As Speakers, we spend a lot of time working on our talks and fine-tuning them. We sort out which visual aids will best enhance our presentation.
We rehearse and rehearse until we have got it how we want it. We are invited to visit a Probus Club, a U3A or a Ladies group. We are ready. So let’s go!
As we rehearsed and planned our talk ready for the off, did we for one moment think something unexpected would occur? Not for a minute really. Well, they do, and below are some examples of how they have happened to me.
I was booked to present my school science show in a village school just outside Abergavenny in South Wales. It was an old school with only 35 children on roll.
We were awaiting the arrival of another 30 children from another village school. I had set up my show and went to make use of the toilet which was at the end of the hall, and down a short corridor.
There were seven cubicles in a row, the end one being marked STAFF. There were gaps of about nine inches at the top and bottom of each door.
When I was due to exit there was no way the door would open. I pushed, pulled and banged on it. Nothing budged. After about ten minutes it somehow gave way to my physical endeavours.
As I entered the hall, about 65 pairs of small eyes peered around to see who was entering (the other school had now arrived). As I passed the Head Teacher, a rather jolly type of lady I whispered, “I have just been stuck in your toilet. The door wouldn’t open.”
With that, this very friendly lady gleefully announced: “Children, Mr Griffith has just been stuck in the toilet because the door wouldn’t open.” As you can imagine there were peels of laughter ringing around the hall. It was all great fun at my expense.
Of course, this was a one-off wasn’t it?
Late last year I was giving my Art of the Magician talk to a ladies group in a hotel in Yate near Bristol. I went to wash my hands in the toilet just prior to starting the show. This time there was only one room complete with washbasin.
I entered and closed the door when it suddenly dawned on me that it was the wrong thing to do. The door had been recently painted, and the internal door handle was missing. It was stuck fast and there was no way it would open.
All I could do was bang on the door and shout and hope that someone would hear me. Fortunately, on this occasion, I was soon rescued minutes before I was due to start.
My advice from now on is, check all toilet doors before you close them. This latter incident could have been a health and safety hazard and if there had been a fire I would not now be here writing this article.
Of course, it can’t happen again, can it?
Here is an unexpected occurrence of a different kind.
A couple of years ago, just before Christmas, I was booked to do an After Dinner Talk at the Jubilee Dinner of a Horticultural Society near the town of Portishead, a few miles from Bristol. During the talk, I told the following joke:
A friend of mine was driving to a show on a motorway at 90 mph. Suddenly in the rear mirror, he spotted a police car with all lights flashing. He pulled over into a lay bye.
The policeman went over to his car and said, “Can you please explain Sir, why you are exceeding the speed limit?”
To which my friend replied, “Well Officer, I am travelling to a show and I am late. You see, I am a juggler and a magician.”
Well with that, the officer’s face lit up.
“That’s interesting, juggling is one of my hobbies. If you give me a short demonstration here in the lay bye I will let you off with a caution.”
My friend got some flares out of his car, lit them, and started to juggle, throwing them high in the air as he did so.
As he was doing this, a lorry drew up behind the police car. The driver got out, obviously worse for wear and full of drink. Looking at my friend juggling the flares, he shook his head in utter disbelief and went and sat in the back of the police car.
When the police officer inquired why he was sat there, he replied,
“Well Officer, I am over the limit and I give myself up. Looking at him doing that, I could never pass that test.”
Well, following the dinner talk I was driving back home towards the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge when I saw a police car right behind me with all its lights flashing.
I pulled over to the side of the road to await the outcome and wound down the window:
“Sorry to trouble you Mr Griffith”, said the officer. “We are doing some on the spot breathalyser tests.”
I inquired how he knew my name. Apparently, he had checked my number plate on his computer.
“Have you had anything to drink this evening?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied, “a glass of wine about 8 p.m. I was attending a dinner.” By then it was 11 p.m.
“That’s O.K.,” said the officer, “What sort of dinner was it?”
When I informed him I was a magician and that I had given a magic show his face lit up.
”Did you do tricks with cards?”
When I replied that I had, he said,
“I love doing card tricks, it is a hobby of mine“ and he told me about the card tricks he could do.
We then had an interesting conversation about magic and magicians for about ten minutes. I gave him one of my leaflets and finally, we shook hands and he wished me a Happy Christmas and drove off.
The above encounter is exactly what happened so, beware of the unexpected!