A weekend to remember…

To a Mountaineer like myself, a weekend away is nothing new.  I’m often off into the hills of Britain or even Europe for a day or two’s climbing, but this weekend was different and rather special.

As a PSA member, I give my time to help others improve their presenting and speaking skills.  Months ago, Mindy Gibbons-Klein of the London group had asked me if I could present a session about Adventure, and I gladly accepted.  I had no idea at the time, but I was going to be in London for a great weekend…

I’ve been a PSA member for a number of years and presented a Masterclass on ‘Adventures in Speaking’.  The idea was to show that adventures can enhance how you speak and also what about.  Now don’t think that adventures mean climbing mountains, falling down crevasses, forging rivers and having near misses across the world.  To many people, life is an adventure.  You only have to listen to comedian John Bishop to know that having a family can be one of the biggest.  I told the story of my ill fated McKinley expedition and how my life has changed since, describing the techniques of voice, pauses, props etc, and the way you could use them to great effect to tell any story.  Some in the audience remarked that they hardly had a story to tell, but before I knew it met a man who was once a fighter pilot!

Think about the adventures in your life.  Did you have an incredible experience as a child, or with your own child?  Did you meet someone who truly changed your life?  Has something happened to you which changed your life?  Whatever it was, tell our own story, not someone else’s.  I cannot stress how vital this is, as you know and lived through your own story, so it will come from the heart.  Emotion and passion are vital in telling an adventure story (but don’t overdo it!)

Don’t be put off by the adventures of others, which you may think more dramatic or epic than yours, for it is not always the adventure that counts.  It’s how you tell it, use it and share it that matters.  I’ve seen many speakers with dramatic stories present dreadfully, and people with simple ones speak beautifully.

I shared the event with Rona Cant.  She’s sailed around the world the wrong way and Dog Sledded in the Arctic.  Our styles complemented each other and we shared different ideas and skills with the audience.

Well that was saturday, so let’s move forward to sunday…

Many people will know the phrase ‘On the eleventh minute, on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day…’.  I haven’t missed a remembrance service for years, either on or off the mountain, but this year was special.  I was invited by a great friend to join everyone on Horseguards Parade in London for the Service of Remembrance.  I have many connections with the armed forces, through presenting and skiing, but this was a real treat. The sun was shining, the ground was frosty and autumn was in full colour as I walked down the Mall.  I met Dave at the Guards Memorial and greeted him with a beaming smile.

I first met Dave many years ago on a ski trip, through a friend from Operation Raleigh.  I was just getting over losing my toes and wanted to return to the piste.  The trouble was that I had no idea how to do it.  Good though the NHS was, it had only got me walking.  I had made a number of tentative climbs, but my hands and feet ached after only a few minutes.  My sister wheeled me into an outdoor shop and helped force ski boots onto my feet, even though they were still dressed.  From that moment on I decided that whatever it took, I was getting back on the slopes.  We flew to the Alps and Dave helped me get onto the hill.  Still unsure (and rather worried) I clipped on my skies and looked down.  The slope was only shallow, but it looked steep enough to me.  A few beads of sweat ran from my brow and I looked sheepishly at Dave.  He looked confidently back, and using his extensive military training he did something very special – without a word he gave me a good solid push and watched as I careered downhill.  Something I’ve learned in life is that conversation cannot solve all of our problems.  Sometimes we need a good kick up the backside to get on with, and deal with things.  I’m not sure how I skied down, but I got there.  There was a lot of laughter and a few bruises that week, but I didn’t care.  I was back on the slopes, if a little lacking in style!

I didn’t march on Sunday, but enjoyed the parade with the crowds.  If any of you watch the service on television I can only advise you to switch it off, get off your backsides and onto the streets, to applaud the service personal wherever you live.  The shockwave caused by a band parading is something you cannot replicate on a screen.  Later I joined Dave in the Sergeants mess of Wellington Barracks for a few drinks.  There I met a friend from the Army Telemark Ski Association and listened to the adventures of many other people.  Many sounded scary, even life threatening, but they always ended in laughter and smiles.  It’s not what we go through that defines us, but how we go through it and come out the other end that matters…

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