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My role as a volunteer speaker

By Rosie Wolf

I was very nervous the first time I volunteered to give a talk on Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. The talk was to be given to a large audience – about 50 ladies – of the Inner Wheel Club during their Christmas celebrations.

My IT skills are fairly basic; I can deal with emails, a bit of cut and pasting and that’s all. So when I was sent a template for the talk with short film clips I had a slight panic, and I asked my husband Peter for help. He isn’t fazed by anything to do with IT having worked in the city for years.

I re-wrote the script adjusting the wording into my style of talking and, with Peter’s help, I inserted further short film clips and photos. It was eventually a fairly polished presentation thanks to Peter who gave up a lot of his time to help me.

On the day of the talk he drove me to the venue, carried all the equipment I would need and set it up ready on the desk we had been allocated. I turned it on for a short run-through only to find there was no sound. Peter tracked down the venue’s handyman and a lot of jargon ensued, which was totally incomprehensible to me. The sound worked eventually and I was able to give the presentation with Juno (my Sound Support dog) by my side and Peter working the laptop.

Juno, who is very good at alerting me to the cooker timer, was going to give a demonstration of that by nudging my leg and leading me to the sound source. But she realized there was something delicious that had been dropped under one of the tables, so made a beeline for that instead. Fortunately the audience laughed. They say: never to work with children and animals!

I have found the audiences at the talks pleasant and very forgiving if something goes wrong. Peter and I have learned the hard way that it is essential to visit the venue in advance to see what equipment is available and whether it is in working order.

On another occasion I gave a presentation on Hearing Dogs and Hearing Link Services for a church group. We visited the church and discovered that the projector and microphone lived in a locked cupboard and the only person who had a key was at work several miles away! A special request had to be made for me to use the microphone and projector. It would have been disastrous if we had not identified these problems and just turned up on the day. On this occasion too it was essential that Peter organized the IT and ran the slide show and film clips, as the equipment to do this was at the back of the church and I was talking at the altar, near the screen facing the audience. We are more prepared now for future talks and a rehearsal is absolutely essential – for my peace of mind anyway.

I enjoy giving the talks as the audience is usually very friendly and want to ask us questions afterwards. Often people ask about Hearing Link Services, which they have heard about for the first time during my talk. I am able to give them information as well as advise those people who would like to investigate having a hearing dog.

Peter and Rosie with Juno