Which is easiest, I wonder. Giving a presentation to a room full of strangers? Or to a room full of friends?
That was the question I was asking myself this afternoon as
I plugged in projector and laptop and prepared to give my talk on "The Great War Project" to our local branch of the U3A. I reminded myself that I had actually offered to do this, in a characteristically reckless moment, many months ago. What could I have
been thinking of? A most helpful man named Philip appears from nowhere and asks me what I need. He isn't talking about a strong gin and slimline tonic - in fact he is the hall caretaker who pulls down a screen, presents me with a choice of microphones (both
in working order), finds stands for both projector and laptop and an extension cable of quite industrial proportions. I am indebted to Philip for helping me with the set up, often the most worrying part of making a presentation, I find.
Our Chairman asks me if I have a DVD player on my laptop and, if so, can I please use it to show our audience a short film of the Singing for Pleasure choir at the Celebrating Sussex day (see previous blog)? I ask if this could be
after my presentation, rather than before it, just in case something goes wrong with the equipment. I couldn't necessarily count on Philip, Excellent Man For All Seasons which he undoubtedly is, to put it right if anything horrendous happened.
Mr B takes a couple of photographs of me standing in front of the screen showing my title slide. One of our members, taking a seat in the second row back, gets in his way and he makes his displeasure known. I cower, knowing
I cannot afford to antagonise any of my audience. At least not before I even start talking. At least I look quite smart, I comfort myself, and I have even unearthed the rather beautiful poppy which Mr B bought me last Remembrance Day. Hopefully I look the
We always have a guest speaker at our monthly meetings. We have heard about the South Downs National Park, the work of the local police District Commander and the charity Canine Partners to mention just
a few. Now it's my turn and I wonder just what my audience is expecting. Certainly the hall is packed with only a few seats empty at the very front. As I sit at the top table, listening to the Chairman go through her introductory remarks, every face in the
audience seems to be smiling encouragement at me.
If I was worried about anything, then it was that inevitably this would not be a laugh-a-minute talk. After all, I would be relating four case studies of soldiers
who served in the Great War. Two of them never returned to their homes and families. Would this all be a bit much, even for my friendly crowd?
I'm glad to report that nobody fell asleep. I saw quite a few
people surreptitiously wiping their eyes as they listened to the letters sent home by Arthur the Artist, Albert the Gardener and Ernest the Farm Boy. And when I put up a slide showing the collection of dried flowers which Albert posted to his Dearest Mother
(remember, you read it here first!) there was an audible intake of breath. It was just the reaction I was hoping for.
So why did I put myself through all that? Not for the sake of any personal fame or glory,
I hasten to say - this was the local meeting of the Worthing U3A, remember, not X Factor. No, I saw it as firstly another way of publicising the amazing project which has kept me so busy over the past two years but also of telling again the stories of those
brave Men at Arms. If you would like to, you can read my presentation by clicking on the Great War Project page on the left.
I am pleased to report that I did manage to load the DVD onto my laptop, as requested
by our Chairman who is not a person one would want to cross if one could help it. Interestingly, for those of you who read yesterday's blog, she doesn't seem to mind being called a "Chairman". But then, nobody in their right mind would dare to sit on our Chairman.
Anyway, we managed to lift the spirits of the audience by playing the Singing for Pleasure choir's rousing rendition of Sussex by the Sea. Lots of people joined in the chorus. It was a good way to finish the afternoon.
Many a stand-up comedian would testify to the adrenalin rush from making an audience laugh out loud.
Making people weep at the tragic loss of life which was The Great War by telling, in my own way,
the stories of Arthur the Artist, Albert the Gardener, Arthur the War Hero and Ernest the Farm Boy was - believe me - Something Else Altogether.