Wow, what an experience!
I was very recommended to the Royal Agricultural Society as someone worth considering by none other than the amazing Fran McGregor - thank you Fran! - and Ann Houlihan of Epicure Events trusted in Fran, and in me, and we slotted in two dates - Saturday the 18th at 4pm (opening day of the Show), and Thursday the 23rd at 2pm.
Now, I am no stranger to public speaking, having been required to do so many times throughout Uni and my prior life as an employee, but let me tell you, when it comes to demonstrating something, simultaneously speaking and NOT sounding like a complete twit infront of hundreds of people, well, that's a different storey!
For Saturday's gig, I was doing large cake decorating, and decided well in advance that I would teach the design and assembly of the large custom flower on my Colleen cake, so had "here's one I made earlier" props made in various stages of assembly ready to go.
And then the nerves kicked in! Let me tell you, I have a new-found respect for presenters on TV cooking shows! It's really not easy to stand up and complete a task that you have done a thousand times before when you have to also explain, clearly and without swearing!, to an assembled audience, just what it is that you are doing, and why you are the expert at it. Ian Hewitson is famous for his shaking hands infront of camera, and I can understand why! If you are not 1000% up for it, or posess a natural talent for it, it is really, really hard to ace!
But, I had a secret weapon, as it turns out - the staff at Woodnook Events, who were in charge of the stage, from sound to direction to having "stage buddies" ready to help out the newbies like me. I got miked up by Paul, who knew just what to say and do to put me at ease. Having a wireless mike fitted to one's head is quite the tonic for stage-fright (not!), and so is being told that you are going to be working with a full house. The latter part I simply dismissed as being wound up, as everyone knew I was super-nervous, but, as it turned out, it was actually standing-room only, and the stage had seating for 150!
Once on stage, I had the lovely Pollie working with me, who chatted away and asked questions whilst I set about explaining what I was doing and making the flower... and it seemed like before I had taken a breath, it was over! But not for long, as as soon as I put dwn the completed flower, Pollie told the audience that anyone who wanted to come up for a closer look and ask questions was welcome to do so, so the 150 seated people pretty much all rushed the stage and created a cake-decorator's mosh pit! It was truely surreal... and the best part was that beforehand I was worried about not working the full 30 minutes. I needn't have worried - in the end, I had to be wound up!
My second appointment with the Great Tasting Stage was not to be as easily sorted... I procrastinated over what to demo for so long that it was 10pm the night before that I had anything completed to show! I settled on 3 fairly simple cupcake designs that were all fondant-based, so I could use the bulk of the time showing my method for covering a cupcake with fondant, as well as making the three flowers for the decoration.
Nerves were again an issue; I knew Pollie was off at another gig, so either I would be running solo (oh no!), or there would be a new person working with me... again, I needn't have worried, as Woodnook's head honcho Roger was there to ease the way.
Again playing to a packed house (school holidays had kicked in by Thursday), we had a blast shatting back and forth and running props through the audience - as well as identifying the toilet-paper-wad-on-the-ceiling-thrower during a sticky moment with some overworked fondant!
The final demo passed by in about 10 seconds flat - I had an absolute blast, the audience was happy, the stage crew at Woodnook were happy, so all in all, a success!
Never would I have thought, back when I was just beginning my cake business journey, that an opportunity like this would come along. And yet it did, and luckily I was wise enough to look beyond my self-doubt and fear, and grasp it with both hands.
If ever YOU are presented with an opportunity to be involved in a project that is much bigger than what you could have imagined, TAKE IT! You never know what you may get from the experience!