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For Those Inviting Me to Speak

I am not a big fan of the standard academic-lecture format: someone stands in front of the group and reads a pre-written paper. It’s not fun for me, and I don't think it creates the best audience engagement. I prefer instead to give less formal talks built around images and quotations. I can do this kind of thing as a slide presentation or with a carefully-prepared handout. In my experience, this approach keeps audiences more engaged and creates better conversation afterwards (and if I provide a handout, then they have something to take home with them). 

When I’m invited to give a talk and I say that I want to do it this way, the inviters sometimes demur. They assume that I’ll just talk off the top of my head, and that therefore they’ll not get their money’s worth. To that I would reply, first, that I’m actually very, very good at extemporaneous yakking — but, second, in fact I construct such talks very carefully, and probably take more time than I would take to write a lecture-to-be-read. Informality of tone should not be confused with a lack of preparation. 

In any case, if you’re thinking of inviting me to speak, and really prefer a read-aloud lecture, you should probably look to a different speaker. And if you do, there will certainly be no hard feelings on my part. 

And one more thing: In my long, erratic, and often regrettable career as a scholar and writer, C. S. Lewis has occupied about 5% of my time. However, 95% of the speaking invitations I get ask me to talk about C. S. Lewis. This is somewhat disconcerting to me, since it suggests that the great majority of my work is of no interest to anyone except me, but poses a problem in another way also: I am just plain tired of talking about C. S. Lewis. To be sure, ol' Jack still interests me and rewards my attention; but I no longer have anything to say about him. So please forgive me if I decline all further invitations to give lectures about him. It's not you — it's not even him — it's me.