Back when I was a child in primary school and secondary school I loved performing. Where many kids my age would’ve hated any public speaking I genuinely enjoyed it. The rush you get I think is unmatched. It's a mixture of excitement and nerves at first, but once you get started and find your rhythm those nerves start to go away and the adrenaline kicks in.
Now I’m 22 and at university, those chances to perform are few and far between. I really don’t care for musical theatre and I’m not studying drama like I was back in secondary school. The closest thing I had to those experiences back in school was probably at college and whilst on placement at ITK’s sister company, Novus. At college I was involved in a lot of promotional videos and content for the brand-new T-Level qualification and at Novus I'd do short videos on my time while on placement. I also did short adverts for ITK’s social media pages.
These videos almost gave that same buzz but not quite. Don’t get me wrong I really enjoyed these but not to the same extent as being able to see all the eyes on you. Talking to a camera just isn’t the same. There’s not that instant feedback of a laugh or an obvious face of “this isn’t going too well”. This week I had the chance to change that thanks to a new gig I was about to start.
I was going to be the MC at a student boxing event. For 3 hours my job would be to introduce fellow students into the ring and hype up a crowd full of those boxers' mates. It’d been a long time since I’d done anything remotely like this. The last time I’d spoken in front of a crowd this big was never. The closest I’d come was maybe as a 10-year-old in performance at the crucible but this was different. This was an event I’d been to and loved as a spectator and now I was essentially presenting it.
I know I’m playing it up but to say I was excited was a massive understatement. I also know this night is really about the fighters. They’re the ones that had for the last 8 weeks been in a training camp, learning a sport that might be completely new to them, and then having to perform in front of a crowd. That’s extremely daunting. The point is most people there weren’t there to see me, my job was simply to help make their night better.
When I first stepped into the ring I might have been looking dapper in my tuxedo but inside I was bricking it. It’d been so long since I spoke or performed in front of a crowd. I looked down at my script, I could barely read the words I was shaking that much. Then the adrenaline kicked in, and I belted out a “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to fight night!” Then that feeling came back, the rush brought a smile straight to my face and the cheers of the crowd gave me the confidence to just go for it. I introduced the night, bantered with the crowd about their choice of university and introduced the first fight. Then it was time to get back out of the ring.
I sat down outside the ring. At this point, I think I finally breathed. I felt my forehead, it was dripping with sweat but I loved it. I knew I could do this and do it well. I didn’t need the script, I just needed to be me and enjoy this moment. The rest of the night went brilliantly. As I announced more fights my confidence grew and I probably stopped talking so quickly too.
Before this, I’d be struggling to find something enjoyable at university. Going out isn’t the same as it used to be. I might just be getting older. It felt like I’d found a hobby almost, but one I could get paid for too. That evening I felt like a celebrity, walking out the venue people were talking to me, saying how good a job I’d done. It was instant positive feedback, something I’d been craving for so long. What was at first a daunting experience I was excited yet apprehensive about, became the best thing for my mental health in years.