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Preparing for the Presentation of Your Odyssey
"In every end, there is a beginning," wrote T.S. Eliot. Presenting your Odyssey to others who all have engaged in a similar process offers an opportunity to see your life all over again through the eyes of others. In a sense, you reinvent yourself as a whole individual, as you reflect and write. You know yourself again as if for the first time. From that "high hill" of age, the Odyssey writer has a long view of their life—active, intentional, curious, prophetic, challenging, joyful, and, at times, sorrowful. The process of writing creates opportunities to hear from beloved family members and friends, those who have been part of your life. Presentation of your Odyssey invites others to bear witness to your journey of discovery.
Think about the Setting
Take a moment to imagine the room where you will present your Odyssey. Will this be the group's meeting room at the retreat center, or a different place? What time of day will it be? Will you want the lights bright or soft? Will you use candles? Will a fire be flickering in the hearth? Will music welcome people into the room? Where will you arrange any display objects or decorative objects? Imagine your High Hill group (or later, after your retreat, your family and friends) around you. There is talk, laughter in the air, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the scent of flowers. Imagine yourself as you move forward into the room you have lovingly arranged, smiling at the collected assembly of loved and familiar faces.
Think of how you wish to greet and welcome the people who will attend your presentation. What will you wear? Will you stand at the door as people enter the room? What, if anything, would you like to say to people as they enter?
You may wish to sound a bell or a chime to signal the beginning of your talk. Or, you may wish to invite someone to introduce you. Imagine taking your place in front of the group as they fall into expectant silence. Will you begin with a few informal words, or by sharing from your written pages? In either case, it is wise to practice your opening in advance.
You may wish to begin, or end, your Odyssey with your song. Plan to follow or introduce the song by explaining why it is important to you. Invite someone to operate the music player, and instruct them how and when to cue up, play, and stop the music. Before the presentation, familiarize your "DJ" with the sound system and equipment.
You may wish to have someone record your presentation. Talk with them ahead of time about the equipment, timing, and other details, and ensure that they will not be intrusive.
Managing Your Papers
If you plan to stand and read your Odyssey, it is important to use a lectern or music stand to hold your pages. If you will be seated when you speak, plan to put your pages on your lap or on a table in front of you. You may wish to find an attractive folder or binder to hold the pages as you read them.
Slides, PowerPoint, and Video
If you are using slides, PowerPoint, or video as part of your presentation, it is helpful to have a hand-operated remote so you can present the images smoothly. If you ask someone else to operate the machines, it's wise to give them a copy of your manuscript with cues clearly marked. Test all the equipment you will be using and rehearse the entire presentation with the visuals ahead of time.
Take time to relax so you can enjoy yourself at this wonderful time and take it all in!
Preparing for Questions and Answers
After your Odyssey is shared, you will invite your guests to join in by asking questions. Decide ahead of time how you want to receive questions. Will you be comfortable responding to questions as they come? Or would you prefer to reflect a bit before answering? If you prefer reflective time or would like some control over whether or not to answer particular questions, you may wish to provide slips of paper for listeners to write their questions and place them in a basket or bowl. You can then draw the questions one at a time, and answer them as you feel comfortable. An advantage to having written questions is that you will have them to refer to and remember afterward.
Some questions may be startling in their simplicity. You may never have thought about your life in the way a listener has. Thank the asker for that new insight! Questions that surprise and intrigue you—and which you may not be able to answer!—can be a rare gift, allowing you to view your life in a new dimension. It's fine to say, "That's a great question. But you know, I'll have to think about it before I can answer it." And then do!
Other questions, often the ones asked by family and friends, come deeply from their own hearts. They may want to know more about an aspect of your life that affected them. Even if a question brings up pain or sorrow, remind yourself that the question comes from someone's need to know the answer. Respond in a spirit of loving-kindness.
Perhaps you will be asked a question by someone who expresses a perspective that challenges or unsettles you. When such a question is asked, it is important to assume best intentions on the part of the questioner. Acknowledge that you perceive or understand things differently and then move on. The purpose of the questions is to illuminate and clarify your Odyssey, rather than to provoke debate or discussion. On the other hand, profound listening to questions as they are asked, followed by attempting to offer thoughtful, kind answers, can enrich your presentation experience and add to your self-knowledge.
Whatever the questions and however they are asked, treat them as gifts that point the way to a deeper understanding of your life. How much you will learn from them! If you have opted for written questions, plan to place them with your manuscript to look at later and see if you would answer them in the same way.