On the road… again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
On Communications: To Instruct….To Inform….To Entertain
“Let there be stoning” admonished the author of a presentation address at a technical conference. He might have shocked his audience, but he probably thought that it was important to communicate with others in an effective way, such that they (the audience) would not lose interest in what he was saying. More important, that they would not show any disinterest, whatsoever, in his subject matter. That happens to be the case, totally or partially, in technical conferences, seminars, workshops, and/or lectures. It is especially true when the subject matter is outside of the listeners’ areas of expertise.
Some listeners come to learn; others to meet an obligation; and others who themselves come as presenters. Finally, there are some audience members who come as spouses who have no professional affiliations with any of the presenters, save their own spouse, nor any intrinsic interest or personal curiosity in the subject. Thus, ipso facto, the admonishment to presenters to: Instruct, Inform and Entertain.
The presenter has nothing to be embarrassed about if she has, in the final analysis, imparted Instruction to those who came to seek knowledge. He has nothing to apologize for if he has Informed his audience about things they might not have been aware of, and have not solicited. And presenters should feel satisfied if they kept the full attention of the audience by entertaining them. In the humble opinion of the Footloose Forester, without all three ingredients in the soup of a presentation, the result will likely not taste as good as it could have. The Footloose Forester won’t go so far as to say “let there be stoning” for failure to communicate effectively. Everyone has their own thoughts about how to make a presentation, but few people give much thought to presentation techniques.
The inevitable segue leads to the Footloose Forester’s rationale for why this chronicle entry belongs in a potential second volume of Chronicles of a Footloose Forester. Since some of the ideas expressed here are merely abstractions, those kinds of think pieces might well be in a chapter entitled, “On the mental road….again!” And as personal musings, he does not want people to think he is lecturing them; nor does he want to force his ideas on anyone else. On the other hand, the Footloose Forester does not want to feel obligated to tow the party line, or be beholden to anyone.
At those times in the past when the Footloose Forester didn’t go along with his colleagues regarding proposed procedures and policy issues, he was sometimes labeled as not being a team player. Thus, he was always a lone wolf, always on the outside of the team huddle; and for that, his career advancement was stunted—significantly.
A few anecdotes and examples are in order: One time at Speedy Rent-A-Car (a fictitious rental car company) three of his co-workers verbally assaulted him with such profanity-laced denunciation, that he felt obliged to defend himself, thus: “So it looks like all three of you are going to gang up on me…well, the odds are just about right.” Their claims were baseless and they declined to repeat their accusations in the presence of the manager -- with the Footloose Forester also present, of course; and prepared to defend himself.
Another reason why the Chronicles of a Footloose Forester, Volume II would contain personal musings, relates to his self-awareness that he is an ANARCHIST. In simplest terms as used and interpreted by him, an anarchist is a person who does not like giving or taking orders. For that reason, he declined to continue into the third and fourth years of Army ROTC at Rutgers. He just couldn’t see himself giving orders to others, when he disliked taking them, himself….an anarchist point of view. In military life, of course, it was a matter of either giving orders or taking them. There was no third way. And the thought that an officer or a senior NCO asking you to please do something was laughable.
That last thought will probably be fleshed out in another chronicle, in the Military/Veteran Affairs category of stories. As a final thought in this “stream of consciousness” episode of writing, the Footloose Forester remembers declining to act on the proffered recommendation of the Company Commander of his basic training unit at Fort Ord, California. The captain’s offer of a recommendation to Officers Candidate School was based on the Footloose Forester’s recognition as Soldier of the Cycle, the top finisher in Company C, 3rd Training Battalion, CMMM. But he declined to go to OCS primarily because he wanted a career as a forester, not as a soldier. Also, he was a closet anarchist. It wouldn’t have been fair to others to accept a place at OCS, and then become a commissioned officer who didn’t like to give orders.