More on “Hidden in Plain Sight,” & notes on presenting
I’m rambling, but I think I’ll continue to do so, as it makes writing anecdotally easier. Fair warning: I’m recapitulating my hastily scribbled notes here, so I can try to remember as much as possible. ;)
The last day of the Hidden in Plain Sight: The Influence of Western Esoteric Movements on Modern Thought conference was a light one. There were only two seminars offered: Rosicrucian Principles & Scientific Discoveries and Fiat Lux: Freemasonry, the Enlightenment, & the Emergence of A New Sociopolitical Order.
At noon, just as on the other three days, there was a Council of Solace ritual in the Grand Temple, which I was not able to attend due to being the gopher for the authors at the book signings in the museum proper. From what I’ve been told, these rituals occur every day to offer solace for the world’s pain. While they’re ordinarily for Rosicrucian members only, apparently there’s a Tuesday one which is open to the general public as well. I want to get to one; they say the rituals are quite lovely.
Being the gopher for the book signings was actually quite relaxing, although I was a bit surprised at how many books sold out at the bookstore, leaving the authors nothing to sign. Surely the bookstore should have known to order more for the weekend? (note to self: if I’m ever doing a book signing tour, I shall always carry ten extra copies of my book with me!) In regards to being gopher for the book signings themselves, from what I could tell I was there mostly as back-up — whether it was due to the authors needing someone to chat with them and keep them entertained momentarily until more eager folks arrived with books to sign and stories to tell, or whether the regular museum staff was being overwhelmed with something at any particular moment. I was happy to go get napkins or lunch or whatever for the authors, in such situations.
On the first day alone, just as an example, the museum staff (as separate from the conference staff, which had to deal with nearly a third again more folks than they’d expected!) had to cope with a disabled volunteer groundskeeper having a seizure — which necessitated a firetruck’s paramedics to help out and take the gentleman to the hospital — to a wheelchair lift becoming disabled in the museum itself — while someone in a wheelchair was on it! In both situations there was a happy outcome, but I can see how it would be a bit hair-raising for them in the moment.
Thinking about the museum and conference staff over that weekend, I think what stands out for me is the extraordinary friendliness of them all. I’ve never been to a conference with so many courteous, smiling, pleasant people! Even the attendees were unfailingly polite — somewhat to my surprise, since I’ve been to several gaming, science fiction, and furry cons. Of course, at this convention they were all adults attending what was a very intellectually based conference; that probably had something to do with the very high level of good manners. :)
I was also impressed by all the museum officials being willing to dress up in the costumes for the weekend Egyptian Epagomenal Festival — it wasn’t just the interns and volunteers. I get the feeling they all try to have fun there; I heartily approve! Also, as a completely irrelevant aside, the museum director (I think?) made an extraordinarily handsome pharaoh! There were several extraordinarily good looking men there, in fact. I’m pretty sure my tongue didn’t hang out, though… too far. Ahem. So, some personal notes for giving presentations! When I present, I wish to do a good job. Here are some thoughts I want to keep in mind while giving a talk:
- Wear “classic” clothing; at the very least it should be good business attire that will not distract the audience from my message. No “busy” patterns, nothing that glitters or is reflective, no dangly earrings that swing wildly;
- Talk SLOWLY and CLEARLY. This is perhaps the absolute most important note here. I cannot emphasize this enough. TALK SLOWLY AND CLEARLY so people can understand me — even in the back, even if the sound system sucks;
- Second most important note here: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! If I never watch myself presenting, I won’t realize how often I say, “umm,” or if I have an annoying habit — such as tapping a pencil on the podium;
- Don’t just read the paper aloud. It takes too long and it’s incredibly dull for the crowd. This is for the highlights of my paper, to so intrigue the crowd that they’ll go look up my website;
- Make sure my contact information is one at least one of the slides, and is Very. Clear. Better yet, make it part of the slides’ “footer” information as well;
- Make the slides complement the talk, not simply recapitulate it. Also, one (very polished!) presenter tells me: make ’em laugh! Every 30 seconds to one minute, insert something amusing, like an applicable Far Side cartoon. Note from me: he used those laughter moments to take a drink;
- Remember, what looks fine on my little computer screen may be blurry and hard to read on the huge overhead screen:
1) use a san serif font on the slides,
2) use highly contrasting colors for text and background, and
3) make sure the font is large!
- Give people time to read the quotes, or look at the graphics, on the slides. Also, caption all graphics, and for those audience members in the back: read the quote aloud!
- When taking questions from the crowd, first repeat the question so everyone can hear it, then answer it;
- Try to present just before the book signings are scheduled, if at all possible. That means I’ll still be fresh in people’s minds as they think about how much my talk resonated for them, and whether or not they should purchase one of my books;
- Always have the following on hand: 1) ten copies of my book, in case my host runs out, and 2) enough business cards! Maybe some flyers too. I was impressed with how underprepared most folks there were for the networking opportunities the conference presented them with;
- Be prepared at the book signing to initiate conversation with shy fans so as to draw them into discussion, and get them thinking how nice this is. A list of queries can include: “So what got you interested in [subject of book]?” or “What do you think of the conference so far?” Don’t bother with yes or no questions; they don’t draw people out.
That’s it for now! If this helps anyone else, or if you can think of something to add, let me know, please. :)