Farmers have a fantastic story to tell, and 24 Hours in Farming offers a chance for those who don’t always shout about what they do to make an impression.
So why not be part of the action? It is something of a cliche, but most farmers are too busy working on the day-to-day tasks to even contemplate getting up on a platform to talk about what they do. We want to change that by encouraging farmers to speak to the public about what they do.
For farmers who want to get on their soap box, rule number one is to trust your story. What seems humdrum and everyday to you can be a fascinating and unusual insight to others.
Be confident. Even if you have never made a speech before, with proper preparation you can inspire an audience to look at food production with fresh eyes.
There are two main approaches to talking in public. The ‘wing-it’ approach, which is only for the experienced, the confident, the brave and, occasionally, the foolhardy, and the ‘prepare everything to within an inch of its life’ approach. And there is a large grey area in between.
Do you need a detailed script before you take the stage? Can you memorise the main things you want to say and work from notes? Would prompt cards be a useful back up? Or would you prefer to allow your thoughts and your speech to flow freely? For those who are new to public speaking, asking yourself these questions will take you on a voyage of self-discovery.
Many people who speak in public regularly will begin with a rough idea of what they want to say and a keen awareness of how long their presentation will last. But that approach is not for everyone, and newcomers are well-advised to put plenty of time and energy into preparation.
Whether you decide to plan every word of your speech or go freestyle, you should always talk about what you know. Try, no matter how randomly, to get everything on paper before you plan your presentation.
Ask yourself questions like: What do I do that’s a bit different? What am I passionate about sharing? What do you want the audience to talk about later? How can this event push my business in the direction I want it to go in?
It’s a bit like fishing: You need a hook in order to reel your audience in. Your introduction should explain the topic of your speech in brief, peak people’s interest and leave them wanting more.
You may raise some of the questions you will answer through the course of your talk. You may wish to focus on one of the pressing issues of the day or you may be sharing best practice which will enable people to appreciate your produce or replicate your success.
However, be sure to focus on just one or two salient points in the introduction so as not to confuse and overwhelm.
Young Farmers hold regular public speaking competitions. They advise speakers to keep the wording simple and natural as if in conversation and to allow as much of their personality to show as possible.
“Give ideas, opinions and views,” they say. “The speech should be a mixture of humour and fact where possible.”
Practice on your own, with or without a mirror. Try recording yourself. Try out your speech on your friends and family.
Talking right away, out of nerves, communicates insecurity and fear. To win the audience’s confidence, walk out quietly, take a deep breath, wait a few seconds, then begin. It may feel awkward but it shows the audience you are in control, and will help both you and your audience relax.
Nerves can speed up your speech, but the worst thing you can do is rush. If you feel your words running away from you, be silent for a moment and take a deep breath.
Look directly at specific audience members one by one, for an entire sentence or thought if possible. It may feel strange at first but it is preferable to panning across the room, which only serves to disconnect you from your audience.
Focus on those who are enjoying your presentation. It will help you feel more confident and relaxed.
Show your appreciation for the audience’s attention and give them the opportunity to ask questions. Get feedback from your guests and obtain their contact details if you want to follow up communication.
24 Hours in Farming is the industry’s opportunity to showcase British agriculture to consumers. Now in its third year and supported by Morrisons, the event will take place from 5am on August 10 until 5am on August 11.
On the day we would like everyone working in, or connected to, farming to take to social media platforms, using #Farm24, to talk about what we do. The aim is to show consumers just how much passion and commitment goes into producing the food they eat.
This year we want 24 Hours in Farming to be seen by even more people and so, for the first time, we are also encouraging farmers to use the day to speak directly to the public about their work.
Perhaps you could host an on-farm event, give a talk to a local group or even give an interview to a local newspaper or radio station – anything to highlight how hard-working and dedicated UK farmers are.