In pursuit of magic.

Hey all.  I got in yesterday evening from the debate in Springfield.  It went well.  I think I won, but so does every debater, right?  Anyway, the Baptist Student Union told me they’d upload it to youtube and as soon as they do I’ll post it here.

So I woke up this morning and started rehearsing my talk for the Humanist Community of Central Ohio that I’m giving today (all this speaking is why content has been light the last couple of days) and I just had a thought.  When practicing to become a magician it’s a common understanding that you are supposed to practice in the mirror until it looks like magic to you. With writing and public speaking, it has always been my goal to re-write and practice in the mirror until I am moved by my own words. When it appears as magic to me, I think, it will look like magic to others.

It’s often noted that I’m a pretty emotional public speaker.  It’s because I care, and because when I manage to put how much I care (and why) into the right words I find it not only moves others to care with me, but reminds me why I do the work that I do.  I want to be just as invested in a talk as I want the audience to be.  The goal is not to rehearse it so that it looks sincere, but to write genuinely so that instead of trying to force sincerity into the phrases I need only vocalize them with no pretension.

That’s when it’s magic.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Observer

    And that, indeed, is the secret to all successful performance.

  • David Gamut

    This is a thoughtful approach of practicing speaking. I think that genuine sincerity is a very good thing and I like the idea of writing in this way

  • Loqi

    …I just had a thought.

    I had one of those once. Was it as good for you as it was for me?

  • Joe G.

    Nice meeting you today, JT. So glad to get to hear you and now find your blog.

  • invivoMark

    I don’t do magic, but I’m pretty darn good at giving public talks. I find that when I’m preparing for one of these, there are two things I worry about: 1) being able to cover every point I want to cover quickly, fluently, in the correct order, and without stumbling over any words, and 2) having a few key phrases, sentences or short paragraphs prepared for when I cover more difficult concepts that I’m more likely to stumble over. Since almost all of my talks are about science, this last one is particularly necessary, as there are always a few tricky experiments or complicated figures I have to cover.

    I don’t use a mirror, but before each talk I stare at my powerpoint slides and give the talk as quickly and rapidly as I can, two or three times. I find where I stumble, and I come up with phrases that help me smooth out the transitions.

    Then, when I give the talk, I just pretend like I’m having a one-on-one conversation over a beer – I just explain things as I would if I were chatting with a friend (with slightly more formalized language, and moderately less swearing). It’s a method that’s worked remarkably well for me so far.

    I have to admit, JT – I’m a bit jealous. I wish I could earn a living by giving talks all the time. ;-)

  • Katet

    JT, you didn’t win. You dominated. He may have been a doctor of theology, but by the end he was speechless and had to resort to refusing to answer questions because he had no arguments left intact. I think if you asked him, he would even tell you the same. You not only proved to him that his religion is dangerous, but you made him prove it to you, and he knew it. I believe that you shook Dr. Victor’s faith. You’ll all see what I mean when it’s posted. It was glorious.

    • eric

      Damn it, Katet. Now you made me really upset that I missed it. JT is one of the few atheist speakers I follow, and he’s in my state but I haven’t seen him speak yet. But I had my own presentation of sorts that day.

      JT should come up to the Cleveland Freethinkers group. We have some other groups, I think there’s a North East Ohio CFI.

      Did the guy reply with the usual “you have to have faith” at any point? If they say that in a debate where you’re using reason to argue your points, they should be shown the door. They can say “I don’t know” which is fine.

      Notice how theists are always trying to bring atheism down to their level and claim atheism is a religion, but atheists never think they’re right saying they have faith in it. Instead they have evidence.

      • JT Eberhard

        Sure. Find a group who wants to bring me and we’ll talk about it. :)

        • eric

          I’m not very involved in the groups. I’m all for supporting them, but I’m not one that looks for a sense of community. But I did go when they brought PZ Myers to talk in Cleveland, met some people from that.

          I was bummed I couldn’t make your University of Akron SSA talk. I don’t think there was a SSA at UofA when I went there.

  • phil

    I’m sorry I had to leave a bit early, but, when I had left I believed Bill had been very decent throughout, though, pat answers are the norm for theists generally.