left the stage.
Now for the feedback – the most valuable and encouraging part of the evening. My neighbour handed me her evaluation, scribbled on a piece of paper. “I want to order three signed copies of your book,” she said. I gasped. I was not expecting to sell any copies this evening.
But this was the penultimate speech before qualification of my competency as a speaker and my official evaluator did not let me off lightly. She missed the initial purpose of my speech, where was the strong beginning? And it would be better to have my notes openly on the rostrum than hide them furtively in my hand. She offered a few tips and said I had a good way with words and my sincerity came over well. She strongly recommended I take on board her suggestions and do this speech again.
I felt as if I were back at school – but I had come here to learn, I told myself. Afterwards, I went to her.
“Are you okay with what I said?” she asked in her familiar, blunt manner.
I thanked her, my mind already planning some changes for next time. The most important lesson I’d learned was to beware of over confidence.
“I want to buy your book,” she said. “How much is it?”
You can read more about my book on my website: http://janebwye.com/mybooks/breath-of-africa