A man of African descent talking to a woman with a red sign post behind them.
Photo by Matthew Cawrey

You will have to give a speech…

Sonny Nwachukwu is one of Unlimited’s current trainees and, as such, is getting sent to a range of arts, training and development activities across the country. In February, he attended a training day and then the Cultural Shift Conviva at Arc Stockton… And gave his first public presentation.

I had the pleasure of attending the ARC Stockton Conviva and their Pitching-Positioning workshop a couple of months ago; the latter is something I usually stay away from. Public speaking isn’t my forte and, as we know, it’s well-documented that public speaking is the greatest fear known to most of humankind. So yes, I was very resistant at first yet I knew it would be (hopefully) a good challenge for me.

The day was run by broadcaster, journalist, actor and musician Mik Scarlet, whose years of experience were in no doubt present and intriguing to listen to. We got down to business and communicated who we were as artists, why we are artists, all our past achievements and what we wanted to do next in regards to our artistic career. Big questions for a single day workshop but being aware of those questions and thinking about how we put forward our history into all our conversations was rewarding.

The exercises got deeper throughout the day as we narrowed down to what was relevant for pitching new ideas. This part was informative and great words of wisdom sparked around the room as we all had moments of clarity in regards to our own work.

One particular note from Mik – ‘shape how the world sees you’ – was very moving and has such importance especially in today’s society where, for example, ‘labels’ are overly used to disempower and where people are shoved into (tick) boxes. The statement really did ring true for me: take your power back and shape yourself exactly how you want to be.

All words and no action would have made the day futile and so we had time to practice the speech delivering it to Mik and the rest of the group as practice for the event itself.

The Conviva

As a newbie at these kinds of events – with new people, new conversations and new experiences – I was happy to feel a sense of community at the Conviva, a striving for a common goal.

The day was split into segments with lots of opportunity for group discussions, giving people a chance to voice their opinions. One of the groups that I was part of focused on identity. We explored the meaning of identity and how the word disability was seen (especially by some of the younger generation) as out-dated and in need of a revamp. We explored how non-disabled ambassadors have an important role and where their identity lies in disability activism. It was interesting to see the vast range of comments on identity and it’s safe to say it’s an important topic resonating around the sector at the moment. So much so, that I was delighted to see it voted onto the agenda for Unlimited: The Symposium later this September where ‘Disability, intersectional identities and the arts’ will be discussed.

The King’s Speech (not that I’m saying I’m a king)

As I opened this blog, I mentioned that the greatest fear known to many is public speaking. For me, the most important thing was that I did it – stood in a full theatre of people and spoke for five minutes – and the sense of achievement was surreal. I had good feedback from people in the audience and this led to further conversations about my own work and also conversations in regarding stammering.

I definitely feel the workshop led to an increase in my confidence, as it shifted certain thought patterns that come into play when pitching my own work. The day has also inspired me to register for a public speaking class to help sharpen my skills in this area.

A book may give you excellent suggestions on how best to conduct yourself in the water, but sooner or later you must get wet…”  — Dale Carnegie