Public Speaking

Having the ability to become a  public speaker and doing it well came as a surprise to me, being for most of my life, a shy person. So finding that I was not only able to speak to an audience I didn’t know, but that I was capable of doing it well, and hold their interest, was very unexpected.

It started by accident when I was taking part in an English Civil War event at Warwick Castle. I was dressed as a soldier and whist walking the castle battlements I was stopped by a child who asked me about my musket. As he was somewhat shorter than me I knelt down and began to explain the workings of a musket, how it was loaded and fired. The child went on to ask me about the other equipment I was carrying. I lost track of time as I explained the different bits and pieces to him, but when I stood up I found that I had accumulated quite a large crowd of onlookers who had gathered around us to listen to what I had to say.

Later, as I grew older and I gave up being a soldier, I took on a living history role as a 17c surgeon. I soon noticed that I was able to pull and hold a crowd during my talks on medicine and surgery of the civil war. The subject itself is interesting enough, after all, we all have a medical history, so learning how our ancestors had to deal with illness and injury was always going to be a popular subject to listen to. But, the difference between what I was doing and how other living history speakers conducted their talks took a little while to figure out. I found that I not only pulled larger crowds but, I held them at my display for far longer than the other speakers. All the speakers at the events knew their subjects in-depth and in detail. We all had historical artefacts to show to the public. It was only when I began getting a round of applause after each of my talks that the other speakers began to come to see what I was doing differently to them. It turned out that I was turning my talks into stories, putting the subject about which I was speaking into a context that people could relate to and follow. So the audience not only wanted to stay until the end of each story, they wanted to hear another one. With each story being informative and coupled with a demonstration, the public wanted more.
I began to give talks at seminars for re-enactors to share the knowledge of what I was doing instinctively as well as other tips that I had learned to help make talking in public more interesting and successful.

Though I no longer belong to a historical re-enactment group, I still give talks on 17c medicine and surgery, only now, it is to groups such as the Women’s Institute, University of the Third Age and Historical Societies.