So a few days back, a friend emailed me and suggested that I put in a presentation for Pantheacon. I politely declined the suggestion, noting that such a large conference would be an odd place for me to start any kind of an inclination towards speaking. Plus there are a few other aspects that might not make me the greatest individual to be put in front of others. But my friend persisted with the idea, and asked me to give it some serious consideration.
My friend is in a unique spot compared to most folks. First, he knows I am a Pagan. Second, he has interacted with me face-to-face. But interacting face-to-face is not really enough to have this consideration of me standing in front of people talking about a perspective on a topic. He’s actually seen me give a “professional” presentation on the intricacies of Common Table Expressions within Microsoft Transact-SQL code. He’s seen a side of me that MAYBE one-hundred and fifty students at my previous employer have seen – the whacked-out, off-the-cuff professor in the classroom environment. Or if you prefer, my padded room with a whiteboard and those awesome smelling white-board markers.
I am not an outwardly zany individual, at least, not until I get to know you better. Then, I’m a hamster on crack that is main-lining coffee grounds while eating as many Snickers bars as I can. Unfortunately, as a Type-II diabetic I can’t do that anymore…I’m likely to have another diabetic seizure, a place I never hope to visit again. But there is that wild, Diamond David Lee Roth -eseque banter that comes out when I have center stage in a classroom. And I really have to keep a leash on that aspect of me, I can very quickly become NSFW. Is there a boundary? I’ll flirt with it. I’ll even try to take it out on a wild date the night before class. Show me the river…and I’ll cross the Rubicon, especially if you tell me not to.
I have been told that I can be a charming individual when I choose to do so. Ok. ::shrugging shoulders:: If you say so. I don’t see it, but then I’m to close to being the forest, that I cannot see the trees. Or something like that. But being witty, charming and funny is only part of the presentation. Somewhere in all of that, I have to be able to present something I am uber-confident about. Something that other folks would be interested in learning about, listening to…and I just cannot see myself in that arena. Do I really know enough about a topic to stand up in a room full of folks, and talk about??
Getting a little more serious here, I know what works for me within the framework of Paganism that I utilize. I know enough about daily practice to be competent for me, and possibly dangerous to the practice of others. The song “Free to Love You” by Tommy Shaw starts with lyrics that I take as a serious warning… “I don’t wanna grow up/To be a Preacher/I don’t want your soul in my hands”. There are a lot of other folks out there, in the Pagan Blogosphere, the Pagan podcasting realm, and other places, that are far more confident with guiding others down a Path they deem as appropriate. Me? I’m comfortable showing you the tools that I used, the techniques and coping mechanisms that I developed for myself…but none of that means I am an expert on anything except…well…me. Would that be enough to dip my toe into doing presentations?? I’m not so sure.
Continuing in the vein of being serious, there is also a lot to be said for my time in the classroom as a collegiate educator. For three years, I taught multiple sections each semester on the topic of Information Systems. To get students to understand the connected nature of data, along with the legal aspect of data-sharing by state governments, I used their own drivers’ licenses to show the concept of data-sharing agreements. If they were pulled over in a state that had a data-sharing agreement with Texas, and they had a warrant in Texas – they might be arrested and sent back to Texas. The first time I utilized this concept, the students went from being bored to actively participating in the discussion with the topic. That spurred me on to an in-class exercise of having the class divided into teams to build paper airplanes. Two students were chosen at random to play the part of quality control. It was in-class discussions and exercises like these that had my sections filling before other instructors. That reputation for off-beat, real-world examples garnered a reputation among the student body of having a class that was fun and informed. But does this style of “crazy” translate well elsewhere?? Again, it comes back to the mastery of the material.
In the classroom, I knew the material we were working on. I have built a lifetime career out of understanding those business processes. I have been a Pagan since 1986. Does all that time make me a master of the material? Do I need to be a master of the material? Or will presenting my own unique translation of the material, as well as my own unorthodox approach to such topics and perspectives, be enough? At this point, I am not completely sure. But it certainly is a direction I need to consider a lot deeper.
So where will all of this lead to? I honestly have no idea. If I do decide to go this route, anyone coming to watch and listen to me would need to understand – I take my topics seriously, but I definitely do not take myself seriously. Either way, I do not plan on giving up the blog. I enjoy writing far too much to do that…but you might look up one day at a conference and see me. If so…I hope its everything you might want. If not, let me know. I’m always open to criticism, good and bad.