So yesterday I had to privilege of speaking at the Williamson County Juvenile Center just outside of Austin. I gave two presentations, about an hour each, to kids ranging from 10 to 18.
The first group was about 20 kids (all guys). This group was made of up the kids who had done something wrong but were awaiting a decision from the judge as to whether they would be staying on or not. When they came into the room, many of them carried books. I asked if they liked to read, and the response I got was that it was all they were allowed to do.
Not a bad response, I think. After all, there's no better way to develop a love of reading than to be exposed to it.
Anyway, the kids in this group were great. They asked lots of questions, and seemed a bit more willing to open up. I think it may have been the smaller group dynamic.
Overall, the main thing I noticed in this group, was the varying age difference. The youngest kid was 10, just 2 years older than my son. He, by far, asked the most questions, though as the speech went on, others loosened up, too. One kid even mentioned he wanted to write down stories and actually already had already started.
The second group was about 70 kids in full uniform (camouflage) who had been assigned to stay at the Juvenile center. The guys had their heads shaved and the girls all wore theirs up. They were polite, listened while I was talking, and then during Q&A some even mentioned SFF books and authors they liked to read. Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, R. A. Salvatore.
And let's not forget Stephanie Meyer. I think every kid in the room had read her books. One guy said no matter what she wrote next, he'd buy it.
I love the interaction with the kids; I love asking questions while I speaking and having them actually respond. Some admitted to being able to solve the Rubik's Cube. One kid asked me who my favorite Tolkien character was. To date, nobody has guessed my favorite Mario Kart character.
So it's been under a year since I've really been doing a lot of public speaking, and here's my discovery:
I love it.
Whether it's 30 2nd graders, 150 librarians, or a group of 70 troubled teens, I've enjoyed it each and every time.
And keep in mind as I say this that a year ago I was terrified of the thought of getting up in front of a group and speaking. It seemed horrible. The first time I shook. The second time, ditto, though not nearly as much. Each time it's gotten better. And yesterday, I wasn't nervous at all. I realize I can do this. And it's fun.
I'm big on PowerPoint and pictures, which I used to think was a crutch—that I was unable to give a "real" speech. But yesterday I realized my PowerPoint is more of a tool. It allows me to be chatty and approachable and not feel like I have a script. It lets me be myself. And I think this is the part I truly enjoy. I can get up and connect in some way to a group as myself and hope that I make a positive impact on at least one person out there.