This week’s guest post comes courtesy of Catherine Brophy, a storyteller, broadcaster and author. Her new book burning bright is available through Amazon both in kindle and paperback. Here she talks all about different ways of coping with speaking in front of a crowd and gives us all a few pointers
RIDING THE WAVE.
They say that the two greatest fears are:
2. Speaking in public!
Wow. Speaking in public is almost as scary as death!
I LOVE speaking in public. I love standing up telling stories, giving a talk or giving a workshop. I love the moment when all the eyes are looking and I know I have them in the palm of my hand.
It’s to do with a certain kind of power. But hey…not in a Neuremburg rally kind of way! It’s about the power of two-way communication. Not just me telling you and you listening, but about you telling me something back and me listening as well. Here let me explain.
There are three ways to respond to an audience.
They’re all looking at me! What’ll they think of me? They’ll think I’m stupid. I’ll make a fool of myself. I’ll get mixed up. I’ll forget what I want to say.
So you get up, you do all the things you predicted. You stumble, you forget, you make a fool of yourself, you embarrass the audience and afterwards you feel terrible and you swear that you’llnever do it again. Either that or you run away and afterwards feel terrible and wish you had the courage to do it.
Rating: 0 stars!
Create a mental glass wall.
Someone advises you to imagine them all naked. But, when you’re standing up there, that’s difficult. So you take a deep breath and mentally cut yourself off. Then you deliver your words.
This works reasonably well. You get through your speech. You don’t make a fool of yourself. Afterwards you feel relieved and pleased that at least you did it. But the communication is only one way. Because of the invisible wall, you were unaware of the audience response. Ever sit through a talk/ lecture/ performance where you’re stifling the yawns and wishing they’d stop waffling and just hurry up and finish? That’s someone who’s created an invisible wall.
Rating: 2 stars **
Ride the Wave.
Anyone who has ever stood in front of an audience knows that you can feel something from them. Some kind of energy. And that every audience feels different. But every audience has one thing in common, a positive hope. Please be good, they’re hoping, entertain me, inform me, interest me, make me laugh, make me cry, horrify me, thrill me, excite me. Nobody gets themselves ready and leaves the comfort of home in the hope of being bored! This means that:
Every audience is on your side. Yieeeeeeeeeeha!
Every audience is willing you to be fabulous. Yabbadabbadoo! That’s what you feel when you stand up in front of them. A wave of positive hope, of them willing you to be wonderful.
But then there’s the stuff going on in your body. The huge cloud of butterflies fluttering about in your stomach.
Butterflies are the physical expression of adrenalin.
Adrenalin is the chemical that pumps you up to perform.
Butterflies love oxygen. It helps them to fly in formation. Take a couple of deep breaths.
But then there’s stuff going on in your head. Will I remember? Is it okay? Assuming you know your stuff and that you’ve prepared – yes it will be fine. Stand securely, feet shoulder width apart, relax your shoulders. Look at the audience. Yes look straight at them. See all those shining eyes? They love you already. Breathe in that wave of positive energy and ride, baby ride.
Then something magical happens. Suddenly you find that you can improvise, make off the cuff comments, make jokes. And if you stumble over a word, forget something or make a mistake you have the confidence to laugh at yourself and instead of thinking you’re an eejit the audience loves you for being human. But most important of all, when you ride that wave, you become hyper-sensitive to the audience reaction. You know when something is working and you know when to cut something off. You now have information that will feed your next performance and make it even better.
Riding the wave means that you have to open yourself to your audience. The first time you do it takes courage but the rewards are so great that next time it’s going to be a doddle!
Rating: 5 stars *****
Ps-you may have noticed a lack of updates lately here. This is due to builders in my house and upcoming college exams. Because of the fact that I don’t have a roof, desk or any time to spare, Bank Holiday Tuesday will be taking a brief hiatus- See y’all next month! xx
Niamh ‘I’m just stepping out and may be some time’ Keoghan
This weekend has been one of nostalgia, dear readers. Usually I am wont to tell nostalgia, politely as I can, to fuck right off. Nostalgia at it’s root means to long for something you can’t return to and I’m not down with that futile shit, yo. But now and again, nostalgia can be a pleasant, warm ride.
I’m not okaaaaaaa-aaaaaaa-aaaaa-*Cough*
Last Friday I was mildly surprised to hear that the band that haunted my adolescence more than any other was splitting up. This was strange for me, as I was under the impression that My Chemical Romance broke up in 2008. Alas no, they have plodded on since the early days of 2006, which is when the first contagion of the emo craze was spotted in secondary schools across Dublin. I was there, man. I remember it. Those little bug eyed cartoons drawn on schoolbags in sharpie marker. The elaborately decorated Nightmare Before Christmas wallets. And the music. Oh God, the music.
