The Accidental Podcaster: Pomp and Circumstance, Part 1
God damn my body hurts.

This weekend was the graduation ceremony for my campus’ Class of 2016. This was my tenth ceremony, third as event chair, and it was a beautiful day. Seven and a half months of planning, continual controlled communication, and a seasoned crew of volunteers and performers make for a fairly easy run once we actually get to the event. The highlights for me were getting to see Miss D. hooded for her masters (the reason for that turned into an entire essay of its own, so look for that coming out next week), and being part of a conspiracy that saw one of our local students reunited with her son, who is an active duty member of the Army and whom she hadn’t seen in two years. She had no idea he was there until she started to walk across the stage for her scroll, only to have this young man march out from the opposite wing in full uniform to meet her center stage while the rest of the house exploded in cheers.

Things like that are what help make the job worthwhile.

It wasn’t perfect - no live production ever is - but the few flubs were the inconsequential kind that are only noticed by the people who know how it was supposed to go. I can live with that. Graduates waiting to the end of the ceremony and then bolting out before the bagpipers (who were supposed to lead the recessional) is much less of an issue than, say, the year the vocalist didn’t arrive. Or the year the coordinator didn’t order enough scrolls and they ran out in the middle of the ceremony. Or the year I got a stomach bug and spent the keynote speech locked in the stagehands’ lavatory just offstage, trying to be quiet as I violently upchucked (seriously, for the entire ten-minute speech. I didn’t make it long enough to see how that recessional went). And at any rate, it was still less stressful than RivalCon prep, because with the exception of introducing one of the student speakers, I don’t have an on-stage role to have to worry about.

The best way I can describe a successful event from an operational standpoint comes from the final line of my favorite episode of Futurama: “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.†And it’s true: in operations, the public at large are generally only aware of your existence when things go wrong. At work, I like to think of myself as a legendary ninja, darting amongst the shadows, my name whispered in reverent awe in certain circles. Commencement sees me often literally darting in the shadows as I flit upstairs and downstairs and back and forth through the theatres and back passages of PlayHouse Square like a hummingbird on crack. I never wear heels for this, and am almost always drenched in sweat by a half hour to showtime - and that’s before I have to rush into my own stupid-hot regalia to do my own on-stage bit.* Like I said, a LOT goes on behind the scenes that, if I do my job right, no one else ever hears about.
Things my humming-bird mind does at 3 AM the morning of the ceremony day.

This year was also the first time I didn’t have my back-up speech ready to go. Part of this was because I spent a good chunk of time editing and writing suggested passages for other people’s speeches. The bigger part, though, was a trust thing. I know this year’s scheduled keynote very well, and she is by far one of the most reliable people I know. She’s also a seasoned and very dynamic speaker, a graduate of our campus (she and I finished our masters’ programs the same year), and she’s got a hell of a story about how she got to where she is today. I didn’t need to worry about it, so I didn’t. I was very proud of myself for that. And she was fabulous.

I will have one for next year, though. And who knows, maybe I’ll get to pull a few more surprises out of my hat. But for now, I need some aspirin and a bubble bath.

*Common question I get is “How do you speak in front of a crowd of 3,000 people and not get nervous?†Answer: Practice and experience. I do much better delivering a prepared address to a large group than I do ad-libbing in small groups. Also, the way the lights shine in your eyes means you can’t see the audience anyway.
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