Public Speaking and Other Horror Stories

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a public speaker.

It’s something that has always terrified me.

I trace this back to moving from Scotland to Wales when I was 14, and asked to talk to my English class in a new school about some topic I was passionate about. The girl before me spoke about The Body Shop and smashed it.

I mumbled and stuttered through an excruciating two minutes and swiftly sat back down again, cheeks flaming.

Since that time, I vowed never, ever to speak to an audience again.

Until MS.

Why did MS give me back a voice I lost?

For one, accent doesn’t matter. Second, a slick speaker is all well and good, but sometimes it is just as important to hear from someone like me, an average person , saying it as it is, mumbling and pauses accepted.

During my work in raising awareness about MS, I have been fortunate enough to speak at MS conferences in Hungary, Greece and Denmark. When I say speak, I mean talking with passion to audiences, voice wavering. I always keep in mind that if I can survive a two-hour lumbar puncture by a Doctor who has never done one before on a live patient, I can survive anything (true story)

And that’s the thing about passion – at my last conference, we were talking about Patient Focused Priorities, something I’m, well, passionate about. We had all chatted beforehand, ran through some scenarios, but to be live (it was live-streamed), to be there, at the conference, for that twenty minutes, I wanted to give my all.

It could have gone either way. I blow-dried my hair (taming the unruly curls), I dressed in smart black trousers and a grey top and made my way to the conference room. I was led to a bank of dials and switches and mic’d up (bit embarrassing, muffin top). Then I sat down, heart pounding.

It seemed a good idea weeks before, so we agreed, as I was in Scandinavia, I would explain my background. In Norwegian. A language I used to speak fairly fluently until MS blasted me with a massive relapse of the speech part of my brain, which I’ve been told is quite unusual.

However, me and my wonderful Norwegian host began…

Reader, it was amazing. My Norwegian was awful (to be expected) but our rapport carried us through,

Looking back, I think it is the same for all of the conferences I have spoken at. I’m not coached, tutored or subjected to a round of interviews: I’m invited because I am me, living with MS.

I would like to think that a genuine speech about someone living with MS is more effective than any PowerPoint slideshow.

I may mumble, stumble and fumble, but I get my point across.

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4 thoughts on “Public Speaking and Other Horror Stories

  1. Archie says:

    Babs you continue to embarrass me. While I go about my mundane activities whilst achieving nothing of note yet always appreciating my good health I can’t help thinking how much you achieve through sheer power of will. You are clearly a mighty force physically and intellectually. I live in your long shadow. Well done. X

  2. Niknak says:

    I finished your book a few weeks ago.It is the first book I have actually read since my diagnosis. I am going to read it again and highlight the passages I want to read aloud to family and friends, it gave me a greater awareness of my own symptoms and experience. I laughed and cried and read between the lines. It also made me consider my future with Ms. I was diagnosed last year with rrms, now on tecfidera, two small kids underfoot, full time job that I am struggling with, not sure how long I will keep that going. You did it and are doing it, you are such an inspiration. I am also in flats.
    Anyone reading, buy the book, it is amazing,

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Hello there!
      Thank you so much for your lovely comment and also for reading my book, I appreciate it more than you can imagine!
      We’re all in this together and I hope you can keep on keeping on 🙂 X

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