I think I am completely qualified to talk about the emo craze because not only was I there, I desperately wanted to be one of them. A younger BHT wanted so much to have a side fringe, a piercing in the cartilage of her ear and one of those chains you put your wallet on one end of and clip to your belt. I wanted the Chuck Taylor sneakers and the dyed black hair, the gloomy outlook of a misfit child happily counterpointed with impossibly hysterical, chirpy melodramatic music and an aesthetic picked up from a children’s animated musical made in 1993. But I didn’t manage to make the emo transformation for the following reasons:
1: I was too fat for skinny jeans.
2: My mam wouldn’t let me get piercings1
3: All of those accessories were so expensive
4: Razor blades make BHT so awfully nervous. Poor 14 year old BHT saw one set of earring studs shaped like razor blades and she was outta there.
But ultimately I never really ‘got’ how to be an emo. Young BHT did make a very ill advised decision to cut a side fringe over the Christmas of 2006 and spent the next eight months going around convinced it was the cat’s pyjamas. My Chemical Romance existed on the side fringe of my teenage years: I was never really a true fan, but they were everywhere around me. Slowly they soaked into my subconscious and made a damp little nest there. BHT for one will mourn their passing as a band. I will remember them fondly during my more melodramatic moments, where I am fond of screaming ‘I’m not okaaaaaaa-aaaaaa-aaaaaay’ in the style of Gerard Way.
I feel like the whole emo brand has come full circle on me. Last week, I bought my first ever pair of Skinny Jeans. Maybe there’s hope for me yet. But anyway the whole MCR breakup was in my head for a few weeks while I encountered other nostalgic fare.
Is nobody else still excited about the TGV except me?
I caught the last ten minutes of the 1996 boom fiesta Mission: Impossible on Friday night and it triggered yet another wave of nostalgia. The climax of MI is possibly the most 90s thing put to film along with that scene in Baz Lurhmans Romeo + Juliet where Leo DiCaprio sits on a beach in California looking meaningful and young while Radiohead play on the soundtrack. In Mission: Impossible, between product placement for the (at the time newly opened) TGV high speed train and Tom Cruise running away from things (as is his wont in every movie ever) we are treated to copious shots of mid 90s mobile phones, laptops and internet woes. Then a freaking helicopter gets dragged into the channel tunnel as the train rockets through the English countryside. Tom Cruise, why are you running everywhere? How is this CGI so hilariously dated? Tom Cruise, how did you survive that explosion? How are you not deaf?! Why does the English bad guy look like the current prime minister of Australia? Questions for the ages…
I felt a strange pang of nostalgia while watching this scene. I can just about remember 1997, back when a mother fucking high speed train that goes through a tunnel under the freaking sea was pretty much the best humanity had. The boundless optimism of the booming 90s, the clunky technology proudly flaunted as cutting edge. The pre twitter, pre-wifi pre smart phone world is a quaint one indeed but it’s also the one little BHT was convinced she would inhabit one day. I imagined myself sitting on my high speed train under the sea, tapping away on a ten pound slab of a laptop, while wearing a big hat.
I’m a Daphne in the street and a Roz Doyle in the Bed
The 90s were a good decade for Seattle- There was sleeping in Seattle, a little known music movement you might have heard of called ‘grunge’ which would eventually spawn the emo monolith discussed above, and then there was that spin off from Cheers set in the rainy north west city that nobody has given a shit about shit (literally nothing else has ever happened in Seattle except for Jimi Hendrix and Boeing).
There is something supremely comforting about the 1990s high-brow sitcom Frasier. Because the series focuses generally on the lives and problems of well educated, gainfully employed people of means, it’s a very safe show. Nobody is going to be left destitute, evicted or oppressed. That’s not to say it’s a bad show. A modern comedy of manners with what is to me a wonderfully welcome early 90s trip. The big hair, the baggy suits, the PHONES again, posh people bitching at each other and inevitably being zinged perfectly by the down to earth working class characters.
If given the chance then, would I wish myself back to the golden days of 1994? Or perhaps to 2006 to relive the emo glory days in the skinny jeans I could probably fit into now? I think not. Nostalgia is tempting but in the end, all one really remembers are the highlighted high points and moments of quality; with respect, if all I can remember of the emo craze are the ‘good parts’, I’m fine with staying here. As for the early 90s, I actually can’t imagine life anymore without constant remote access to twitter.
Niamh ‘That being said, I think I’d go back just for the big hats’ Keoghan