Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sweat-soaked survival

I got through my one hour talk yesterday relatively unharmed. Even found my own way to West Lakes without having to turn the Gregorys directory around to face the direction the magna was actually driving in. Swallowed a 600ml carton of Farmers Union Feel Good before walking in and kept it down. The data stick (I bought three) worked, and 50 chairs were laid out in waiting.

Thumpa Thumpa Thumpa went my heart, out-beating an entire orchestral percussion section. In they walked, those feckless folk who selected my topic for their 'breakout session'. Breakout was the word: any sweatier and I'd have been squelching. They were clearly tired, full of lunch and all staring. At me.

I've realised since about the age of fifteen that I don't like people staring at me, and as such, my comedic acting aspirations died right there on stage during the year ten production of 'The Girl with Green Hair.' Even on my wedding day, I wanted to shoo the guests away and tell them to look at Love Chunks or the garden instead.

neck zit-from-hell had returned and with it my paranoia that it was more entertaining than anything that I was about to impart.

The first thing I did was the ultimate cop out and a bit of a plea for understanding: "I'm a writer, not a presenter, so I'm going to sit down so that my knees don't give way and you can't see if I've wet my pants or not." The pounding in my ears and the pulsating spots in my vision meant that I had no idea what the audience's response was, so I heavily plonked my arse down and started blabbering, hoping my Pompeii pimple was angled away from them.

Speaking s-l-o-w-l-y and clearly was the plan but like most good plans, it was demolished quicker than a cheesecake at a mothers' meeting. Instead, I had an out-of-body experience and could uncomfortably see that I was speaking like a (slightly sweaty) chipmunk on acid, desperately trying to summarise 20 years of work experience, 150,000 words of research and several dozen anecdotes into an over-heated room that had the distinct ping-ping-pinging sounds of the pokies being played immediately next door.

I have absolutely no idea if I stuck to my interminably-researched speech or ad-libbed, but... no, that's not true. Like a bad dream it's beginning to come back to me. I remember saying, "If the publishers would have let me have a watermark on each page, it would have said, in screaming capitals, STOP FEELING GUILTY." I recall seeing a reserved, slightly older lady with a hairstyle like the Mother from 'Mother and Son', nodding and saying in a gravelly voice: "Hear Hear. I gave that up years ago."

My armpits are moisting up even more as I write this, as I recall even more rather less-than-professional utterances: "Find the BALLS to leave at five every night!", and "Don't tap her on the shoulder for night time doona dancin' at 11o'clock - turn the telly off at 8:30 and try your luck then!" Oh God, I might even have mentioned - or was it my neck zit, which, by this time, had grown big enough to have its own gravitational pull - that Love Chunks had been the lucky recipient of such advice.....

My face was redder than a babboon's bum by the end of it and there was a smattering of applause when I breathlessly squeaked, "Well, that's it from me." Whether it was from relief that it had ended or to encourage me to get the hell out as quickly as possible I'll never know, because I grabbed my 'thank you' box of Haigh's chocolates and was running to the carpark before the participants had reached the afternoon tea table.

And I'm happy to let the feedback remain a mystery, because the organisers forgot to put out any speaker assessment forms.


Naomi said...

I'm sure you did a great job, each of is afterall our own worst critic!

tomshideaway said...

I think people would still be talking if they got to see "a (slightly sweaty) chipmunk on acid" That image still has me laughing (-:

Baino said...

Haha . . I'm sure it went just fine. Hope you didn't wear a plain dark shirt with all that sweating! And I love 'have the balls to leave at 5.00' . . .harder to do than you'd think!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you were waiting for the Talent Police to clomp you on the shoulder, saying "Come along, miss, you've been found out at last " and exposing your lack of ability to all.

Nice to hear that someone else speeds up to 1000 words a minute when speaking in public.


myninjacockle said...

I'm also sure that you did a grand job, despite not taking my booger advice. Any presentation that talks about balls and how to get more lovin' is bound to win hearts and minds.