I loath being asked the question “Do you give talks?”. I think in reality the question is “Would you like to be mucked about and disrespected by the administrator organising the talk?”.
I agreed to give a talk to Newbury and District Beekeepers Association, they decided to guess what my talk was about and posted-up a piece of fiction as part of their program of events. I asked them to change it and gave them a synopsis of my talk. They declined to change it. So the piece of fiction about my talk remained on their website for months. Alas, I told them I wouldn’t give a talk and the following day, as if by magic, their website removed ‘my’ slot and changed the entry on their website to ‘to be confirmed’. Amazing what they can do when they put their mind to it!
A couple of years ago I wanted to get involved with the Wantage Summer Festival and do my ‘Mr Woodley’ talk. I contacted the Summer Festival organisers and they said what I did would match the museum. They also reiterated that “we do not organize events but we do help to connect people with venues”. So I contacted the Vale and Downland Museum who took down my details and promptly ignored me. In the end it got bogged down in administration. When any organisation uses the word ‘facilitate’ to describe the assistance they give, in reality this word means “we won’t do anything except blame you when nothing happens”.
When researching in the Lockinge Estate Archive, I was approached by two people from the Vale and Downland Museum, on two separate occasions to give a talk. I gave my details to them. 15 months later when I was having a coffee in the museum cafe I got approached by a member to the museums’ administration staff, to give a talk. Eventually they emailed me: “We thought that you may be interested in doing your bee talk on a Thursday afternoon sometime during the Autumn. If you are interested would you kindly let me know what your charges are likely to be”. Oh these people want to pay me, how kind. Well I spent time putting together a proposal and said that my charge would be £50. But alas these people had no intention of paying me in the first place. The museum replied, “I hope you don’t mind me asking but would you be prepared to do this talk for free and any funds we make would go to the Museum”. Obviously ‘free’ or zero or nothing, was the worth that the museum considered of my time and energy and perhaps entertainment value of my talk. I told them where to go.
I think giving talks is a dated format now we have the internet. I have written about topics concerning bees and also about the life of Mr Woodley. I have also made YouTube videos on various subjects, should anyone have an interest in my activities. For an organisation like a museum, or a beekeepers association or even a festival, they have a requirement for their members/supporters/towns folk, to socialise with each other.
But do they need a speaker for this to happen? And lets face it, the individual tasked with organising the talk just wants to fill speakers with calendar spots. I have still to see an administrator show any sincere interest in the speaker they are booking.
Anyway, I leave you with this fortune cookie: ‘A lecturer is a man who talks in other people’s sleep’.