Been going to the same Astrology Conferences year after year?
It’s time to get out of the same old routine!
The 1st International Astrology Conference in Portugal took place from 24th to 26th of February 2017 at the Fórum da Maia. The conference venue was very modern and in the city centre, making it very easy to explore the local area, taste the wonderful cuisine and practice a few Portuguese phrases. On a very practical note, with the British pound being strong against the euro, this conference was very affordable for attendees outside of Portugal and expenses were very easy on the wallet. I particularly loved this conference because it was a turning point for me as a lecturer.
The 2nd International Astrology Conference in Portugal will take place in Lisbon on the 23 and 24 March 2018. I am delighted that several 2020 IVC Conference lecturers will be speaking: ASPAS President Isabel Guimaraes, my travel buddies (we keep bumping into each other at various conferences!) and ISAR President Aleksander Imsiragic and his lovely wife Lea, Australians Damian Rocks and Lyndall McQuinn, IVC “Astrologer of the Year, 2018” Rick Levine. And me of course. I am also very much looking forward to being reunited with several “home grown” Portuguese astrologers.
This is the promotional video for the upcoming conference:
After a white-knuckled take off in the middle of a hurricane, I arrived in beautiful Portugal just in time to take part in a tour of the cities of Porto and Maia. Although I had lost my stomach somewhere over Southeast England, seeing all my astrology friends made everything all right again. And what a beautiful place we were in: it almost made up for all those Hail Marys I had to recite on the plane.
We were taken to a port tasting event but I have to admit that of all the choices at a bar, port would defo be my very last choice. Red wine gives me a stinking headache and I just don’t like the flavour of port. But one has to be polite. So I accepted my glass with the assumption that I’d find the nearest plant pot after a toast to our hosts. I was very pleasantly surprised by the bouquet (don’t I sound like I know what I’m talking about?) and the flavour was rich and smooth and completely different to any port I had ever had before. What on earth do they do to the port in England?
As I caught up with old friends and made new friends, I could almost forget I was the first main speaker the next morning. Of course, the port helped too. I had been thinking a lot about speaking at conferences and whether or not I actually like lecturing. The Kepler Conference really knocked my confidence (so many clever people and then there’s me. . .) that I was seriously considering whether or not I was “deep” enough to be a successful speaker. I see myself as a kind of lucky goofball who really doesn’t belong amongst all these amazing people.
And then I got chatting to Glenn Perry who had generously agreed to be my “victim” for my workshop on healing the inner teenager.
Glenn and I are on the same page when it comes to astrology and psychology. I don’t have the experience and qualifications he has but I can hold up my end of the conversation with him (most of the time). As I was talking to him, I realised that I must be at least a little interesting to keep his attention and for him to remember my name (I can also boast that he gave me a hug when he saw me!). Every now and again, a girl needs a little pick-me-up. I was feeling better. Of course, the port helped that too.
The port helped so much that I decided that I was really going to stop focusing on how nervous I was and whether or not anyone actually cared about what I had to say in my lecture. I was going to make an effort to watch and learn from the masters. I was going to study everyone’s style and I was going to compare my style to theirs.
Of course that raised a question in my head about what I thought my style was: I know that I speak way too quickly sometimes, I know I like to use my hands when I speak and I know I like to stand and be able to move around when I talk. I also know I don’t like it when people read their lecture to me.
And at these thoughts, my stomach returned to its normal position and then did a flip-flop.
For the first time ever, I was going to read my lecture. And the reason is this: “Herschel, Uranus and Mary Shelley’s Vision of Horror” is packed full of complicated English words and the Portuguese-speaking translators would need to be able to follow my script. I was going to have to remember to slow my speech down. (I had already knocked myself out with the powerpoint). The other thing making me nervous was that I had given this old lecture a complete overhaul. When I re-read it, I realised I simply was not the same astrologer who had written this lecture almost 12 years ago. And this is a good thing because I’ve done a lot of studying since then. So, you see, the Kepler Conference had a pretty big effect on me and I wanted that effect to be apparent to my audience.
When we returned to the hotel, we were treated to an amazing dinner. My date for the night was the charming David Perloff. Sitting across from me was Mark Jones and his lovely wife Claire. Next to me was Lynn Bell and also across from me was Margaret Gray. Is there anything better than a good chinwag with fellow astrologers? I am always so grateful for the support from other astrologers. After all, we were all in the same boat: tired from our journeys, nervous about our lectures and a little uncertain of how it was all going to work out (but mostly very optimistic). We were in it together.
