In October 2010, five years after James died, I was asked to talk to a group of 20 or so CRUSE bereavement care volunteers, consisting of trained and trainee counsellors. It was my first public speaking event, and at that time my presentation consisted of around 20 minutes of talking about loss, with index cue cards, on which I had written some prompts lest I forget to make a vital point.
It was a nerve-racking experience but I can’t have done too badly as I was asked to pay a return visit to a regional CRUSE training day last weekend. This time, my brief was to present to the 40 attendees for the afternoon, from 1300 to 1530, with a tea break at around 1400.
I realised that a few cue cards were not going to cut it this time, and set about finding out how best to prepare a Powerpoint presentation. My first port of call was Ross Macleod at the RNLI whose PPT presentation so impressed me the first time we met. He gave me some helpful advice and warned me against using too many slides.
I avoided the articles on the net headed ‘Death by Powerpoint’ but found some really useful information on the University of Leicester website, which contains several clearly written and informative articles – all for free! Thank you Uni of Leicester, for your succinct summary:
“A effective presentation makes the best use of the relationship between the presenter and the audience. It takes full consideration of the audience’s needs in order to capture their interest, develop their understanding, inspire their confidence and achieve the presenter’s objectives”
It was not long before I had put together some slides, images with minimal text, to illustrate my talk, appropriate to:
- What happened to James
- Our successful campaign to institute safety improvements at Kingston riverside
- The Toolbox of grief – what helps/has helped me
- The writing of my book “Into the Mourning Light”
- The RNLI and their Respect the Water campaign
- My involvement in bereavement workshops at Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary
- What to say/what not to say to bereaved parents
When the time came, once I had gone beyond my (unfounded) fear that the files wouldn’t open from the memory stick, I felt well prepared and presented my slides and talk across an hour before the break.
The second part of the afternoon saw the 40 attendees divided into groups to discuss various aspects of counselling bereaved families; we ended with a question and answer session.
I’ve never imagined myself as a front of house player, rather I am someone who prefers to be in the wings. Losing James and the resultant learning curve of living with loss has given me a new voice that I hope will grow in confidence with each presentation.