Fear of public speaking is common. The remedy: picture the audience naked. Seriously? That was a cure suggested to me when I was in high school. Like other remedies that don’t work, I had to discover how to cope with fear through trial and error. Early in my career I gave my fair share of terrible public talks. Then I took the Dale Carnegie Public Speaking class. The end of the my trial and error public speaking period had begun and I started a life-long pursuit of trying to do a better job each time I speak publically. There are some speakers like the NMSU President who is naturally gifted, but he still does his homework.
My fear of public speaking is mitigated but not cured by thorough preparation. Preparation is necessary but it is not sufficient to create a good experience for the audience. Once I saw a commencement speaker walk out on stage – on his hands- and deliver his talk upside down. All eyes were on him. It was a short talk so the applause and laughs were simultaneous and loud. President Carruthers has delivered all his commencement talks in the standard upright position. From personal experience I know, he has many ways to he keep his audiences entertained and informed. Many of the speakers at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight are just plain fabulous speakers. They are speaking about what they know and love. That’s the secret to many things in life, fall in love with what you are doing, learn all you can and then give it away. I look at public speaking that way. Give away my love and passion for this work our community is supporting. Yes, I know we are paying taxes to support the spaceport, but we are also paying taxes to support roads, schools, and other public benefits.
I am providing the after dinner talk for the Amateur Astronomy League ALCON meeting that will have concluded by the time this article is printed. Ron Kramer, the Chair of the ALCON 2015 conference contacted me and invited me to speak to the conference attendees on their last night. I fund astronomical research, I don’t do it. I listen to and watch the presentation of the faculty and students in the Department of Astronomy here at New Mexico State University. The department founded by Dr. Clyde Tombaugh who discovered Pluto. The day this article comes out, the New Horizons mission to Pluto will hopefully provide its best pictures of the planet and its known moons. There are small effects in the orbit of Neptune that indicate there may be other moons in the system.
We have a world-class program and a wealth of astronomical observatories in New Mexico. There are 15 observatories including Apache Point and the National Solar Observatory near Alamorgodo; and the Magdalena Research Observatory, the Radio Astronomical Observatory and the Very Large Array near Soccoro are the more well-known observatories. I have been to all of these observatories, which convinces me, the last thing I should talk to these people about is astronomy.
Amateur astronomers in the thousands observe because they love it. My neighbor Fred Pilcher is an amateur astronomer. He built an observatory on his property and invited me in to see how he spends many hours conducting research on asteroids. Alan Hale, a graduate of New Mexico State University and New Mexico Space Grant scholar recipient, discovered the Hale-Bopp comet. He also built his own observatory in Cloudcroft. He uses his observatory to conduct outreach to help teachers and students learn about not just the stars, but comets, satellites, planets and moons. In fact, that is the mission of the Amateur Astronomy League, they provide education and incentives for astronomical observation and research. ALCON’s website explains they assist in the communication of amateur astronomical societies. There are over two hundred and forty local amateur astronomical societies from all across the United States.
Back to Ron Kramer and my after dinner talk. Remember that naked audience image? Picture an audience of amateur astronomers having a wonderful conference in the Land of Enchantment during the monsoon season. I created that vision and then constructed my talk on what I know and love. The Land of Enchantment’s space industry assets including of course the spaceport. I will also highlight our students and faculty’s accomplishments in the Student Launch Program. I will also mention the contributions to the scientific and engineering knowledge of the general space industry because of the presence of NASA White Sands Test Facility and Jacobs, the Air Force, Lockheed Martin and the Tracking Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) in our neighborhood. We have a great group of amateur rocketeers, and a growing partnership with the national laboratory on the International Space Station national laboratory. I believe I have the right imagination to meet the astronomers in this exciting time for them.