Speaker Ballads

It begins with a thought Section

It begins with a thought,
There’s something that’s caught in my head
An idea, an experience that I want to share
It leads to me thinking of where I can speak
And to whom?

To finding a meetup,
A room full of peers.
But how to put form to it, what should I say?
How do I handle my fears?
How do I stand up in front of a crowd?
And how do I say what I’m thinking aloud?
Where do I start?
To which god should I pray?

But it’s not about gods, it’s just meeting with folks
There’s no secret to it, no learning the ropes
Just sharing the things that we know and we love
From there all it takes is one shove the right way
Because all of us have something worthwhile to say

So I write up my thoughts
I peruse CFPs
I learn about slide decks
Find stock photos for free
Build up my courage, submit distillations
And shortly thereafter receive invitations to speak

And then I feel weak.
I haven’t done this before.
Will I be able to stand, take the floor?
Make sure my slides and my words are connected?
Will the things that I say be embraced or rejected?

I arrive at the venue, it’s empty and bare.
I head to the front and look back over where
I’ll be speaking in front of this jury of peers
I hope they won’t judge me too harshly up here.
(No matter how much I might strive for composure
I can’t shake this fear that I’ll die of exposure)

But finally I meet with the host of the evening
We focus on detail. (Remember, keep breathing)
What kind of laptop? Do I have the right cable?
Where should I put it? Right here on this table?
USB what? Maybe HDMI?
So many adapters, we give each a try.

Will microphones pick up the noise if I shake?
Was wearing an outfit like this a mistake?
I’m nervous and tense, I can hear my heart beating
As people file in and we kick off the meeting.

It’s funny how quickly the time flashes by.
All the practice was worth it. 
I don’t know why I was worried.
The only complaint I can make is I hurried
To get through some slides that might not have been clear.
But I know I’ll be better the next time I’m here!

Because now that I’m done 
I can see by their faces
I’ve brought up some points
That have put them through paces
I thank them for coming and paying attention
Now all that remains is to ask, 
"Any questions?"

This is more of a comment than a question... Section

"This is more of a comment than a question"
Why?
Why should I listen?
What made you think that your words are of use?
Your unasked for opinion
Your monotone droning on something that’s only loosely 
related to what I was trying to teach
It’s not even clear who you’re trying to reach
Do you want my approval?
Do you want their applause?
What do you expect?
When your interjection is cause
What should be the effect?

"This is more of a comment than a question"
Why?
Do we have to go through this?
It was going so well
I thought we’d connected?
I thought as an audience you knew what was expected?
I’ve offered my time, shared the thoughts in my head
We developed rapport 
Now you’re killing it. Dead. 

"This is more of a comment than a question"
Do you know how I feel when those words break the silence?
Defeated.
Deflated.
I’ve failed as a speaker. 
Those words pierce the air, I feel suddenly weaker. 
I’m no longer listening to what will be said. 
I’m just. Imagining. Violence. 
Smiling and waiting politely for what?
You to assemble some semblance of thought?
What is it from this that you’re hoping to gain?
As we inwardly groan
Thinking "Damn, here we go again..."

"I just want to echo something you said earlier"
Why?
Weren’t they here?
Was nobody listening? Was everyone late?
Or were you just trying and failing to wait
Until I stopped speaking so you could start
To undermine my position, detract from my role
Repeat something I said and make out it’s your own
For what reason? What goal?
Disrespecting my gender?
Or just reinforcing the white, cis male agenda?

"Have you thought of this thing that’s completely off topic?"
Look. 
Tangents are fun but what relevance is there?
You’ve studied a subject, I get that you’re proud. 
Do you need us to think that you’re smart, not just loud?
You’re not going to get that volunteering pieces
Of what I can only assume is your PhD thesis
If you just wanted to speak, write a talk of your own
It’s something anyone can do, as I’m sure that I’ve shown
But when the tables are turned and you’re standing up here
When you’ve given your all, when you’ve conquered your fear
I’ll raise up my hand and watch your expression 
As I utter the words, "This is more of a comment than a question..."