Monday 9 July 2012

that time i pretended that i was a real writer

I went to My First Press Conference (by Fisher Price) on Saturday evening. I was working on an article about the Olympic torch visit to the Huntingdon gymnastics club, and was invited to the press conference by one of the coaches I interviewed. I knew the conference would be presented by the gym, but had no idea the athletes would actually be there along with their coach, and that it would be solely about the Olympics. I assumed it would be PR people and possibly the coach I spoke to, and that they would give us a brief presentation about the torch stop at the gym the following day.

This might seem really, really idiotic, but I didn't think I'd actually have to ask any questions. I thought I could sit quietly at the back, take some notes while they spoke to us, and surreptitiously snap photos on my sad little camera without the pros with huge Nikons noticing. As it happened, I was one of four journalists in the room, along with two photographers and a guy filming. One chairman spoke for around 2 minutes about the Olympic team selection, then passed the floor over to us. Holy crap.

My brain frantically searched its dusty dark corners for questions. It's not that I was obligated to say anything, but with so few people in the room, it would seem really odd not to. I let the people who knew what they were doing go first. There was a guy from BBC radio and two writers from the local papers, but strangely the two writers seemed as hesitant as I was. Radio Guy asked questions first, and followed up with quite a few more. He'd obviously done this sort of thing before - he had a big microphone and everything. Local Paper Guy 1 asked one question then Local Paper Guy 2 asked a few more, with awkward silences in between. 

As interesting as this all was, I wasn't writing about the Olympics and I'm not the sporty type at all. I do love gymnastics and was looking forward to watching them in a few weeks time on television, but I have absolutely nothing intelligent to say or ask about the topic at all. The only question I could think of was whether or not it would be an advantage to compete on home turf, but Local Paper Guy 2 beat me to it. The bastard.

Things were coming to an end. At this point, I thought, "Sod it. I need to say something." What held me back wasn't just nerves about speaking, it was about having to say my name and who I was writing for before asking my question. Okay fine, the local papers aren't anything to get excited about but whenever I mention the site I write for, everyone says "Who?" I realised that I had to go for it and who cares if the other people in the room haven't a clue who I write for? It's not like I'm ever going to see these people again.

GB Olympic gymnastics team press conference
"Yes, lady in the back who looks clueless?"
"What's your involvement in the torch stop tomorrow at the gym?", I asked. The coach Paul Hall gave a brief overview about events going on during the day and mentioned a gymnastics display. I asked if any of the team would participate in the display or if they would be "kept out of harm's way" and they all shook their heads wide-eyed and smiled. Louis Smith said, "We're doing a display in four weeks!" to which I replied, "Yes, but I don't have tickets for that one!!" "Who does?!" joked the photographer sitting behind me. Laughs all round and thank god that was over with.

The press conference wrapped up and Local Paper Guy 1 snapped a pic on his iPhone, making me feel better about my little aim-and-shoot Panasonic camera. I went over to thank the PR Lady for having us, and Lewis Smith was standing with her, so I chatted with him. I told him that Jack was in awe of him but was terrified to meet him because he's so famous, he told me that he's shy and has trouble chatting to girls, and we talked about the torch event. Just like that. Then I gathered my things and headed home, chuffed to the gills. 

The older I get, the less confident I become and the more self-conscious I get about appearing foolish. Back in the old days, I sincerely didn't give a rat's ass about how stupid I looked (anyone who knew me in high school and university can vouch for this.) These days I worry far, far too much. My only saving grace is that there's a small part of my subconscious that still doesn't give a rat's ass, and sometimes it gives me a slap on the back of the head. 

I am also falling prey to the "I'm too old for that" attitude, which deserves another slap to the back of the head every now and then. Writing for anyone other than myself (or technical writing) was something that lurked in the back of my mind and I kept holding myself back from giving it a go. I'm still far from a success and if it wasn't for this one gig I wouldn't be doing any paid (I use that term VERY loosely) writing at all, but the experience has been really fantastic and it's boosted my confidence. 

I'm still on a high after the press conference experience and I'm very proud of the article I've written. I almost feel like a proper journalist now. (But without the fancy microphone and a shittier camera.)

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