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
In last week’s Bank Holiday Tuesday, I tackled one of the big issues- how Christmas needs to fuck off and leave me alone for at least another two weeks.
The Student Standard is Maynooth’s independent news source and for some unearthly reason have given me a weekly column.
I wish for Christmas to leave me alone.
Look, it’s not that I don’t love Christmas, guys. I love it the way I love music festivals. I love the whole four day ceremony of it – the little traditions everyone has.
For festivals there’s tent packing, hat buying, and running around Tesco Clare Hall with your best friend and a trolley filling it with what I now know to be horrible alcopops. There’s learning new swear words as you set up your tent, the pitiful look of solidarity when you announce you’re off to use the loo, there’s wailing in your sodden tent after Florence and the Machine because your wellies are leaking and your coat’s soaked through. Then through your own ingenuity you fashion a new one out of a bin liner and then rip it off hulk style during Muse. I love festivals.
For Christmas there’s my mother’s best friend’s visit the day before Christmas Eve to drop off our presents. There are 2 cards in the post from my aunties in Belfast and Wales which once always contained strange, exotic money. There’s the Christmas eve morning fry up in my grandmothers house and then the one and only mass that I attend all year round, just so I can hear a choir belt out ‘O Holy Night’. I love Christmas.
HOWEVER, it’s only the latter that I am now expected to enjoy spread out over ten weeks of adverts, music, films and fattening food. Nobody has ever asked me to spend two and a half months squatting in a field in Kildare living out of a pink tent just so I can listen to Gossip/Twin Headed Wolf/Get wasted and have a moon painted on my face. Of course not! We have all sanely agreed that ‘Festival season’ lasts from May-August and that nobody really gets pepped up for their chosen weekend until the week before. You NEVER have a pre-flatlake buzz that lasts eight weeks. A thing I like about festivals is that they are 3 days of concentrated fun.
Now people tell me (often while rolling their eyes, as is their wont when talking to a self-identified “feminist” with inverted commas) that it’s just a marketing strategy- The companies and shops just want people to get spending! It’s harmless! You don’t have to opt in! Well yes I do have to opt in because at every turn I see my friends playing the music, watching the films and putting up the decorations that should only belong between the 17th of December and the 6th of January. When I take umbrage with this I am told I’m a scrooge, but I’m honestly not. I just want us all to… chill. Relax. Save up all the Christmas cheer for another three weeks, then let it all out in a three day electric picnic secret garden BURST of happiness.
Can you imagine what a nightmare it is having kids in town right now? Seeing the lights, the music, thinking Christmas must be TOMORROW! My mother, who once queued for five hours just so my brothers and I could see ‘the best Santa’ in Switzers, says it’s a nightmare. Kids just don’t understand that it is actually still a month away. They’ll look at you, puzzled when you explain this and go “but why are the decorations up? That’s SILLY.” Yes, hypothetical child. That is silly. One of the few saving graces of RTÉ, in my opinion is their refusal to play any Christmas music until the 8th of December (the other is their refusal to get ‘glamour’ weather girls and instead stick with meteorologists. I am a big Evelyn Cusack/Jean Byrne fan). I take the same issue with all this pre-Christmas buzz that I had when girls in my year at school organized a ‘pre debs’ night out in January. HOW, I asked, through a mouthful of crisps probably, “HOW can you have a PRE-Debs? Debs is a DEBUT. It’s your DEBUT. EVERYONE SHUT UP ABOUT IT UNTIL NEXT SEPTEMBER RAAAWRRGH”. I just can’t deal with out of season festivities.
So I’m sorry guys, Christmas can – to use the most refined and parliamentary of language – fuck right off until it’s actually time for it. You don’t have to opt into the capitalist system, man- You don’t have to buy stupid ornaments and selection boxes half price! You don’t have to do anything just because it’s there! DON’T PLAY INTO WHAT THE MAN WANTS. PUT THAT MARKS AND SPENCER CHRISTMAS LOG DOWN NOW. I MEAN IT. This is a corporate fat cat party that I am checking out of in the same way I checked out of big massive fuck off music festivals like Oxegen after the ‘sobbing panic attack in a bin bag’ episode of 2010.
Niamh ‘I wear stupid jumpers all year around’ Keoghan