At the recent Catholic Digital Media Conference, Laura and I were asked to present a workshop on blogging.
We arrived early (at the D'Arcy Room!) so we could compare notes before speaking. The minutes ticked by quickly and soon our audience was filing through the door. While everyone found seats, I took one last glance at my notes before looking up. And there was Archbishop Julian Porteous.
I’d already met Archbishop Porteous. He confirmed Sophie several years ago. More recently, he'd sat almost next to me in the auditorium earlier that day. Yes, I’d tucked my feet under my seat so he could shuffle past me to an empty seat on the other side of my neighbour.
And now Archbishop Porteous was sitting in the centre of the D’Arcy Room, a smile on his face, his eyes twinkling. Leaning towards us, he looked like a man who couldn’t wait to hear all about our experiences of blogging. Blogging was important. We were important. For the duration of the workshop, the archbishop gave us his full attention. I don’t think he looked away even once while we were speaking.
Laura and I spoke. The words flowed. We answered questions. We smiled. We even laughed. And everyone laughed with us. I really enjoyed the session. I hope our audience did too.
And do you know what I attribute the good feeling of the workshop to? I can’t speak for Laura, but when it was my turn to speak, it was the archbishop who made a difference to my words.
I once read about an experiment which involved a professor who was known for his dull lectures. His students had given up. They barely listened while the professor droned on and on.Then one day, it was suggested the students model good listening. They sat forward on their seats, looking as if they were eager to catch every word. They made eye contact with the professor. They didn’t fidget or look bored. And do you know what happened? The professor came alive. He started to believe that what he was saying was indeed interesting. A wave of energy passed through the room and his words started flowing with passion. After a while the students stopped pretending to be interested. They really were engrossed in the lecture.
I don't know if our audience learnt anything useful from my part of the presentation, but I learnt something: The speaker may seem to be important, and indeed it’s a great honour to be asked to present a session, but really, she doesn't work on her own. The audience contributes to a speaker's success. Without Archbishop Porteous and a room full of kind people, who were obviously prepared to listen, I never would have been able to speak. My words would have lacked passion. They would have gradually died away, and I’d have returned home convinced I was the most boring speaker on earth.
After our workshop, I had books and notes to gather before heading to the auditorium to hear the next speaker on the program. Most of the delegates were already seated. As I crept up the stairs, looking for an empty seat, I noticed Archbishop Porteous sitting at the end of a row. As I passed by, he reached out and grasped my arm. He looked me in the eye and whispered, “Thank you!” There was real warmth and gratitude in those words.
But it's me who should be doing the thanking:
Archbishop Julian Porteous, you made me feel as if every word I spoke was of great importance. That was so encouraging. Thank you!
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