Mylor Creek on a misty, sunny afternoon several weeks ago now. Perhaps we have had some sun after all - just not in the last few weeks!
I had a phone call out of the blue the other day, from someone asking if I’d help her write a biography for a presentation she has to give. Somewhat bemused, I said yes, I’d certainly help if I could, and only later asked her how she’d found me. On a website of Cornish speakers, apparently.
I still wasn’t too sure what this work would involve, but we agreed a fee and earlier this week she came to see me. It transpires she has to give a talk at a conference of some 3,000 people and is terrified. Would I be able to help her write her biography and give any tips about giving a presentation?
So we sat down and I made notes, then typed as much as I could, while she was there, to get the flavour of her words, who she is as a person. I’ve worked on it and sent it back to her, and we’ll do that back and forth until we’re both happy with it.
I remember practising my first talk, being terrified. Slow down, said a friend. Don’t gabble (we all do when we’re nervous). Make eye contact. Smile. Include humour. If things go wrong, don’t worry, work that into the script - just talk as you go along.
The first time I sang in public in my smaller group (being in a large choir is much less daunting), I was convinced I would dry up and no sound would come out of my mouth. In fact I sang fine, but my legs were shaking so much I literally thought I was going to fall over. The second time I sang in public, with three of us, I didn’t really know the song, having been drafted in at the last minute. I had a complete blank, forgot my notes, and laughed. So did everyone else. We started again and it was fine. And after that, I’m not paralysingly nervous any more. I’ve had lots of other things go wrong, but tell the audience what they are, and include them in whatever’s going on. After all, it gets boring if things go according to plan all the time.
But back to this job, and I realised, I love this work! I’ve always said my dream job would be Desert Island Discs - all that research and then interviewing people would be just up my street. And I love radio. But doing this is a good second best!
So if you know anyone who has to write a biographical presentation, and needs help, please point them in my direction!