Thursday, 25 November 2010

Timed to Talk? - Lucy Coats

I'm warning you--this post may sound a bit OCD.  That's because, where giving a talk is concerned, I am obsessive-compulsive.  Take the recent SCBWI 10th Anniversary conference (written about here recently by Ellen Renner).  I was asked to be on one of their new 'Pulse' panels talking about 'How to Sell Your Book' way back in the summer when November seemed a long way off.  I said yes, of course, though I'd never done a panel talk before.  After all, how hard could being on a panel be?  There'd be at least two other people on it, if not three...and it would mostly be audience questions.  Wouldn't it?

Jon Mayhew, Sarah McIntyre and Lucy Coats in action on SCBWI Pulse Panel
And then the instructions arrived. 'Give an 8 minute talk', they said.  That's when I started obsessing.  Because I'm someone who likes to get it right where talks are concerned. 
Really right.
So I wrote the damn speech (let's not mention the time spent doing the PowerPoint which went with it here--that's a whole other story).  Then I got my kitchen timer and my stopwatch (one counts up, one counts down--no room for any error of timing there, then).
Now pause for a second and imagine the mad authory person striding up and down the her office, declaiming to three long-suffering dogs.
Oops!  The beeper goes off. 
There is still a lot of stuff to say.
The damn speech must be cut.
And cut again.
And snipped still further.
Time must be squeezed till it fits.

After hours (yes, hours) more cutting and striding about I have something which runs between 7 minutes 44 seconds and 8 minutes 15 seconds depending on declamation speed.  It is not absolutely and exactly perfect (this, worryingly, worries me--I did warn you), but it will have to do. Perfectionism can only go so far.

There's nothing worse than a panel speaker who rambles on and on, going over their allotted timeslot and messing up all the other panel members.  That's why I give thanks for my talk timing OCD. It means I'll never be one of them.  The dogs still think I'm mad--but that's a price I'm happy to pay.

The Nearly-Perfect 8 minute Speech

Thanks to Nicky Schmidt for SCBWI conference photos

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Leslie Wilson said...

Excellent post, Lucy! So glad to hear of people taking these things seriously because as you say, people who overrun are a pain, because it messes up all the timings.

Now what happens to me is that I get distracted halfway through, and then I have to start again.. and again... and again.
I keep my watch in sight all the time I'm performing, and cut things short if I'm taking too much time

Lucy Coats said...

Yes...a watch. And my notes stuck to cards as an emergency crutch in case I get lost or start rambling! Thank you, Leslie.

Nicky S (Absolute Vanilla) said...

bwahahahahahaaaaa - omg, I so relate, been there, done that - I empathise entirely, Lucy - and sympathise. You did, however, a totally sterling job and were brilliant! So, all the fretting must have paid off!

Gillian Philip said...

Oh, yes. I went to a writing conference which shall be nameless. We were all told firmly to stay within our speaking times. Hooray, we said, a firm chairman. Except she stood up herself in between talks and spoke about the importance of timekeeping, and her own writing, till we were running 45 minutes late...

Lucy Coats said...

It's stories like that which make my fur stand on end, Gillian. So d**ned rude and thoughtless.

Andrew Strong said...

Tricky as saying 'spot on!' in eight words.

catdownunder said...

Another reminder of why I hate getting up to say anything in public!

Jan Markley said...

great graphics! I think I'm one of those who's gone on past my appointed time in the past!

Katherine Langrish said...

Gillian, that's funny - painful, though! Lucy, wish I'd heard your speech!

Stroppy Author said...

Oooh, I bet you were brilliant, my dear. My first panel thingy was something I turned up to NOT REALISING I was on the panel. So not point being scared now... But I hate all that stuff and am as OCD as you about preparing so it doesn't run over. Thank you for making me feel normal xx