As a speaker, it has not been a surprise to me to discover that I love talking to adults about the capabilities of those who are differently abled, but I will admit I was surprised to discover how much I enjoy talking to youngsters on the same subject.
I had the opportunity to speak to the girls from the First fish Hoek Brownies this afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The first time I spoke to a group of youngsters I was completely intimidated… Okay, maybe intimidated isn’t really the word – I was terrified! It’s one thing talking to a group of adults and sharing stories of some of the funny things that have happened to me since losing my sight, but talking to children is a completely different thing… especially as I do not have children myself.
An industry network is a powerful thing, and the speaking business is no exception. I asked one of my speaking colleagues, American professional speaker, Mark Brown, for advice and gained huge value from his experience of working with youngsters for many years. His basic advice? Involve the children as much as possible, as they become bored if you simply speak at them. So I try to follow this great advice whenever I speak to children.
When preparing to meet with First fish Hoek Brownies, I decided to let the girls take the conversation where they wanted, inviting them to ask whatever questions they had. The tricky bit was working out the logistics of the group interaction, and thankfully I had the help of a sighted adult to ensure that everyone got a chance to speak, and that no one dominated the conversation.
I was impressed by the diversity of questions asked by the girls (aged 7 – 10 years): from how I do things, to what it is that I see, from whether or not I remember what I look like, to how I play a guitar. And, of course, the girls wanted to know all about Eccles, my retired guidedog who accompanied me to the visit.
One of the first rules of speaking I learned was to know your audience, and my assessment that I had made the right decision in letting the girls ask questions was Bourne out by their supervisor, who told me that she had never seen the girls so attentive, and so well behaved. I just thought they were amazing, for the variety and maturity of their questions, and their openness to the concept that, despite my lack of sight, that I am just a normal person who does things a little differently.