Friday, June 4, 2010


I gave my first talk to a guild last night, the Monterey Peninsula Quilt Guild. It was so much fun, I don't know why I haven't done it sooner.

I've been a member of a quilt guild since 1990. It's a wonderful way to connect with other quilters, see great work in the form of show and tell, and hear experts on the latest techniques. I've used to be program chair for my guild, the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Guild. Program chair is the best job. You're responsible for the speaker. Beforehand, that means contracts, and phone calls and decisions about who would be a good match for your group. The day of, that often means airport runs, trips to local quilt shops and dinner with the talent. It's a privilege to hang out with these people. Some of my favorites were Margaret Miller, Jan Krentz, Joe Cunningham, Beth Ferrier.

We are blessed in the Bay Area with many quilting professionals but when a speaker fails to connect with the audience, all eyes are on the program chair. That can be a very long sixty minutes. I've had a speaker call in sick, and then there was the time when the freeway was closed because of a toxic spill, with the quilting teacher in her car forty miles away with no way to get her to San Jose. That was the meeting with no speaker at all. Maybe the only meeting in the history of the guild, but I don't want to dwell on that.

As a speaker, I tried to make my audience feel and laugh and think a little. What do you look for in a speaker? Do you have any great horror stories about programs?


Dru said...

I like when what the speaker has to tell us is in conversational mode and is interactive, and of course when there are some laugh moments.

Camille Minichino said...

I once booked a speaker for a writers meeting. When she got to the mic, she looked at me in the front row and asked "What was it you wanted me to speak about?"
Never booked her again!

Linda O. Johnston said...

I always enjoy speaking, Terri, and have developed a lot of topics--which I'm always adding to. It must be very difficult to be the person to find and schedule appropriate speakers. I was the scheduled speaker in a circumstance similar to your toxic spill situation and had no way to get there. I felt bad, but the group understood and rescheduled me a few months later.

Betty Hechtman said...

I am a reluctant speaker. I worry too much about trying to follow notes and then missing some point which throws everything else off. I do best when I forget that I'm a speaker and just think I'm talking to somebody.

Terri Thayer said...

I think the key is to relax. I was able to just talk to this group and interact as Dru suggested and it really went well.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Terri, you really can't imagine all the nightmare situations I had as a professional speaker. I was once locked in my hotel room--the keypad malfunctioned--with a group of 500 people waiting for me to appear. Another time, we had a fire alarm go off--but I was in Canada, so the announcement came in five languages over the PA system, and English was the last of the five!

What I always tell new speakers is: "Remember, the audience WANTS you to succeed. No one wants to sit through a bad speech. They are actively hoping you'll be good."

But that, sadly, is a bit of a lie. I've had people tell me they were "forced" to come hear me, by their bosses, etc., and some of them were doing everything to make life difficult short of lobbing apples at me.

I suggest that every program person have a back-up speaker. It helps ease those worries about travel problems, or in the worse case I know of, it helps when the speaker dies in the hotel room the night before your presentation. (True story!)

Terri Thayer said...

I got locked out of my room,too. An hour before I was supposed to be picked up by the program chair, my key stopped working. After four trips to the front desk, she finally sent a maintainence guy who had to change the batteries in the key lock.

I was very grateful that it happened when it did, because after my nighttime talk, no one was on duty. I'd have been sleeping in my car.