Best tips for speaking in public--share them (or see them) here in the comments box and help those who plan to give a speech in the coming year!
Photo, above: A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to talk at Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris, in 2010. See the right-hand corner of the screen, where the video camera captured a part of the speaker. The video follows, after today's story column.
Today's word: parler en public
: to speak in public
La bouche sèche, les mains moites, des sueurs froides, et la voix coincée ou les balbutiements--le trou de mémoire--adieu, maintenant, la peur de parler en public! Dry mouth, clammy hands, cold sweats, the voice that's stuck or stammering--the mind that draws a blank--good riddance, now, to the fear of public speaking!
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Reader Debbie Ambrous wrote with good news: after publishing her first book A French Opportunity (available in paperback or Kindle), she will present it to a live audience! Only, like 99 percent of the population, Debbie is uncertain about her upcoming presentation. In her email, she asks if I have any tips for her presentation?
As someone who has passed out (twice) before a live audience I'm not sure I'm the one to answer Debbie's question. So I am asking readers, now, to please share helpful public speaking tips--and pointers on how to organize and prepare for an upcoming talk--here. Meantime, I will tell you about a very positive public speaking experience with you. The following story was written three years ago....
* * *
Désaxé refers to a "mentally disoriented" person. It also means off-centered. I might have been both on Monday night, while speaking before an audience in Paris. Instead, I did not feel the familiar disorientation, at least not mentally. There was calm, peace, and deliverance on the day of my discours.
Oh to be delivered from the chains that bind us! Troubled and tortured no more! Free to enjoy daily life without the nagging nerves that keep us from the present moment, detached from those oft-crossed connections that cry feed me, fill me, comfort the out-of-control me.
By grace I have been set free in other areas of my life and so recognized the miracle on Monday night. And it didn't even matter that my body trailed behind, still smarting from injuries of times past. As my skin sweat, as my nose ran, as my hands searched for a place to rest behind the mic and the brightly lit stand... my mind juggled, with ease, enough inner conversations to amuse even Docteur Freud et Cie.
There, in a second story arrière boutique packed with books and book lovers, I stood. My back to Notre Dame, which lit the rippling River Seine below, I looked out over the hushed room, far as my blurry eyes could see. That is when that proverbial pin dropped, giving volume and clarity to the clatter of voices within me.
Untroubled yet astonished by the mind's ability to juggle, I listened to the handful of conversations in my head... and marveled at how words marched out of my mouth, by memory.
As my speech continued to deliver itself I tuned in, now and then, to the other speakers within. One of them was saying: You need to wipe your nose. In about thirty seconds it will drip, you have another twenty seconds to talk, but, I'm warning you, get ready to pull out that Kleenex in your pocket.
Another voice, busy taking account of the number of frozen faces in the room, went like this: they look so serious. They may be bored. Yes, the audience looks bored! Get ready to bifurcate at the next paragraph... Lighten up, speed up, or perhaps a joke? No, don't take the risk. Steady goes...
Meantime, the first voice reminded, Okay, time now to search for that Kleenex. Perhaps you can turn your head, toward Notre Dame? No, that would be even more conspicuous. Why not use your scarf? Just act as if you are drying your sweaty brow.
A third voice suggested: Indeed, you are going to look very bad wiping your nose. This voice was dismissed by another, which argued, You'll be horrified if it drips! It is okay to wipe your nose.Blow it if you have to!
While one voice monitored my vital signs and another, my speech—getting all my memorized points across to the audience, a fourth voice monitored the obstacle course beneath me: Careful not to trip over the mic cord, it said. Keep your lips close to the mic, but don't burn your chin on the light bulb, just beneath.
If the look on my face was one of amusement and delight, the video camera (there on a bookshelf to my right) was sure to be capturing it all. I would later learn that the captured image was completely désaxé (with the sweaty speaker all the way to the right of the screen. Looking at her, I watch her wipe her brow, her nose. I watch as she runs her hand through her hair. I watch as she takes in a deep breath before stepping up to the mic, at which point she nearly steps off screen. It doesn't matter that her body has not yet caught up with her mind. Off-centered or désaxé, she is doing, after all, just fine.
(The following clip begins with an explanation on how I managed to book a talk at the famous Parisian bookstore.... If you cannot see the video, below, click over to the blog to view it. )
"Ange" - about George Whitman's passing, and meeting this beloved character for the first time.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety