Last Thursday I was fortunate enough to speak about my Amazon expedition at the Telegraph Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show in the ExCeL Centre in London. I would be talking along side the likes of Mark Beaumont, Belinda Kirk, Richard Harpham and friends Anna McNuff and Russ Smith. It would become a mini-adventure in itself!
At the start of January an invitation came through to speak at one of the UK’s largest outdoor, adventure and travel shows, attended by over 50,000 people over four days. It was an incredible opportunity, one that I had to accept as soon as I’d been offered it. Within minutes of accepting what would be my debut speaking event I received an email saying that they had decided to move my slot to follow Levison Wood of Walking the Nile and Walking the Himalayas fame as “we think people will stick around for your talk after”. I was gobsmacked. Little old me, with no past experience of public speaking would present to what could be a large audience after Levison Wood!
"This is a big deal", I thought to myself, instantly getting that nervous lump in the throat feeling at the thought of it. I'm not a great one for public speaking, self-promotion and all that, and to be following a TV celebrity on my debut added to the pressure.
I set about preparing my talk, looking at how other adventurers structure their talks. I worked through a few options, plumping for '5 key components of adventure', weaving stories from the Amazon into each section in a linear fashion. I practiced and practiced but knew that each time I was really just going through the motion of it, nerves distracting from the objective.
On Thursday 11th February I arrived at the ExCeL hoping that I'd done enough. I felt good. I knew this speech and all the stories in it. However, my preparation at the ExCeL wasn't quite how I'd imagined it. As soon as I arrived I was whisked into an interview with Mark Bailey for a piece in the Telegraph Men section of their website (coming soon!). I then got the opportunity to meet Levison before he took to the stage, adding to my nerves. I managed to find a quiet 15 minutes for myself before returning to watch Levison close up his Q&A. It was my turn.
Welcomed on stage by the incredibly charismatic host, Liam Lonsdale, I made my way up to the front. The nerves I'd been worrying about the whole time didn't make an appearance as I shared my journey with 40 or 50 people over half an hour. I'd taken a call to keep my notes in hand more as a comfort blanket than anything else, which in hindsight was probably the wrong decision as I relied on them far more than I needed. But the most important thing is that I enjoyed it. Yes it wasn’t the best presentation ever; it was a hard venue where sound disappeared into the vast expanse above; but people were really interested in the journey, and I got asked some great questions at the end. To add to that, I realised that I have overcome a fear of talking to large(ish) crowds in public. And I’m keen to do more. Much more.
So, if you want to hear me share a few stories from the Amazon, I will be at the February edition of Tales of Adventure in the Prince of Wales Pub, Covent Garden on Thursday 18th February from 7pm. Come and join me!