Stand up to your public speaking fears

John Cooper of Comedysportz

John Cooper of Comedysportz

I’m not someone who has a ‘bucket list’ as such. But I am a great believer of putting yourself outside your comfort zone, especially if it helps further your ambitions.

Public speaking is one the areas I’d love to improve in. I’ve done a few bits and pieces for Manchester Girl Geeks but would like to build the confidence to give longer talks and workshops.

This week, I stretched myself by signing up (and showing up) to John Cooper’s ‘Present Yourself’ workshop in Manchester.

John is a stand-up comedian, writer, illustrator and part of the Comedysportz line-up of talent.

I met him a few weeks ago at Bliss Group‘s ‘Laugh Your Head Off’ workshop where I enjoyed a brief comedy writing exercise he shared with us.

I had so much fun with that I decided to brush up on my presentation skills with John’s public speaking workshop which builds confidence by using a variety of games and activities.

It was great to join a mixed group of men and women of all ages, backgrounds and reasons for wanting to develop their public speaking skills and confidence.

Here’s a few things that we tried out at the workshop.

Danish Clapping

Fast action hand clapping game done in pairs.  The rules are very simply, when your gestures match you high five your partner. Sounds simple right? Try doing this at high speed with someone you’ve not met before – a great ice-breaker high energy and lots of fun!

There are also more advanced variations of the game with multiple players, but to see what we did at the workshop you only need to watch up 1m 14s – after that it goes into some more complicated options!

Speak for a minute

Each of us were invited on stage to talk for a one minute on a subject of our choice. Because of the small group (15 of us) and John’s use of games and activities as a warm up, everyone felt comfortable (enough) to get up on stage and have a go.

The interesting thing about ‘speak for a minute’ was that our performances weren’t timed. Without this discipline most of us performed for two to three minutes, something than John re-assured us was quite natural.

The spontaneity of the exercise generated a wide range of topics, ranging from grumpy bus drivers, lawn mowing techniques, beauty treatments, the futility of bacon and long-distance relationships.

I really relished the opportunity to get up on stage to try out my own material and even got some laughs which was really thrilling. Who knew my brother’s daily porridge ritual would go down so well?

OK, so what next?

1. Go to another one of John’s ‘Present Yourself’ workshops, each one is a bit different so it would be a great way to develop my skills and confidence.

2. Consider signing up for the more in-depth courses offered by Comedysportz – now just decide between improv and stand-up…

Become comfortable with being uncomfortable

This is mantra that was repeated by the guy who used to run the circuits class at my gym. I started off hating this phrase but it helped to numb the pain of squats an star jumps and I slowly bought into it.



Here are some things I’ve done in the past year which encroached on my comfort zone:

And here’s my list of ambitions from January – it’s definitely in need of a review!

My Summer of Love


Yes, I have been very quiet of late. After moving into my new fab home I wanted some time just to be in, settle and feel like it was home. Now I have grounded myself and regrouped I have a new set of priorities, the uppermost being my own wellbeing.

Silence hasn’t meant an absence of happiness. Over the last few months there have been some truly happy moments which I am grateful for. So this post will be a little update on what happened in my summer of (self) love.

IMG_2054Yoga in the sunshine

If you’ve read my blog you might know that I had a blissful time stretching in the Spanish sun last September.

I liked it so much I decided join Nicole and the team for another break – a women-only wellbeing ‘retreat’ just down the road in Calpe.

Along with the yoga and Pilates, we benefitted from access to a nutritionist, life coach and personal trainer.

For a holiday that was billed as a ‘detox’ we ate really well. Our fabulous chef Jason prepared fresh meals for us every day as well as a morning smoothie and his own recipe granola bars.

Above all, it was the people who made the break the joyful experience it was. Women of all ages sharing their wellbeing wisdom, supporting each other and learning together.

Manchester International Festival

adam_buxtonWe are truly blessed in Manchester to have such a diversity of events going on in and around the city.

Manchester International Festival, which runs in alternate years, always brings a cunningly curated line-up to the city.

This year I had the pleasure to see perfomances by comedy god Adam Buxton (pictured) and quirky Icelandic songstress Bjork, as well as taking in the excellent Tree of Codes dance production – an explosion of colour, movement, mirrors and magic.

Girl Geek Dinners @10

bake-offThe parent organisation of Manchester Girl Geeks, Girl Geek Dinners, has been going for a decade. Massive respect to Sarah Lamb who founded Girl Geek Dinners – there are now ‘chapters’ in over 20 countries worldwide.

Manchester Girls Geeks joined in the birthday celebration with their own distinctive brand of girl geekery.

This included Raspberry Pi polaroid-style photography (props to @MiniGirlGeek & @elsie_m_) and tech swag pass-the-parcel (thanks to @angieokchan for packaging). Congrats to @GillKiernan for her ‘Pi’ cake which won the bake-off and very deservingly.

At the time of writing there are just a few tickets left for the next Manchester Girl Geeks event on Sunday 20th September, when materials scientist Dr Suze Kundu will be running a hands-on session.

My Week In Happy: 42 – the answer to life, the universe and everything else


Or is it 41.92?

Presents! Thanks everyone :)

A selection of gifts and cards I received on my 42nd birthday.

In Douglas Adams’ geek classic The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, there was a joke that ‘the answer to life, the universe and everything’ could be summed up by just one number – 42.

This is not something that I have paid much attention to until turning 42 last year.

