‘Never work with animals or children’ goes the old showbiz saying. ‘Be wary of school/college audiences’ seems to be the equivalent among public speakers.
For several months, I’ve been working with the staff of a local college, with the intention of delivering a series of talks about my story as part of their life-awareness programme. As one of the staff told me: “Kids of this age often think they are invincible. The idea of these talks is to show them what life is really like.’’ I have plenty of experience of the realities of life, obviously.
I mentioned the upcoming talk in a business group on Facebook and someone observed sagely: “Student audiences are a tough crowd for speakers. Half won’t turn up, the other half are only there to miss lessons.’’ Well, at least it would be good practice for me……
In the end, I had an audience of 25-30 (a 50-50 mix of boys and girls) on Friday of last week and even though I say so myself, they looked spellbound. It’s entirely possible, of course, that I scared them into silence but the classroom was full, you could have heard a pin drop throughout my 45-minute talk - more than twice as long as I normally speak for - and they even commented in a good way on my bling-y walking stick which I mentioned here recently!
There were sensible questions asked at the end of the session, always a sign of a successful talk, while I have been invited back at least once every half-term for the rest of this academic year. And as is often said, who knows where this will lead now that I have my foot in the door.
On Tuesday, I was back on more familiar territory speaking to a business networking group. It’s all experience, it’s all helping to get the message across (as is this blog and my podcast ‘The Warrior’ which continues to produce amazing listenership figures) and as I told my student audience, if just one of them went home and told their parents and just one person or one family was moved to become more aware of stroke by hearing me speak, I’ll have achieved my aim.