Monday, December 3, 2012

A Bit of Public Speaking


A Bit of Public Speaking

(Image from
There’s an oft-quoted statistic in business and self-help books that says it is very common to have a deep fear of public speaking. I was most definitely born without that gene. What can I tell you? I’m a Leo, and if you study astrology it claims that Leos like being the center of attention. So when a friend asked if we would please please pleaseconsider hosting a session on resources for cruisers traveling the ICW, I secretly considered it an opportunity to accomplish several things with a single act. (“Two birds with one stone,” and all that, but I hate that analogy, since dead birds just don’t make me happy.) We could pass on to other cruisers the wonderful mentoring that we had received from James and Ellen before our first trip, and … we could get the requester in our debt for doing something that was really not very unpleasant at all. Never know when this might come in handy if we need a favor in return.  Ooops, now that I’ve admitted that publicly, I guess I’ve rather ruined the impact. Sigh. I know said requester reads this blog.

Anyway, I need to back up a bit. On September 19, “Talk Like A Pirate Day,” we put on our pirate garb and went to the Eastport/Annapolis Neck library where we entertained the kids for their pirate-themed event. (pix on the library’s Facebook page; one even appeared here in the Capital next day.) “Remember,” we warned the kids, “we’re just playing here. Real pirates are bad guys, okay?” But I don’t really have a lot of qualms about being perceived as glorifying the bad guys. I learned from other historical-reenactor friends, you meet the kids where they are. Do what it takes to get their attention, get them hooked on history, and then use that as a springboard for the messages you really want to deliver.

“Library? What good is a library to a pirate?” I asked the kids. “Most pirates can’t read, because they think the first letter of the alphabet is “aaargh,” I joked with them. (Kinda corny, I know, but it plays pretty well to 5-year-olds.) “Though pirates do not be needing a library, the library needs pirates,” my friend Beth, wise mother of a challenging 4-year-old, responded later. “For children of all ages need inspiration to sail out into the unknown and find adventure. Many a true tale was inspired by Treasure Island.”

And just over a week after that, we gave a presentation about resources for traveling the ICW from Norfolk, Virginia to Florida to some grownups who may once have been those inspired children of whom my friend Beth spoke. I’m not much of a “joiner” of organizations or yacht clubs, etc; we generally tend to go our own way and associate if anything more with other locals than other cruisers. If we didn’t value independence, after all, we wouldn’t be traveling on a sailboat. One cruising organization we did join, however, was Seven Seas Cruising Association. It’s an organization of cruisers helping cruisers with everything from advice to rides to the grocery store.

We had sailed down to the Rhode River for the SSCA gam the weekend preceding the boat show. (A “gam” is a social visit or friendly interchange, especially between sailors or seafarers) where we met many friends old and new, and others we’d typed with for months or years online and had never met in person. There were 60 or 70 anchored boats arriving for the event, and more people who drove in, almost 500 attendees in all. Being me, I stressed mightily before the presentation, but enjoyed it while interacting with folks, and overall it seemed very well-received. Of course, the fact that we’d been up until 2 AM the night before, chatting under the stars (“gamming” indeed) and sipping rum with Melissa and Anne and Donna and John might have had something to do with that stress…

Giving the presentation got us chatting with a lot of interesting folks and certainly contributed to the fun we had overall at the event. And, as is often the case, the best way to really learn something is to try and teach it. In preparing for our presentation, in pulling the resources together, reviewing guidebooks and websites and apps and charts and finding out what tools are out there, we learned a lot that will probably make our own next ICW trip even richer and more rewarding – and hopefully, even more comfortable.  I've posted a summary of the presentation that includes links to the websites and other resources. I’m trying to crowdsource this, so if you have favorite websites, guidebooks or apps that aren’t on my list please tell me a bit about them in the comments.

My third talk this autumn was the most complicated to prepare, and in some ways, the most fun.  November 5 found us in Herndon, VA, talking to a group of retired geologists and hydrologists about some of the science tidbits from our cruises.  It was an after-lunch talk.  You know what that means, high expectations, a need for some eye candy slides, and a tremendous likelihood that the combination of food and lights-out means half your audience will be snoozing by the end of your timeslot.  I got the highest compliment one can have - I ran over time (eek!) yet no one got restless and even among the older attendees, no one nodded off!  I'll probably never have the right audience to repeat the talk (wow, all that prep for a onesie?  but it was fun!) but kept an approximate transcript with the slides of the talk called "Reflections on Hydrology from a Life Afloat." (Cute how I keep working that "Life Afloat" title in, huh?)  

Life Afloat is also on Facebook!

1 comment:

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