My First Talks


My first talk came about quite by chance. Tom Williamson was delivering the improved version of his (already excellent) talk at York Skeptics last December. After the Q+A I had volunteered to do an impromptu piece about power bands and applied kinesiology. This involved getting a volunteer up from the audience and performing the following three balance tricks, so beloved of power band promoters and certain sections of applied kinesiologists:

The reaction was very positive and I absolutely loved the experience. Straight afterwards I volunteered for January’s Open Mic Night.


  After my very enjoyable impromptu talk the month before, the Open Mic Night was a nice chance to do a short (10-minute) prepared talk on whatever topic or topics I wished. During the first two months of York Skeptics meetings I had begun to appreciate that there are a huge number of topics of interests to the Skeptical community that I simply had not been aware of.

I therefore decided to deviate away from my main areas of knowledge and ‘show my working’ by doing a short presentation on what I had learned about Applied Kinesiology and Power Bands, as well as presenting to the audience my very own newly-invented piece of Super Woo. This consisted of a spiritual bracelet, dipped in a homeopathic solution and finished off a placebo-band hologram. The idea was that the product would appeal on the basis of it’s combined powers, as well as having a useful get-out clause for the manufacturer (“Well, if it didn’t work, then you obviously weren’t believing hard enough!”).

This talk also began the legend of the “Placebo Microphone”, but that is a subject for another time! 😉


“and so the forecast for tomorrow – sunny periods and scattered showers for most of the day, but by the evening we can see that area of warm pressure moving in from the Atlantic…”

After yet another slice of luck, where the intended February speaker at York Skeptics had to cancel, I was asked if I would be prepared to step into the breach. Naturally, I jumped at the chance and despite both the choosing of the topic and the preparation of the talk being a slightly rushed job, on February 13th I was ready to go!

Fortunately, I had a suitably large dose of beginners luck. The only real problems I had were that having never done an hour-long talk before I lacked my usual confidence; and that it somehow didn’t occur to me that a visual demonstration with a Rubik’s Cube would not work in a darkened pub room – whoops!

The Q+A was very enjoyable and light-hearted, with numerous intriguing questions being posed; and some very interesting short discussions brewing up. Indeed, after the allotted time was over, the discussions then continued for the rest of the night; and even when The Phoenix closed I still had two intrepid questioners . Eventually I was able to satiate their desire for answers at 12.30am in The White Swan!

I had been a little unhappy with the talk itself, due to my lack of confidence being clear for all to see. However, from the feedback I received afterwards, I was the only person in the room who had been disappointed.


  My Leeds Skeptics appearance gave me a chance to polish out some of the flaws caused by the slightly rushed initial talk preparation. This time there was no problems with regards to confidence and I felt that this really came through. The only slightly worrying points were the rather large number of glass adjustments that my friend Claire spotted in the video ( and the fact that my talk is primarily based around two cognitive psychology books and I forgot to verbally reference them! Fortunately I was becalmed by Leeds Skeptic’s excellent organiser Chris Worfolk, who told me this wouldn’t be a problem. As well as this, I had repeatedly referenced both books in the slides, one of which you can see in the photo!

The Q+A was once again very enjoyable, including some tough and direct questioning. I was a little shocked by this, but only because it had never happened before in my public speaking experience. As well as this, the questions highlighted numerous potential areas for improvement, both with the talk and the script; and for that I will be eternally grateful.


My next talks are due to take place in January 2013. On Thursday the 14th I will be talking in front of The Humanist Society of West Yorkshire in Swarthmore in Leeds (See for further details). Then, on the 28th I will be talking to Sheffield Skeptics in the Pub ( I am pleased to report that thanks to the lessons learned from my Leeds Skeptics experience, the talk that I will be delivering in January will be quite significantly altered, updated and improved. I hope to see you there!


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