Morning came too quickly and it was time to get my Moon in Leo out of the cupboard with my gold and black jacket and leopard print brogues (oh yes). I also had to give myself a serious lecture about positive thinking and to stop worrying about not measuring up to other people. I have my own research, my own style (I finally convinced myself) and my own path in astrology (which I found when I stepped away from the well trodden path of astrologers before me).
On the bus to the venue, I read my lecture for the final time. And found a mistake (thankfully before I started to lecture) and was able to fix it before everything kicked off. I also made an unprecedented decision: I was going to sit down for this lecture. No pacing around like a nervous kid who doesn’t have the experience in lecturing. I was going to be cool. I was going to be calm. I was going to speak slowly. I was also going to say a few sentences in Portuguese. And I certainly wasn’t going to freak out because I was the first lecturer in the main auditorium. I took a quick look at how my powerpoint looked on the big screen: gorgeous!
And then it was time to speak.
So I opened my big mouth, spoke in Portuguese and started the English part of my lecture when I realised there were people calling out to me.
“Alex, we can’t hear you!”
I looked out in the audience and saw Lynn Bell calling out: “Turn your microphone on!”
Now here’s when I realised that I don’t have just one inner voice. I have two. And here’s what they sounded like:
Voice one: Why didn’t you check the bloody mic before?
Voice two: That’s what sound engineers are for. Just switch the thing on.
Lynn Bell: Turn the mic on. Press the button!
At this point I’m sure I looked totally gormless.
Voice one (as I stare at the mic): Where’s the fucking button?
Voice Two: Try the other fucking mic!
Me (reaching for the other mic): What? This?
Lynn Bell: No. Just press the button.
Voice One: OH MY GOD WHERE IS THE FUCKING BUTTON??
Voice two: Alex, just calm down and look for the fucking thing. You got this.
Struggling not to burst into giggles, I found the button and pressed it.
Me (VOICE MAGNIFIED): IS THAT BETTER? OOPS!! (another struggle not to giggle)
Voice one (face palm): Oh my God, can’t take you anywhere.
Voice two: Well you found the button…
Voice one: For god’s sake. About fucking time.
Voice two: Now take a nice deep breath.
I started speaking in Portuguese and I got a round of applause from the Portuguese audience. I got laughter from my eclipse joke. I found out a bit later that my references to being an English teacher went down a treat.
So what did I learn about myself as speaker from this experience.?
Check the fucking mic beforehand and tell voice one to take a bloody hike. Knuckle bump to voice two.
And what a difference to be sitting down to lecture! I felt calm, grounded and I had prepared so well nothing went wrong. Despite the hiccup at the start, I did manage to shut out voice one and just focus on voice two. Sure there were times when I wanted to jump up and start waving my arms around and making crazy lecture faces like a lunatic but I held myself back.
Voice two said: You got this.
Voice one: The audience is awful damn quiet. Are you sure they didn’t fall asleep?
Voice two: These are adults, not children. They can sit still for an hour.
Of course I was relieved to be finished (I tried not to show that too much). I left the auditorium and went to get some fresh air and bumped into Christian Konig and Rod Chang who told me I did brilliantly (thanks chaps). But the biggest surprise was that Margaret told me I sounded “elegant”. Trust me when I say I’ve never been called “elegant” about anything in my life. And I was extra pleased because I was reading my own writing. I also got a few compliments about my voice—and that has never happened before. So it was all a very good exercise in extending myself and learning about how I function as a speaker.
I wasn’t really up to doing too much listening after my lecture. I had coffee with Roy, Wendy and Carolyn (always great to hang out with the Brits). I just needed to chill for a bit before my workshop. I wasn’t really worried about the workshop at all as it’s essentially material from my book. I didn’t even flinch when I learned two minutes before I started that my audience didn’t need for me to be translated. It immediately doubled my lecture material (because I wouldn’t have to stop after every paragraph to be translated) but that wasn’t a problem at all.
Glenn as my victim was brilliant and I got some feedback on how I can make some of the graphs I use more readable to non teachers (I still need to do a little work on not assuming my audience knows more about my subject material than me). But I was pretty spent and left after my workshop to get some rest before dinner.
We had another fabulous dinner in Maia on the waterfront. Again, just really nice to be with other astrologers.
I arrived at the auditorium raring to watch other speakers. First up was my buddy Glenn Perry. He was so calm, so informative and just so experienced that I really learned an awful lot from him on presentation skills. I loved the content of his lecture too on “Present Centered, Purpose Focused Prediction”. A lot of the psychology I studied at university began to return.
