My 100th school visit … and how I learned to love public speaking

It’s both pretty surreal and incredible to think that last Friday marked my 100th school visit since being a published author. Huge thanks to Kingsley Academy in Hounslow for making it such a special day, and of course to all the other schools and academies I’ve visited.

During that time I’ve …

  • opened a few libraries
  • visited international schools
  • fallen over running for trains (and subsequently requested the CCTV footage under the FOI act, so I could make £250 on You’ve Been Framed)
  • taken a boat to a school
  • signed over 100 books in one sitting – by the end I had such brain fog I could barely even remember my own name
  • jogged twenty minutes to a school when my cab didn’t show up, and got there just as the pupils were filing into the hall (still makes me anxious just thinking about it).

So not exactly rock n roll, but amusing memories nonetheless.

When I tell people that I spend a good portion of my time speaking to large groups of teenagers – usually several hundred at a time – they often pale at the prospect. Public speaking, after all, usually tops lists of fears… above clowns, heights and even death.

fears

As most people would, I initially found the idea of public speaking/performing nerve wracking. But I didn’t have much of a choice – I had to do it to promote my books. As they say, necessity is a good teacher. A month before my first talk, I planned a 50 minute presentation, rehearsed it every single night (the neighbours must’ve thought I’d lost the plot). I had plenty of slides/images to keep it visual, and act as reference points, should I forget my place.

Long story short, it went a lot better than I expected. I didn’t freeze, and actually found myself enjoying it. Talking about a subject you are passionate about, and have some knowledge of, makes a world of difference. I wonder how many people who hate public speaking, just had really unpleasant experiences in school?

I’ll share some tips and suggestions for author speaking events in a later post.

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