Since starting this blog I've been able to do some seriously cool stuff. It has also opened up a number of opportunities for me career-wise that I would NEVER have been given without it. However, the email that dropped in my inbox on one of the last days of February really had me spluttering out my cup of tea. It was from the PR people behind the Ideal Home Show, asking me to give them a call in regards to doing a couple of presentations on the Interior Styling Stage at the event towards the end of March.
I had to read it back a few times. Ideal. Home. Show. You know, that giant, renowned, vastly well-known home exhibition that takes place each year in West London? Yeah. That one. The one that all the big players do guest speaking at like Phil Spencer and Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen.
I'd already attended the Ideal Home Show as a punter a few years before when it was located at Earls Court. It had now moved to the Olympia Exhibition Centre, but it was still a really big event.
Obviously, I called the PR within seconds of reading the email to find out exactly what was going on. As it turned out, they wanted me to be a guest speaker, talking about creating bespoke interiors with DIY. I could either do talks on different days, or a few talks on one day. I chose to do two talks on one day, which ended up being three as a week before the event the person who was due to do the 11am slot had to cancel.
After I told the PR I would do them and hung up the phone, the realisation of what I had said 'yes' to started to become clear. Yes, I do the blog, but I'm no pro! Who would want to come and see me? I had given a lot of presentations and talks in my previous work life, but not on this huge scale. What if my mind goes blank? What if I panic and talk 100 miles per hour as I have been told in the past? What if no-one comes to see me? Actually, scratch that, what if everyone who has come to see me walks off after a few minutes. Oh fucking hell, what on earth have I done???!! But the alternative - turning down this great opportunity out of fear - was just not something I was prepared to do. That was that.
I was invited by Good Homes Magazine to preview their Room Sets on the opening day of the Ideal Home Show, so I went along to see these and also scope out the Interior Styling Stage where I would be talking a week later. I was so glad that I did this, as I then knew where the stage was and just what I could expect on the day. The stage was actually huge, but the overall vibe was friendly and relaxed. The crowd mingled and most people stayed for the duration of the talks. I got to watch a couple of people giving talks on the day and saw how they managed the epic 45 minute time slot that needed to be filled. I decided from watching other people if I talked about who I am/why I started the blog for 5 minutes, did the actual ' talk' for 25 minutes, then took questions for 15 minutes I would be able to amply fill 45 minutes without boring everyone to death.
I spent about 2 hours putting together what I would talk about, then spent about an hour each day for three days before my presentation rehearsing the presentation out loud and timing it. My talk would be about 'creating bespoke interiors on a budget', and I would talk about my favourite transformative DIY products (spray paint, wallpaper, decorative moulding, specialty paint and contact paper), alongside projects that I've completed in my home and already feature on the blog. As it was Easter the following week (and Ideal Home wanted these talks to be as interactive as possible) I'd do a demo of how to do two easy DIY's to create seasonal interior decor.
To be honest, I thought that for my 11am talk I could get away with it being a 'practice run' as nobody would really be there to see me. I was wrong. It was a Saturday and the place was heaving. All the seats were taken when I went on, then more people came and stood round the edges as I presented! I thought that my first talk would be a bit shit, then they would get better throughout the day. I was wrong, again! The last talk was the worst as Olympia was so full and so noisy and I sometimes I felt I lost my concentration due to someone screaming at their child for touching items on display on the exhibitor stands. However, all in all I feel they all went well. What I found compared to my old work presentations was that if you are really passionate about what you are talking about you can just go off on one and be confident in what you are saying. I also read Kimberly from Swoonworthy's account of her Ideal Home Show talks a few years ago and her tip was to just focus on the people in the crowd who were nodding along and engaged in what you were saying. Don't focus on the people who have been dragged along by their partner or whatever. This tip was spot on so thanks Kimberly!!!
After my three talks, finally finishing at 5pm, I was exhausted but felt a real sense of achievement. I'd started this blog only a year ago and here I was a year later presenting at the Ideal Home Show. Boom! If you want to start a blog but are not sure it's the right move, then take my advice - do it! Who knows what it will bring!
I'd like to thank the Ideal Home Show for having me as a guest speaker at their event. Also Joel and the technical team for sorting out my PDF files so they could actually be used on the screen on the day (!!) Huge thanks to the lovely Helen Shephard for introducing me each time I was onstage.