Luiza Azancat (an amazing polyglot) spoke on “The Astrology of Twin Siblings”. Her lecture demonstrated how one twin acts out one half of the chart and the other twin acts out the other. Absolutely fascinating research. Next was my good friend Christian Konig who did an incredible presentation on the different types of stars (“Between Heaven and Earth—Helical Rising and Setting Stars”) that was visually appealing thanks to his wicked skills on powerpoint (yeah guess who’s getting a phone call when it’s time to prepare the next lecture?). Like Glenn, Christian was incredibly calm even though I knew he was very nervous.
After all that sitting and listening, I had worked up a bit of an appetite so we found a local restaurant and indulged ourselves in some Portuguese cuisine. Fab company with Rod, Christian, Carla and Monica and a few others. Oh I had codfish which is the local speciality. Yummy.
I watched Glenn again for his workshop and again was just blown away by his calmness, experience and professionalism. His topic was “Venus-Pluto Dynamics: Transforming Fears of Intimacy”. I just loved the way he took a few case studies and made quite complex points very simple. Then I went to watch Roy who did a good job of making key mundane points easy for beginners (I’m not a beginner but it was still good to learn from an experienced speaker). Roy certainly taught me about how to plug my own material in the future (one can’t be shy about it!).
The talks at this conference went on quite late—almost as late as in India (and you KNOW how much I love India). But what made it all so enjoyable was that there was so much to do outside of the auditorium and if anything was needed, one could just wander out to get it. So the last workshop I went to was Margaret Gray’s astro-drama which was a lot of fun and I think we made a pretty good tag team. We were both knackered by the end of this. But it was fun.
Sunday morning and it was time to catch Mark Jones in action. “The Destiny Line: the Nodal Axis of the Moon as the Key to Personal Evolution” was the title of his workshop. Now Mark is a very popular speaker so I really wanted to see what I could learn from him. And I think the key to his success is that he makes one point and keeps reinforcing it. He also has an incredible, measured voice (he’s also a hypnotherapist) that was very pleasant to listen to.
After lunch with the astrologers, it was time to watch Margaret in action again. Her topic was “Understanding and Transforming Compulsive and Addictive Relationship patterns with the help of Psychological Astrology” which she delivered in heels! What I found quite striking was the crossover between her talk and Glenn’s. They didn’t work together on their lectures but they made a lot of the same points. Fascinating.
My attention span was dwindling so a few of us gathered to chew the fat. And I learned something else about myself:
I’ve said before I don’t attend conferences with the expectations of making lots of money (although I do expect to cover my expenses!). I go to conferences for the connections with other astrologers. I like to learn about what’s going on outside of merry England (LOTS!!). And of course I’m always searching for opportunities to collaborate.
If I do make money, it’s almost exclusively in book sales, private consultations and future engagements outside of the big conferences. There’s a part of me that really dislikes discussing finances and a different part of me who is very reluctant to focus on astrology full time in the hopes of being able to leave teaching (for goodness sake, I just got the teaching/practising astrology balance just right!). I know I would miss teaching if I ever did discover the key to making tons of money in astrology so there’s a real reluctance to talk turkey about money. Having said that, it was nice to have a bit of extra jingle in the pocket (mainly through book sales) at the end of the conference (even if there were a few misunderstandings around EU taxes).
With the old finances in order, it was time to enjoy the last lecture. “Turning Lead into Gold: Planets in Detriment and Fall” was delivered by Lynn Bell. I’ve seen Lynn lecture a lot and she is one of my astro heroes for her really well considered examples, her knowledge of mythology and her consistent elegance. And she didn’t disappoint.
It really was a great conference and as it was the first one for the Portuguese astrologers, I thought it was absolutely bloody marvellous. The generosity of the hosts, the central location of the event and just the experience of being able to enjoy the setting was nothing short of glorious. Oh and guess who is going to have a few articles translated into Portuguese?
I spent my last dinner in Portugal with the Brits. Lynn (like me, she’s an honourary Brit) gave me some great advice and Carole Taylor (I’ve seen Carole lecture a lot too so I had to make the decision to see speakers I hadn’t seen before) gave me some encouragement about the lecture circuit. It is a great feeling to know that I am now experienced enough as a speaker that I can step back and get a better feel for what I enjoy in a conference, how I can be a better speaker and just to enjoy observing the masters. What a terrible teacher I’d be if I thought there was no room for improvement!
My sincere thanks to Isabel Guimaraes and team for a wonderful conference.