Public Speaking – a Dead Format.

megaphoneI 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’.






4 thoughts on “Public Speaking – a Dead Format.

  1. Oh, I could go on… Appreciation via actions like getting the announcements correct, being on time to allow for setup, and following through with any promised accommodations (projectors, white boards, seating) goes further that the verbal ‘thank you for coming.’ And within minutes after the conclusion being approached by several in the audience to please come to their organization’s meeting to deliver the same presentation. Wait a second, I’m a beekeeper not an orator. Of course all of this is happening in spring, the busiest season for the beekeeper and perhaps at the least flexible time of year. It’s a meeting mill out there and often content isn’t as important as filling the slot for a speaker, at their location, on their schedule, at their convenience. Oh, I could go on…

    My wife asked me to do a presentation for a local girls scout troop. I advised her that our local club did exactly that a month or so ago for a group of future farmers, home school, and other youth. Would they like to be notified when the next scheduled presentation would be held? No, they’d like me to do one for them. My biggest fear is that word will get out, my name passed around, and I’ll soon be the regional go to person for free educational lectures, on their schedule but on my dime.

    Two years running I was contacted by the local children’s museum for their Farm Day Celebration. That’s cool. What was an irritation was that they have a seasoned beekeeper on staff quite capable of putting on a honey bee educational presentation. Luckily I dodged a bullet here as the local club was able to combine two presentations into one and utilize the museum facility to boot.

    And the crème de la crème, as Secretary of the local bee club, getting calls from member beekeepers wanting to know if any of our members would be available to speak to their church group, garden club, etc. My response, ‘Looks like they already found one.’

  2. I sometimes think, couldn’t I just film my talk, then post it up on YouTube and then all the people can see what I have to say from the comfort of their homes. Next time, I might agree to do a talk, then send them a YouTube link and then cancel going.

  3. Well, let’s face it, when it comes to bees and beekeeping the information is out there already. If one wishes to learn about honey bees, pollination, becoming a beekeeper, or a better beekeeper, the information is there. Your original blog hits the nail on the head – they want a presentation. Some educational entertainment to fill the time they have set to gather and socialize. That’s cool. I appreciate that. I encourage that as I see the value in like minded people fellowshipping, sharing ideas, and networking. I do the same encouraging new beekeepers to fellowship and find a bee buddy to problem solve and learn with as they develop. But the crux of the matter here is what you also identify as ‘time wasters.’ I’ve sort of learned to identify that gut feeling that presents itself whenever I feel I’m being plugged in to fill a void in their schedule, fix their problem, or dance for their entertainment. In those instances I politely decline the invitation. I do typically offer instead the local club’s presentation schedule and beekeeping class schedule should they wish to attend. People will be people. I try not to become too bitter about being disappointed.

    • Addendum: Now, if someone wants to pay me, I’ll gladly dance to whatever tune they’d like if the result is having money to buy myself more bee stuff, the fees for a conference, or furthering of my own education. That sounds fair. 🙂

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