Tuesday, 16 October 2012

How not to give a talk about motoring

THE projector was definitely taking the day off.

In a crowded hotel suite last night I was a picture of nervousness, because the technology rigged up to help me was doing exactly the opposite. It was the monthly meeting of the Sefton Institute of Advanced Motorists and I, as that bloke who does that column for The Champion, was the speaker. Or at least I was supposed to be, anyway.

Because public speaking definitely isn’t my sort of thing what I’d done is prepared a short film detailing my three-and-a-bit years of writing about cars for two different newspaper groups, aptly titled Confessions of a Motoring Journalist. The idea was to raise a few quid to help the Petrolhead Pub Quiz I’m holding next month, show the 35-minute film, and use the crowd as guinea pigs for one of the rounds of the quiz.

But, as is so often the case, it didn’t quite work out like that. The quiz element was going really well, but for whatever reason, the projector just wasn’t playing ball and taking a feed from the laptop we’d brought along.

The technical whiz helping me suggested I swap for his and once we did that, I thought we’d cracked it. It picked up the feed straight away, the film was ready to roll, so I gave the introduction to my speech. Lightning surely, couldn’t strike twice, but it did.

“Windows Media Player Has Encountered a Problem and Needs to Close”. The error message made my heart sink, and it wasn’t a one-off. Every time I tried, the film which had played perfectly on countless different computers was a no-go. All the while, a crowd of Sefton Advanced Motorists were waiting anxiously to see the presentation they’d heard so much about.

So I blagged it. I binned the laptop, the film, and gave a rather different talk. A talk with no notes, no autocue, nothing. It was just me, a crowd of people, and my best efforts to waffle through a subject I know rather well; motoring journalism.

Amazingly, I lasted the full hour and even got a round of applause at the end. How, to be honest, I’ll never know!

It did at least teach me a valuable lesson I’d forgotten since I’d sold my last Mini. Never rely on technology…

Confessions of a Motoring Journalist, the original presentation, will be available to view on Life On Cars later this week

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