Through the magic of Facebook I spoke with a former student last week. He’s still in Taiwan (lucky man) while I’m overseas and doing little that is of use. I enjoyed our conversation, which was totally in Taiwanese and lasted for 20 minutes. The man seemed happy in his profession (Protestant ministry) and his wife who joined in the conversation, seemed cheerful, too.
He mentioned that he was doing something that I had taught him. I always get a little nervous when I hear that from a former student. Eventually, when the time comes that he catches some flak for doing what I taught, I’ll be the one who gets blamed. Though I don’t recall him being in the course “Platform Presence for Pastors” that I taught, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. I do recall widely recommending (and requiring in some classes) that students to video-record themselves in normal public speaking situations. He mentioned that he was doing that. Good! But then he went on to say that he posted the recordings to his church’s web site so that people who had missed church could hear the sermon, and those who liked what he had could listen to it again. That’s the kind of thing that (I used to tell people) would come back around to bite you in the butt.
And even worse, it’s NOT what I taught. My object was that students should video-record themselves for private and rigid critique of what they saw. I even suggested that they turn off the audio and just watch the video so that they could see how they looked. This has been difficult for me to do myself. I have too many bad habits with self-presentation. Had I seen those 40 years ago, I might not be doing them now.
The ubiquity of security recording any and ALL of us wherever we go means that we’re all on camera all the time and could potentially be on screen with just the right search being done. Most of us don’t need to be concerned with that so long as we’re not doing something “in the middle of the road that scares the horses.” But folks like church leaders who actually place themselves on the platform up there need to pay attention.
There. I’ve taught the lesson again. Let’s get it right this time.
David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.