Thursday, 24 May 2012

I speak as I find

It's been another hot day here today. As you can see we are surrounded by a sea of yellow, oil seed rape is everywhere, sometimes as far as the eye can see. I love the smell of this. My friend Helen came with Henry choc lab, and we went a walk for a couple of hours. Unfortunately I am suffering a bit now, as I waded through a patch of knee high nettles, in my shorts. It's times like this when you wish you had put trousers on. It feels like a thousand needles sticking in my legs, I don't know when the stinging sensations will wear off, ha ha.

Kearnygirl has asked the question, how do I get invited to speak at group meetings? Maybe others would be interested in the answer to this as well, so I'll tell you about it.

People have always asked me my about my job, I suppose lorry driving was an unusual occupation for a woman, and they wanted to know all about it. After telling the story for the umpteenth time I thought it might be easier if I told it to a group of fifty people once, rather than fifty times to one single person. I personally thought it was a pretty normal job to have, but if others found it interesting I was happy to tell them about it.

I contacted the Womens Institute area office, nearest to where I lived, and offered my services as a speaker. I called my talk, Diesel in my Veins, because people said I didn't have blood in my veins, I had diesel. Well I was lorry mad and loved my job. My contact details went onto their list, and I was included in the next booklet which was sent out to all the groups. I think this book is printed once a year. It used to be free to be in it, but I think they make a charge now.

Eventually I got a few bookings, mainly around Derbyshire which was about 20 + miles away. I remember the first one. In preparation I made notes on cards, after a few talks I could remember it, after all I was only talking about what I did on a daily basis at work. The cards were a hinderance so I chucked them, it was all in my head. I turned up at a village hall which was full of people, the room was big and I had a stage to stand on. I stuttered and stammered a bit, but I got through it ok.

When I had done a few talks people started passing my details on to members of other groups, some in the WI circuit, but other groups as well. Ladies luncheon clubs, Friendship clubs, Ladies Circle, then husbands were asking me to do Rotary Clubs, Probus (retired professional and business people). Also Young Farmers, U3A (University of the Third Age), single sex groups and mixed.

So that's how it's gone on over the years. I don't look for bookings, people find me word of mouth. I've spoken to audiences of anything between ten people, and up to 200. To be honest I find the larger the audience the easier it is. Humour plays a big part in my talk, if you've got four miserable people in a group of ten, it's hard work. Get ten straight faces out of fifty and you can ignore them, and concentrate on giving the other forty a good night.

I have a standard talk in my head, but there are also lots of other stories floating around in there. These I pluck out as and when they surface, I often go off on a tangient. I have done the trucking talk to some groups twice, two years apart. The second will be slightly different from the first, and they won't have remembered it anyway. People tell me they want to hear it again.

I tried stand up once, now that is completely different. I didn't like it because I can't learn a script, and I can't work to a time table. I want at least 45 minutes, one hour is best, and I want to be the only speaker, or go on first if there is two of us. I was at a Rotary dinner once, the first speaker was a professional footballer, I didn't get on untill 11pm. Never again. I was an amateur following a professional after dinner speaker, also  the only female in the room, it was very unnerving. I made a complete and utter mess of it, and died a death.

Knowing your subject is paramount, you must know it inside out because there will be questions and you could easily trip yourself up. I don't do trucking talks any more, but some of the groups are contacting me again to ask if I do any other talks. Now I know enough about this frugal living, money saving, scrimping, penny pinching lark, I can talk about that now. I did one once on riding roller coasters, which was ok at the time because I was well into it, but I haven't done it for ages so now it's all a bit cloudy in my mind.

No one ever told me how to do this, I picked it up as I went along. It's been an enjoyable hobby for me, it's given me confidence. Who'd have thought I was once a shy gormeless teenager, and now I can speak in front of an audience. Amazing!

Anyway, that's enough talking for one night, I'm off to bed. Toodle pip.


  1. Dock plants grow near nettles - crush the dock leaves and put them on your legs. Nasty but the pain does nt last long.

  2. About the teenager bit--I am always shocked when some gorgeous, shapely movie star tells how she was shy, called a beanpole, had a flat chest, and was bullied or ignored. People have to grow into themselves, sometimes. I am sure you were a relief after the football player, but 11 pm is too late to be at your most confident since you think people are wanting to go home. Choosing your spot is important, though.

  3. Vinegar applied after nettle stings does the trick to eleviate the discomfort. But, after a day or so it`s a bit late to apply. The stinging sensation will go after 3-4 days.

    I think you are quite amazing to stand up infront of people to hold a talk. You`re a bubbly, fun individual and that might make it easier. Anyone else would have a harder time doing this. I would love to be in one of your audiences.

  4. Yes, oil seed rape, the fields are in full yellow bloom with it up here as well, must be a sumsidy on it this year.

  5. Thanks for answering my question about your talks. I found it very interesting. I don't know if I would have the guts to get up in front of people and talk about something and especially without a script. You must have that natural talent. I'm sure everyone enjoys your talks and that's why they pass your name onto others. Thanks again for explaining it all to me (us).

  6. I've said it before and I shall say it again, you are a remarkable woman Ilona.

    I like the smell of the rape plant too, makes me sneeze though.

  7. ooh your amazing speaking to an audience...i have been asked to say a few words at my daughter's (low key )wedding ...and i've no idea where to start...i'm thinking maybe a humorous poem might be easier to deliver.

  8. Do you get paid for it?

  9. Hi Anon, do I get paid for my talks? I make a charge to cover my travel expenses. I have a car to run and petrol to put in the tank. The distance I have to travel to the venue is reflected in how much they have to pay. I can't afford to pay for it myself.

    Groups will have a budget. Small groups will not be able to pay very much. If it is local within say six miles, it won't cost them very much, in fact I might be out of pocket, so I do it for the fun night out, because they sound like a group of nice people on the phone.

    If it is a bigger group with lots of members I might ask for a few pounds more because I know they can afford it, and they are happy to pay it. If there is a distance of 30 to 50 miles to get there, they have to pay enough to pay for my petrol. Overall it balances out.

    Last week I got £40. I travelled 35 miles each way. I kept £20 to cover my costs, and donated £20 to our cat rescue. I don't push for more talks, if asked I will consider the request. I have a local one for June, then no more booked.

    If someone wanted to make a living doing talks they would have to aim higher than WI's and local groups. After dinner speakers can make quite a lot of money, but you have to be famous to do that. I did sign up with an agency once to see if I could get better paying gigs, but they didn't find me one booking at all. You have to push yourself forward to hit the big time. I am not that type.