It’s that time of the year again when shows I have been booked into to host pig workshops or give talks start arriving at terrifying speed. At the time of the booking, I always feel flattered that the show organisers actually think I’m worth putting in front of an audience, but then doubt about my ability to give a decent hour of information starts to creep in and I hope they are not disappointed in my offerings.
How well the talk goes depends on the audience. For some (you hope it’s not the majority), they are not sitting down to listen to my expert opinion on the newest Defra regulations or how to get a piglet breathing again – they are merely using my event to rest their feet, pour themselves a cup of tea from the flask and, in some cases, actually take a quick nap.
You know as soon as you scan the faces of your audience and begin your talk what sort of response you will receive. Those who are generally interested in pigs will lean forward hanging on every word, smiling and nodding with me as I talk about farrowing or feeding.
The aforementioned, however, will sit stony-faced, only moving to unwrap a sandwich or empty the contents of their flask into a plastic cup. And depending on how comfortable they are, sometimes they will stay put for the duration of two or three talks – no matter what the subject matter, though it has been known for them to get up at the end muttering how boring my talk was and that they should have sat in on the cookery demo in the main tent instead.
I must confess I worry about giving boring talks. You know you are not quite hitting the mark when you see you audience’s eyes glaze over and they slump down in their seats. I have – for emergencies – funny stories which I pull out at such times. Sometimes it works and I get a giggle and they straighten in their seats; at other times I just know that the rest of my talk will be as excruciating for them as it is for me knowing that this particular address will be talked about on the way home for all the wrong reasons.