The time I made a speech

A few months ago, I got an email from my old tutor at the university where I did my undergraduate degree. It was an invitation to an end-of-year event for the current students studying at the school of social sciences, where I also studied.

After seeing it was an invite, I skim-read the rest then scrolled down to the details about where and when. I booked the day off work and made a mental note to figure out how to make my post-university life seem way interesting to my old tutor, who had had such high hopes for me.

On the day, I turned up a little bit late, thanks to public transport, so everyone was already inside the lecture hall sitting down. I sneaked in at the back and just leaned against a table. In the first tea break, I found my way over to my tutor and said hi.

“O! Hi, Laura. Have you seen Jenny yet?” he asked.

Puzzled at this, I mumbled that I hadn’t and wondered who ‘Jenny’ was.

“Come on, let’s go and find her,” he said, signalling that I should follow. I did, slightly confused.

We found Jenny and my tutor said, “Jenny, this is Laura.”

“O, hi Laura,” she said. “Come with me.”

Again, I followed, wondering what all this was about. We went down to the front row of seats as everyone started to file back in after their tea break. Jenny briefly introduced me to another girl but things were getting going again and I had barely said hi before we had to be quiet. I still wasn’t sure why I was sitting at the front.

Some students got up and did a little talk about their dissertation subjects and a few were really interesting. As I listened, Jenny turned towards me and said, “You two will be up after this one finishes.”

Oops! This is what comes of not reading emails properly! I quickly got Facebook up on my phone and found the message and sure enough, there was the request for me to give a 10 minute talk about life since graduation!

Ha! I thought, cynically. You do degrees upon degrees then come out and realise everyone else has loads of them as well and so you all end up waiting tables and making coffee!

But I did not say this. Instead, when we got up, I stood behind the other girl, waiting to see what she said and planning to take my lead from her. But she had forward planned, hadn’t she? She had made a PowerPoint presentation. O yes, she had. And the computer was having problems. So she said to me, “Do you want to go first while I sort this out?”

And there I was, no excuses, no way out, no preparation, looking at a lecture hall full of faces, all silent and waiting. And I gave the most shambles speech ever. It went roughly like this.

“While I was at university, I did my dissertation about how the quality of your lawyer at a capital trial affects the likelihood of you getting the death penalty. I interviewed two men on death row and one of them has an execution date next month. I volunteered with a legal charity for a few years and graduated from law school last year. There’s still a long way to go but I’m getting there.”

And then I just walked off and sat down. I didn’t mention the coffee, nor the long years of working in menial task jobs for companies who don’t care about me. I didn’t mention how much I love cooking and that I’m thinking of a career in food. I didn’t mention how I secretly want to be a farmer and have even considered becoming a lady of leisure (with what financial backing, I don’t know). I didn’t say that I often feel I’ll never use my degrees and that I think, unfortunately, we have become an overeducated generation without the job opportunities to use the education we have accumulated. No, I didn’t say that.

I stood up, said three sentences in a panic then sat back down! And of course, of course the other girl gave a well thought-out, PowerPoint assisted, interesting speech. She made a pack up about job opportunities in the charity sector. And she was fab.

I was a shambles.

And that’s what happens when you don’t read emails properly.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Oh my goodness, you poor thing! lol I can imagine this exact sort of thing happening to me too… I took a trade in university, and ever since I graduated I’ve been getting invitations from some “Women in Trades” organization to go to one of their yearly get-togethers and talk about what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated field. I’ve turned them down every year because, even though I’d have plenty of time to prepare, because I just KNOW I would get up there and make a fool of myself.

    I don’t have a lot of good experiences with public speaking. 😛

    At least you learned a lesson, right? Heh…

    Reply

  2. I am sorry.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Alex Jones on June 11, 2013 at 19:27

    You survived it, well done! You were thinking on your feet. I have made a hash of public speeches myself. I have sometimes had media interviewing me and I had to pull something together at the last minute fast. It comes with practice.

    Reply

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