July 25, 2018 by Alison Watson-Shields
There have been times over the last 6 months since launching the REACH Project, that I have felt incredibly frustrated and alone – as if no matter how hard I try the project simply isn’t moving in the right direction. Fortunately, I no longer feel that way as much any more thanks in no small part to my recent experience at Stockton Soup.
Stockton Soup is a brilliant organization that brings together businesses, local organizations, local people, charities and people who just want to do good in the world.
I’d been toying with the idea of setting up a short-term photo exhibition project to showcase “positivity about disability”. Like the majority of good ideas you have, something else came along that was more urgent and the application was left sitting on my computer. Eventually days later, while I was in the middle of 100 other things, I found the application and quickly completed it in a few hours. Fortunately for my purposes, the criteria for the application specified it could be no more than a page in length, making my job considerably easier!
In all honesty, after submitting the application I thought no more about it, believing it was no different from a number of similar applications I had submitted in recent memory. However, late last month I received an email informing me that my application had been successful and I was invited to pitch at the Stockton Soup event taking place at ARC on Wednesday 18th July.
Initially, I was delighted at the prospect of receiving some money for my project, however, I then realized I would have to pitch my idea. I am no stranger to public speaking particularly since beginning REACH – it is the central focus of my job after all. Yet, inexplicably and for reasons that I still can’t fathom now, I was nervous about pitching. However, as the saying goes “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”, so for more than two weeks between other commitments I drafted and re-drafted my pitch. Eventually, I got my speech just right, I had already decided when the time came I would be giving the speech from memory. As a rule, I prefer not to use a script or notes when giving a speech. I think when you give a speech without notes or props you can maintain eye contact with the audience and your delivery sounds more passionate and forthright.
In no time at all the night arrived, and I was preparing to pitch going over my notes one last time. As it happened, thanks to the networking I have undertaken ever since the beginning of REACH, I knew several members of the audience, all of which were wishing me well as I entered the theatre to be introduced.
The biggest issue I have with public speaking generally I tend to speak really quickly and this is something that I am working to correct. Unfortunately, I know that I did speak really fast on Wednesday night, this was understandable because each project is only given 4 minutes to pitch their particular idea.
I was the first project to speak, once I Began speaking my nerves disappeared and I quickly found my rhythm. The biggest problem I faced on the night was the microphone. I have never use the microphone when giving presentations of speeches, however, on Wednesday I did have one. I tend to use my arms and hands to gesture or gesticulating when giving a talk but this is incredibly problematic when you’re holding a microphone! Additionally, getting the distance between the microphone and my mouth correct was also a problem.
Thankfully the audience couldn’t tell, thinking back now I can’t exactly remember what I said but it must have been good because as I left the stage, my manager who was also pitching whispered to me, “I’m just going to pack my bags and go home now”. I found this remark incredibly reassuring and, as I smiled, I realized it was the first time since getting on the stage I had done so.
As I left the theatre at the Intermission, I was approached by many people from various organisations, including a community radio station dedicated to disabled people and Vision 25, who asked me to attend a team meeting and to talk to some of their clients about REACH. I was approached by members of the public who just wanted to learn more. I must have talked for a while because before too long we were being called back into the theatre for the results. Unfortunately, I had talked for so long I had neglected my soup which was cold.
After quickly eating my soup, I returned to the theatre for the results and found that REACH received more than £300 for the proposed photo exhibition project.
I would like to thank Stockton Soup for their support. I would recommend this organization to anyone and urge you to learn more. You will find it is a great networking opportunity and the soup is delicious as well, even when cold!
REACH Project Lead
Call: 01642 687701