If the mantra ‘life begins at 40’ did not seem quite convincing enough, the idea that becoming 42 might have something magical about it – even based on no science at all – really appealed to me.

Imagine my delight when I came across some real research that suggested that we reach our creative prime in our forties.

A Dutch economist, Philip Hans Franses, looked at the lifespans of 221 famous painters between 1800 and 2004. He then used art market data to work out how old artists were when they created the piece of work that had sold for the most money.

The average age was 41.92.

Not only did this reassure me that the best may be still to come, but some of the artists didn’t get really good until they were in their seventies – loads of time left!

Comedians in their prime

The Lowry Arts Centre in Salford attracts some great comedy performers, and this week I was lucky enough to catch three (count ’em) stand-up acts at the venue.

Lucy Porter

Wednesday’s gig was Lucy Porter’s with Me Time. She is also 42 which meant that a niche cultural reference to A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Can I Kick It?’ didn’t go unnoticed. However, I was less prepared to hear the truth about some drama on Mumsnet’s ‘Am I being unreasonable?’ thread.

She also traded on the glory of winning Celebrity Mastermind (in 2009) by running a very successful ‘name the top famous people from Salford’ quiz and gave audience members actual prizes including a finger of Fudge and even a Double Decker (but no plastic trophy).

Andy Parsons

On Friday I went to see Andy Parsons (Live and Unleashed – But Naturally Cautious) who I hadn’t seen do stand-up before but recognised from his regular appearances on Mock The Week.

Andy is 47 (not 42, but a prime number so some specialness) muses on the absurdity of life and how the ‘pasty tax’ got overturned but we still don’t have a legally enforced living wage in the UK. He also talked about poo quite a lot.

Richard Herring

Last up, on Saturday, was old favourite Richard Herring and his show ‘The Lord of the Dance Settee’. The title, as it suggests, is what Herring believed the words to the popular-in-seventies-primary-school-assemblies hymn ‘Lord of the Dance‘.

Richard Herring is 47 (see Parsons above) and recounts attending a variety performance featuring Ted Rodgers of 3-2-1 fame just to heckle him. Herring is horrified when he discovers that at the height of his fame, Rodgers was 48 – just one year older than him…

My Week In Happy: Where the magic happens



"Where the magic happens" in big bubble, "Your comfort zone" in smaller, separate bubble.

After my holiday, I went back to the Ashtanga class at my gym with renewed enthusiasm for my practice, and even managed a headstand!

Because I love this diagram and know it to be true I am sharing it again with you lovely people.

Last Saturday, I summoned up all my courage to pop my head round the door of newly launched alcohol-free venue The Dry Umbrella in Manchester’s fashionable Northern Quarter (MFNQ).

I was knocked out by the warmest welcome ever – and got invited back to a comedy night (more of which below).


As a qualified City Expert for Google Local Manchester I get to go to some of the cute and quirky events they put on from time to time.

I this occasion I was joined by friends @angieokchan and @Frimkron and also got to meet up with fellow City Experts +AdrianLunsong, +IanBotterill, +ChrisBrads and the ever fabulous Chrissie from The Fabulous Times.

The Craft & Draft event was held in art supplies heaven, the venue being Fred Aldous in MFNQ. Guests were treated to a range of locally produced drinks and nibbles and invited to get an old skool photo booth picture taken, try screen printing and even make a collage which was turned into booklet using a risograph copier.


Back to MFNQ again for a night of inspirational talks at a @SheSaysMCR event held at SpacePortX – with the provocative theme What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”.


First up was Lou Cordwell (@Loucordwell) of the highly successful digital design company Magnetic North.


She talked about being prepared to take educated risks but to trust that you can manage if you don’t succeed in the way you hoped to.

Ines Lopez (@milopezcom), a creative facilitator working in digital, then followed on from with this with an insightful talk on ‘managing fear’. A refreshing look at how we can remove the stigma from failure as part of the creative process.


Went to see Robin Ince do stand-up at MOSI. I’ve followed Robin for a long time and it’s good to see how his material is evolving as he moves towards some of the more ‘touchy feely’ aspects of science.


MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, if you’ve not heard of it), provided an intimate space for the gig and I really hope they put on a few more evening events.


lizzie-allanSo, I went back to The Dry Umbrella, this time with a friend. Again, a very warm welcome coupled with an extensive tea menu, soft drinks and cakes.

Lizzie Allan, ably introduced by MC Ali Khan, told us her story, which was times dark but at others chaotic and hilarious.


Lizzie opens her set by saying that she has been clean of drugs and drink for around 5 years.

It is remarkable that her recovery from addiction and the psychosis that resulted from her abuse of drugs and alcohol have led her to a place where she can reflect on all of that with warmth, sincerity and a cutting dry wit.

After partying a bit too hard in India and Thailand, Lizzie found her 19-year-old self sectioned and detained for treatment under the Mental Health Act.

While that does not sound like a laugh a minute, Lizzie playfully recalls the effects of psychosis – specifically her belief that (despite no experience) she was about to land a major recording deal as a rap artist.

She also talked a lot about The Law of Attraction (which I think I do believe in) and the power of the alignment of the planets (which I’m not so sure about), but one thing was for sure – Lizzie caused her own brand of hysteria when I challenged her to perform an impromptu rap.

Upcoming events at Umbrella Cafe, Nexus Art Cafe, 2 Dale Street, Manchester.

This week I also updated the About Cheer Up Love page.