I’m a member of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. This is a public engagement forum where Academics and Researchers talk about their work to the public and take questions. No slides or notes are allowed and it is performed in stand-up mode. Props, the more naff the better, are allowed. I was on Wednesday evening at 20:30 which makes it a long day as I was up at 5am.
I’m so used to talking with Powerpoint slides to fall back on, so doing a talk on a small stage, two foot from the audience, with bright lights shining in my face and only a microphone to hold on to is pretty scary. I’ve always admired those who can go out and do this, and I wanted to try to conquer my fear, and give it a go. For more details please see Part 13 on this blog.
The opportunity came up to do the talk I had previously given at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, called My Neighbour Hacked My Toothbrush. This is about the security dangers surrounding internet connected devices in the home. It was strange standing in the queue waiting for the doors to open as I didn’t know the secret entrance leading from a close round the back existed. When I got to the front of the queue I was asked if I had a ticket, and all I could think of to say was, “I’m first on.”
While I was waiting I was reminded of a security awareness session I gave a few years ago as part of a security awareness week. I had talked for an hour and then there was a ten minute break or so for the changeover and then I was due to give a second talk. I went to the toilet and when I came back a queue had formed outside the room. In this venue that was normal as space is given for those still in the room to vacate it. Rather than push to the front I just stood in-line and then filed in with the rest of the attendees. As I stood I overheard the chatter of people, speculating if this was going to be any good or not. It made me smile. Same happened this week. The guy in front of me in the queue joked with the woman on the desk, promising he wouldn’t heckle. I nearly jumped in on the conversation, but didn’t. I can confirm he didn’t heckle.
I was nervous. I imagine I will never get over that, and the minutes before going on stage, hearing Susan Morrison, one of Scotland’s most talented and funny comedians, joke with the audience and getting them ready to welcome on the first act is the most surreal feeling. I just want to get on and get started, but it was a good five or six minutes before my name was called. There is no photography allowed unless taken by those working as part of CODI. I took a selfie in the green room, which I should say is not green and behind me are two red doors next to each other. One is the door to the stage, the other a fire exit. I hadn’t really thought about the fact there is a way out at the last second. I don’t know if anyone ever has. As soon as it’s time to go, something kicks in. Nerves disappear and I have a good time. I enjoy it despite the pressure of thinking ahead to what comes next as I’m talking. I don’t memorise a script, but have main points to cover and then talk around those.
I’m doing CODI again in August during the festival fringe, a lunchtime session and it’s a new show, some of it based on this one. My dangerous idea is, Cybercrime is not just for criminals. I’ve also been asked to mentor a couple of colleagues who are also performing this year, so looking forward to helping where I can.
At the start of the evening Susan asked where members of the audience had come from and I could hear there were some American tourists present. I made a mental note as I knew I had a line I could use here. During my performance I state that among devices that have been hacked, Hoovers are on the list. As soon as I said it, I asked if there were any friends from America in the audience and I got an enthusiastic response. I then explained that Hoover in Scotland means vacuum cleaner. This got a laugh and then I decided to continue to explain that in Scotland we hoover and even did the actions as I spoke some dialogue that goes something like this – “Are you coming oot tonight? Naw. Why not? I’m hoovering. Hoovering? Aye hoovering.” I have no idea where this came from other than I love language and take an interest in how us Scots have different words for a number of things that can be confusing for others. I chatted to Susan after the show and she told me to trust my gut when a good line comes in. I’m learning all the time.
To finish I have to mention that during the question and answer session, one of the Americans stood up and announced they had a $900 internet connected cat litter tray and asked “What does that say about me?” The audience were in uproar and all I could think of to say was, “Thank you, I’m going to tell everyone I know about this.” This is why I love talking to the public. You never know what they are going to say next.