Tag Archives: advice

GUEST POST: Riding the wave with Catherine Brophy

‘Set in the years of the Celtic Tiger, Burning Bright is told in the voices of Kerrigan family members and friends. It’s funny. It’s believable. And it will definitely make you laugh.’

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

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FOR NIAMH

RIDING THE WAVE.

They say that the two greatest fears are:

1. Death

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.

THE FIRST

Eeeeeeeeeeeeekkkk !!!!!

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!

THE SECOND

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 **

THE THIRD

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 *****

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Catherine Brophy’s ‘Burning Bright’ can be found on Amazon here–  for kindle and here–    for Paperback.

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

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Advice for misfit teenage girls

Do you ever feel like you’re not really as smart  as everyone thinks you are, and that you’re just fooling everyone?

If you ever have, I want to talk to you.

Life gave me a lot of things to hate about myself when I was fifteen- I was some wanker, all things considered.  I was a teenage girl, which means inevitably that I was emotional and irrational.  My voice was too loud.  I was really fat.  I had horrible hair.  I thought I was gay because the sight of boys my age made me heave with revulsion (I later realised this was actually due to lynx body spray).  I had no friends that weren’t caught up in a quagmire of mean girls level political intrigue.

The world is not a kind place for a fat, awkward, loud, precocious teenage girl.

I’ve since met the type of kid I was; bursting with ideas and excitement and OPINIONS about THINGS and FEELINGS and speaking in a LOUD VOICE about everything.  They’ll talk your ear off for hours about their favourite obscure media, they’ll tell you ALL ABOUT the novel they’re working on, how much they CAN’T WAIT to be in college and out of school.  Christ, they can be nightmares.  it isn’t their fault.  They have yet to grow into the massive amount of personality they have developed in just over a decade of existence.

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On the other hand, girls at that age are wonderful.  They can do ANYTHING.  They’re writing novels (albeit mine all had unfortunately problematic gender relations and some slut shaming that I’m not proud of) and poems and getting jobs and buying CDs.  Usually if they’ve navigated through the junior cycle of school without much injury (or too much) at fifteen they’ll be finishing up worrying what other people think of them and asking ‘well what do I think of myself, actually?’  If they’re anything like me, they’ll look at themselves and not like what they see at all.

It’s a rough age for boys and girls (I focus mostly on girls on account of having BARRELS of embarrassing experience.), But I have constructed here a few pointers that I wish I had lived by when I was fifteen.

You are not going to look like that for the rest of your life-  I know your parents and friends will reassure you that ‘you’re lovely!’ every time you express concerns over how you look.  So let me give it to you straight- You probably are a bit weird looking. Everyone is a bit weird looking when they’re fifteen.

We had a femmy lumberjack phase back in ’07

You’re in that uncomfortable stage of looking a bit adult but also still childlike, while acting a bit adult and childish at the same time.  You’ll know what I mean when you look back on photos from this time when you’re 20.  It’s disconcerting, particularly if you’re prematurely articulate and clever. You are also likely to be overweight, suffering from acne, or have braces.  I am telling you that is both

a) totally okay

b) totally temporary

you will not look weird for the rest of your life because as you grow you’ll realize that good looking people are often not the ones with perfectly proportioned features, but simply the ones with a bit of personality.  The ones who are all laughing, smiling, having fun, asking you how you’re getting on.  You cannot imagine the beauty to be found in a pair of bright, alert eyes that are full of fun.  It’s also not the be all and end all to be good looking.  There are worse things to be.  If you’re not happy with your body, tell yourself it’s sleeping.  Be kind to it.  It’s as confused as your head is.

Trust me, the braces will come off, the fat will roll off, you’ll get a nice haircut and discover what clothes actually suit you, and you’ll be looking FAB.

….Most of the time

Listen to the music you like, not what makes you cool. This piece of advice actually comes from a girl who was a few years ahead of me at school who gave me a cascade of useful advice around 2006, and this is probably the best and most long reaching wisdom she gave me. Who you are when you go to school is not going to define you and your relationships for the rest of your life.  Seriously.  It’s fucking brilliant.  But the reason the music advice is so good is part of the reason I love music as a conversation topic- You can bullshit about your favourite bands for HOURS.  You can dissect and analyse and share interpretations for hours, and there’s always more to discover.

Listen to the stuff you like because when you talk about stuff you honestly enjoy, you’ll be more interesting.  People will open up and share what they like.  Don’t subject yourself to bad music- it is in fact damaging to your health (I am not making that up).  Music is something people get passionate about and love discussing, it’s a great conversation topic.  When you find people with similar taste in music, you’ll never feel as alone again.  Best advice I ever got- listen to music you like, not the stuff that makes you cool.  I am an EXPERT in sleeper indie hits on the Top 40 charts, for instance.  If you like it, you don’t have to apologise for it.  Rock bands are at least as over produced as pop music these days, there’s nothing more inherently honest about it.  So yes, go and listen to Born this Way, we’ll be waiting with coffee to discuss.

Cover your bedroom in posters.  You will regret it if you don’t; curate a fucking exhibition of yourself in that room, mark it out as yours.  You will never have such a license to throw whatever you want up on a wall ever again, unless you become an eccentric billionaire.

Nobody gives a shit what you did in secondary school. No, read that again.  None of that shit matters.  Read it again.  NOBODY CARES.  You cannot begin to imagine the pettiness you’ll identify when you look back on your teenage years.  Keep in mind always that school ends- you leave when you’re 18 and you don’t have to meet these people EVER AGAIN.  You can go to college and start over. You only have to keep in touch with the people you want.  This doesn’t give you license to be an arse, but keep in mind that no matter how bad it seems, usually that stuff won’t carry over into college and the real world.

Do things for your personal happiness.  Do things that make you feel good, and understand that it is not your job to only satisfy other people’s needs and whims.  Friendships are about two people enjoying one another’s company.  You’re not anybody’s lap dog, nor are you anyone’s boss.  Don’t do things that make you unhappy.  When you’re fifteen you’re allowed be a bit selfish and live for yourself, so do that!  Try not to be too much of a dick.

Relax.  The way you feel right now?  That’s not how you feel forever.  It’ll return now and then, in dark moments of self doubt and come creeping back, but that’s a temporary feeling.  You’re going to be okay.  You are going to do a lot of things you regret, but that’s okay because you’re allowed.  We have all been there.  We are scarlet for the things we did, said and believed when we were fifteen. That’s not  to say what you believe in and want and feel isn’t important- a lot of things you decide now will stick with you, but not all of it.  You will discard those things you don’t enjoy like a snake sheds skin.  You’re only starting out.  You’re going to be fine.

Oh, and under no circumstances should you wear jeggings.  You’ll be scarlet you ever wore jeggings for SURE.

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Niamh ‘I was quite the looker’ Keoghan