Public speaking has always terrified the living daylights out of me, in fact at university I was scared to even get up in front of a small group of people that I knew. As it would near my turn, my stomach would tie up in knots, words whizzing round my jumbled up head and fear about whether they would blurt out in a complete mess.
A year ago I was invited by Lowepro to do a small presentation at The NEC at The Focus on Imaging event in Birmingham. I agreed to do it, but the thought scared me so much, but I got though the best I could, it made me realise that maybe my talk wasn’t prepared in the best way it could be, but that I could do this and the next time I could do better. So in that same year I was invited again to talk at Photo Live, again I was pretty terrified, but I got through. Two days after I received an email and it made me feel like crying and giving up.
‘The photographs you showed us were absolutely stunning and conveyed the eerie atmosphere you must have experienced. For me person lay it wasn’t the photographs that were your weak point of your talk, but more your presenting style’ This hit me hard, but I read on, because what was said was very valuable to me and I am thankful for the feedback.
‘One point that stood out in my mind was when you mentioned the trespass laws in Russia & that you got detained by the Russian military for 12 hours, perhaps you’ve been doing this for so long that sort of event is a regular occurrence for you, but I and I think I can say with confidence it’s not a regular occurrence for anyone sat in the audience. I was sat on the edge of my seat hoping for more details about the incident.’
I could totally understand what he was saying and how do you begin looking less uncomfortable and more confident in giving a talk I realised, by believing in what you are taking about as exciting and something people want to hear about. I think it was this new mind set that people would actually enjoy my photos and were there to hear me talk about them that gave me the confidence to give it one more shot.
I meet Dave Kai Piper at Photo Live, as a fellow photographer we had seen each others work and when he told me he was co ordinating a stage at the brand new Photography Show again at The NEC, exactly one year since I had last been there last. He would like me to go and give a talk, at first I was so happy that he wanted to give me this opportunity, but again butterflies started to flutter in my stomach, telling me I had failed previously and should I even try again? But then I realised that everyone has to start somewhere and you can only get better with practise, that it was the same with my photography and I used to even get nervous doing a photo shoot at the start. Dave’s positive & encouraging messages in the months building up to the event, I started to feel a bit better and believing I could do it (thanks Dave).
When the day finally arrived me and Danny made the trip to Birmingham from London, the first day of the show, we had great fun, meet up with a few people, got my brand new Olympus OMD EM1 and hung out on the Lowepro stand for a few hours, talking to people about how great the Flipside 400AW bag is (ha ha love this bag immensely) and also looked at my images they had printed on the wall of the stand. In the evening we were invited to go out for dinner with the Daymen/ Lowepro gang, it was so much fun to hang out with them and take my mind off the ever nearing closer talk I would give bright and early the next day.
I didn’t sleep a lot that night and soon we were up and making our way to the catwalk stage, it all happened in such a blur, but an exciting one, just before my talk, we were all back stage, everything was crazy, models getting hair and makeup and Dave running round making everything was set to go. I could slowly see the crowd building, for me this was an amazing feeling. Seeing around 150 people had turned up, gave me confidence and made me smile. I stepped onto the stage and began and it was easy, I talked through my photos and I could have talked for ages.
What I learnt from the email I received was that even though the photos talk for themselves, adding the stories, gave them a new level of excitement to the people viewing and they were interested in hearing the adventures that went into creating the photos.
I had just got through half of what I wanted to say when Dave was tapping me on my shoulder to say I only had 5 minutes left.. Eeeeekk I rushed through the rest and grabbed a chance at the end to demonstrate how I shoot a model. I received a huge round of a applause and people queued up after to take my card, introduce themselves and tell me they had enjoyed my work. Which was such a great feeling. I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity and for Dave who didn’t let me run away and for Danny who supported me by coming with me.
I can say I have improved my public speaking skills, gone out of my comfort zone to do this and I’ve learnt its only when you push yourself out of your comfort zone, that you truly achieve things you didn’t know were possible. Although I will probably be just as terrified the next time I do this, I know I can do it and I will get better with time, it was such a rush doing it and getting such good feedback this time. After I received positive emails, people telling me how much they enjoyed it and this made me smile. Someone said that myself and Ranking were the highlights of the show, I hope I get to do it again next year.