2013 is the year of The Gathering, an initiative by the Irish Tourist Board (Bórd Fáilte) and the Irish Government to encourage the Irish diaspora and people who were born in Ireland, to come home and visit family, friends and relations. It’s about people getting together and catching up on lost time and memories. Perhaps some might come home and stay at home. Since January this year, many families and indeed organisations have been planning and organizing events all across the country in preparation for a Gathering event of which most took / take place around the late Spring, Summer months and early Autumn. I attended such an event recently where a committee of 10 people got together last March and decided to host a Gathering for past pupils of a Primary School. This school has since closed with a new school built and opened. The school’s building remains are still there to be seen and represent childhood memories for all those people who attended it for their primary / national school education. Therefore, after its closing all of over 35 years, it took great courage, commitment and purpose to manage an event that would bring all of these past pupils of this school back together again for a night of celebration. There is always one person that makes these things happen by gathering a great team around them, sitting down and setting a goal. This is exactly what happened when the said person Peter formed the committee from past pupils and locals who attended and lived around the school respectively. They met at least once per week, planning for the occasion, choosing the venue / food, collecting spot prizes, arranging the music, developing a booklet which contained narrative, photographs and history of the school and its past pupils…a lot of work, I’m sure you will agree. On the night of the event, Peter was the main speaker, in fact he acted as MC (Master of Ceremonies). He also managed the spot prizes ceremony and with a friend delivered a marvelous two man show that imitated psst pupils who were in the audience and shared stories of what they got up to / were like as pupils in the school. He had very little notes, though he did have guidelines of what he wanted to say, so that he wouldn’t forget anything or anyone. He stood facing the audience and delivered on his MC responsibilities and made sure that everything went smoothly. He was ‘in his element’ as he spoke. He was definitely proving the concept that when you believe you are speaking to old friends (which he was!), you can be yourself and speak so much better. When you are asked to speak again, whether it be for a social occasion or a work event or indeed business presentation, speak with a mindset that you are speaking to old friends. With this approach, you will speak more freely, yet remain in professional mode, not getting carried away and saying nothing that upsets the audience or undermines you as a speaker. Like Peter, do have notes to keep you on track and be authentic. Enjoy your speaking opportunities…