This blog and its companion have been sitting idle for the past month due to a combination of factors, all of which vie for my attention on a daily basis. Of special significance to me are the writing of a non-fiction series about my personal journey (so far) as a writer, soon to be followed by a companion series on aviating, and the demands of maintaining two sport aviation airplanes.
Even more questionable in terms of logic than owning two airplanes is allowing the required annual condition inspections to lapse so that neither one is legal to fly. The inspections were due last July, and I elected not to spend a couple of weeks working on airplanes with triple-digit temperatures outside creating hell on earth inside the hangar. Add to that my decision to indie publish Pilot Error and take a part-time job with BooksOnBoard, and the aviator in me had to take a back seat to other demands. But finally, that’s no longer true. Both airplanes are freshly inspected, clean and shiny, and ready to slip the surly bonds.
Coincidentally, just yesterday a visitor to this blog commented on one of my all-time favorite posts, “Koga’s Zero” by Jim Rearden. After posting my reply, I realized the time had come to close the loop on my last post about being a guest speaker at the Lakeway Men’s Breakfast Club. An honest report card has to acknowledge that I could have done a better job.
My first mistake was to assume that creating the presentation and practicing it at home could prepare me for the real thing because of my previous experience as a classroom instructor. Like riding a bicycle. Second, I didn’t anticipate a couple of problems with the physical layout. And third, I failed to accurately predict the difference in the audience’s level of interest in the two halves of the presentation.
I knew from a previous visit to a Breakfast Club meeting that the lectern-mounted microphone was wireless and could be used as a handheld. But my computer would be connected to a projector on a table in front of the lectern. To advance the slides, I would need a mouse/trackball or a remote control. My Apple TV came with a remote, but when I tried it with my MacBook Pro, it only worked with Front Row, a media center software application for navigating and viewing video, photos, podcasts, and music. So I used a trackball, which fixed my position behind the lectern. Not ideal, but workable.
In practice, however, I felt awkward from the beginning. The room was full, with the front row of seating very close to the lectern and the seating area wider than it was deep. One of the principles of public speaking is to make eye contact with as many people in the audience as you can. But to do that effectively, I had to turn my head to either side, which altered the volume of my voice as I turned away from the microphone. That bothered me immediately, and probably the audience as well.
But the most significant lesson learned has to do with my decision to devote half the presentation to the fact of pilot error and half to the fiction. My “spies” in the audience reported that interest appeared to wane when I began talking about the process of writing the book. I didn’t notice it while speaking, but the Q&A session highlighted it with the first question.
As an attention-getter, I began the presentation by referencing the deadliest accident in aviation history and mentioned that I had a supplemental briefing prepared with the details if time and interest permitted. It did, and they wanted to hear it.
In retrospect, I’m not sure I could have anticipated that reaction in advance of making this presentation for the first time. Writing the novel has been a fascinating challenge, and it was far too easy to assume that it would be interesting to others as well. But in the aftermath of receiving a less-than-ideal report card, the good news is that I now have the opportunity to improve both the content and the delivery for the next time. And yes, it’s already scheduled.
A curriculum director for the UT LAMP Seminar/Lecture Program at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) saw the notice about the presentation in the Austin American-Statesman and contacted me about being a guest lecturer. Here’s the description of the program from the OLLI website
UT LAMP™ (Learning Activities for Mature People) welcomes all adults with a desire to continue life-long learning in a group setting of their peers. With up to 500 members from every profession and life path, LAMP offers a lively forum where our diverse members can meet to share interests and cultivate new friendships while expanding their knowledge.
UT LAMP™ lectures and seminars are presented during three, 6-week terms in the fall, winter and spring. Lectures, followed by a moderated Q&A session, are presented on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Members may to choose to attend as many or as few lectures as their interests and schedules allow. LAMP seminars are drawn from a wide variety of subject matter and are offered in six related sessions per term on Tuesday afternoons.
In addition, UT LAMP™ offers our members the opportunity to join book and discussion groups, In-Town Tours and Out-Of-Town Tours, and other social activities throughout the year. LAMP members are also encouraged to donate their talents and time performing executive, administrative and technical activities to ensure our continuing success.
During a phone conversation with the curriculum director, I mentioned the issue of how to divide the presentation time between the fact and fiction of pilot error, explained why it was of concern to me, and asked for her opinion. The lectures are scheduled for one hour, followed by a 15-minute Q&A session, and we agreed that 45-50 minutes devoted to the fact and 10-15 minutes to the fiction would be ideal.
So, I’m on the schedule for the winter semester in the first available opening, on January 24, 2013, at 9:30 A.M. That seems like a long way off, but it means I have plenty of time to get it right, which is a good thing. The lecture hall in the Joe C. Thompson Conference Center seats about 200 folks, and I’ve been told to expect 150-200 people in attendance.
Developing the new presentation is all up to me, but I won’t have to deal with the two physical limitations that caused trouble the first time.
If I’d researched the topic of remotes more carefully, I would have known that my Apple TV remote can work with PowerPoint 2008 (which I’m using) and 2011. All I had to do was hold the remote close to my laptop, press the Menu and Next buttons for 5-10 seconds, then open the PowerPoint presentation and click the Slideshow button to put it into slideshow mode.
And as for the microphone? I will be provided with a Lavalier. Armed with my remote and mic’d up, I’ll be free to roam the stage.