Goal: keep audience awake 45 minutes
By Mike Jiggens
The clock is ticking toward an upcoming event destined to be the ultimate test of my personal confidence. On the morning of Feb. 21, I’ll be standing before an expected audience of 200 to 300 people in Richmond, B.C., delivering a “mini keynote” address at the annual conference of the Western Canada Turfgrass Association.
Public speaking has never exactly been my forte. It was probably the least enjoyable aspect of my high school years when I’d have to stand before the class and extol the virtues of a novel I had just read or explain the findings from an assignment I’d just completed. Although I’d have crib notes close at hand, I’d often stumble through my prepared text and seemingly come off sounding less than professional. I’d be told I did just fine, but it never seemed that way to me.
My upcoming WCTA gig marks only the second public speaking engagement of my adult life. Frankly, I’m feeling the jitters already, even though it’s still a month away (from the time of this writing). Still, this could well become the most nerve-wracking 45 minutes of my life.
Nerves aside, I’m looking forward to the trip west and attending what will be my first-ever stand-alone WCTA conference. I’ve attended a handful of previous WCTA events during my 25 years with Turf & Rec, but only when they’ve been joint offerings with the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association. Based here in southern Ontario, I almost forget sometimes that there’s a whole country out there to the west.
I enjoy these opportunities to meet with our Western Canadian readers, and this visit will be no exception. The plan is to attend some of the industry-related seminars while there and report on them in our publication. What’s happening in Western Canada deserves to be in the spotlight now and then.
Before I’m able to get around to the education seminars, I have to get through my own presentation first. One thing I will not do is heed the advice of whoever it was who recommended that the speaker should envision his audience clad only in their underwear. I expect it to be a male-dominant audience. No thanks.
The subject matter of my presentation is a retrospective of my 25 years with Turf & Rec. It won’t officially be 25 years until August, but who’s counting a few months? There is lots I can talk about from the past quarter-century, but the trick is coming up with anecdotes that are at least semi-interesting. The last thing I want to do is put my audience to sleep.
I suppose I shouldn’t get too uptight about this. It’s not as if my life literally hinges on being able to conquer my nervousness. My take on this from the outset was to simply do my best and have some fun with it, much as I would when playing in a big golf tournament. I enjoy playing golf and I enjoy talking about Turf & Rec.
I’m beginning to wonder if what really has me uptight about this is the fact that I’ve been with Turf & Rec for 25 years. That’s a pretty significant chunk of my life as well as a reminder of how old I am. Add to that a milestone birthday coming up this year, and I’m especially feeling it.
I need to tell myself to forget about such nonsense and dwell on the positives. For one thing, a mid-winter trip to B.C.’s Lower Mainland represents a reprieve from the bitter cold we’ve been experiencing of late in southern Ontario. It’s also a chance to see some real mountains again and not that pretend one in nearby Hamilton.
But most of all, I’m looking forward to touching base with our readers at the other end of the country. It’s been awhile.