Inspiration all around as a Frenchman talks about cooking, childrearing, embarrassing language gaffes, and writing... in today's entretien with Marc Levy
mener a la baguette

parler en public: video of my talk + bribing Shakespeare and Company bookshop

Speaking upstairs, at Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris

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 

Audio file: listen to Jean-Marc read the French words, below Download MP3 or Wav file

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.

Kristin Espinasse

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. ) 


Le Coin Commentaires
This story continues in the comments box. Share tips on public speaking. What do you do to calm your nerves? How do you prepare for an upcoming speech? To snack or not to snack before walking on stage? I found it helpful, when seized with jitters, to reach out to the audience; asking them a question is a great way to diffuse all the bottled up nerves (see examples in the video, above)--and the plus is that all attention is temporarily redirected to the audience (in time for the speaker to catch his orher breath)! Thanks for responding to this post, by leaving your comment here.


Related stories:
"Ange" - about George Whitman's passing, and meeting this beloved character for the first time.



AmaLegro ship
Jean-Marc and I are hosting the AMA Waterways Paris to Normandy cruise on this ship, the Amalegro.  More information on this November getaway, here in this brochure.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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jeananne Libbert

Toastmasters International! It is by far the best way to work on public speaking skills. Plus you get to meet great people who are willing to share & help you. It is amazing the difference in made in my life. I recommend it to everyone.

Roger Anderson

After spending forty years in college classroom teaching, I would say that the first and perhaps most important suggestion for public speaking is organization and preparation as well as knowledge of your subject. Preparation and knowledge produce confidence. Then practice, practice, practice.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Practice, time it, get feedback from others, or use a tape recorder (or equivalent) to check yourself. Have a good opening line.

My last step was always to get a nice outfit, so I was free to focus on the talk.

Anne Frost

Thirty years in the classroom and speaking on various subjects to large numbers of both students and, from time to time, their parents, provided me with enriching experiences, both in preparation and delivery. Always at the back of my mind was the thought that each person in the audience believes that you are only speaking to them, so it is like speaking one-to-one and therefore less daunting!

Tish Tyler

Bonjour Kristi,

I was there at your presentation at Shakespeare & Co!! Has it really been 3 years? I had arrived early and was up front. That was good because it was a packed house. You were engaging, entertaining and your words came from your heart. It didn't matter to me if you messed with your hair or used a kleenex - your words had all of my attention!

Keep the video's coming please!


Tish from Powhatan VA

Julie from Edinburgh

Remember that no-one in the audience wants you to fail they are all on your side. Look around the room at individuals. Remember to smile - and breath!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for getting these tips up and getting the conversation going! Tish, I remember your warm greeting, which was reassuring and so appreciated. Thank you for your words about the talk... Hard to believe three years have passed.

jill jackson

Preparation is key. I also like to think that a recipe for a great talk combines the 3 'E's - one is eager, has earned the right to be there, and enthusiastic.

Sue J.

brava, Kristi -- loved your talk. You were delightful.

Stephanie in Webster

I like to wear my reading glasses, not my bifocals. That way when I look out at the audience, all I see is a sea of face-shaped blurs. It helps me a lot! Also I try to go slowly since I know I tend to speed up when I'm nervous.

Debbie Ambrous -

I'm taking these suggestions to heart and appreciate everyone of them. Thanks to Sarah I even have a good excuse to buy a new outfit! Kristin, you are wonderful for helping me like this! I agree with the others that I would be extremely happy to hear you speak. I will remember to bring tissues. Thank you, Kristin!!!!
Debbie Ambrous

Tracy Downing

Remember, no one else in the room knows exactly what you plan to say or how you plan to say it. So just take a deep breath and know you are not a slave to your script. Your words will sound fresher, you will appear relaxed, and your audience will feel more interested and engaged too.

timothy cunniff

I always try to get into the space before I have to speak just to get a feel for the room if possible. Make eye contact with the audience. I also like to move about the stage a bit as it feels appropriate.



Chere Kristi, I remember that talk and you never, ever would have guessed you were nervous. So not only are you a great speaker, you are also a superb actress. What I remember so fondly, though, was you and Jean-Marc staying with me at our Paris apartment and the two of us going around Paris together to your various appointments. Most of all I miss seing and beith with the two of you and our Paris apartment (which we've since sold) terribly. I miss the memories but at least I have those. Love you, xx R

Julia Jordan

Speaking in public is like getting to Carnegie Hall: Practice! Do it over and over, with an "audience" of someone you trust, until you no longer feel silly or embarrassed or afraid. This DOES feel silly, guaranteed, but it works.

Linda R.

Way back in the 60's I knew I wanted to be a middle school/high school classroom teacher ... but it took me until my third year in college (and then only in summer school when I wouldn't really know anyone ... and they wouldn't know me!) until I could get up enough nerve to take the required class in public speaking - talk about shy! The class totally changed my attitude - something about it. I think it was simply that everyone was encouraging each other ... and the topics were something that related to us personally.

Being prepared is key; knowing that everyone is rooting for you to do well - generally if you're speaking to a group of people, they are there because they have like-minded passions and are genuinely interested. Be yourself, know that people enjoy humor and human interest stories mixed in with the data presented. When I am writing out a speech, I make sure that I read it aloud as I go along to ascertain it is my ‘voice’.

Okay I go on way too long … my husband had a “Six Ps Philosophy” – Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance (sorry about the vocabulary, but it gets the point across). That's basically it in a nutshell.

Mary Ellen Segraves

Bonjour Kristi and others, just had an article on public speaking today (see link below).
In addition to their advice, I also believe that my presentation begins the moment people start entering the room; so, even if I'm still setting up, I stop what I'm doing and greet each person (if possible). That way I establish a relationship with the audience members so that when I begin my formal presentation, I am speaking to people I have already met! Definitely helps with nervousness!! This applies even if things are falling apart (A/V not working, materials not ready, etc.) I just try to act as if everything is fine. The rest generally takes care of itself.

Here is the link to the Monster article.


As an attorney who has been engaged in public speaking for well over a decade, I still get butterflies sometimes and I'm my own worst critic. It must have been an amazing opportunity to speak at this famed bookstore where Hemingway, Stein, and Fitzgerald congregated. Thanks for another amazing post.



Imagine you are speaking with a group of friends who only think the best of you and only want the best for you. Don't be afraid to be human, everyone listening to you is also human; evidence of that commonality is not only forgiven, it's welcomed - if you make a mistake, or bumble a bit, so what? Simply carry on with good humor. The smallest bit of wine beforehand, no more than half a (small) glass, to calm your nerves.

Cheryl in STL

I, too, was there that evening and I agree with Robin that none of us knew how nervous you were! I'm sure that all of us were excited to see/hear someone we felt we knew speak in that wonderful upstairs room! It was a priviledge for us as well. It was an evening I will never forget. And a bonus was meeting Ann Mah who sat knee to knee with me!


Hi Kristi: I've also taught for many years, often in front of classes of 100 or more, and endorse the comments above which suggest preparation. Don't necessarily rely on being glib and spontaneous. Even if you are ordinarily so, it may fail you. I've also learned to ignore the "frowners." There always seems to be at least one person in a large audience who appears to be unhappy with you. I disregard their expressions, figuring they have an intestinal disorder or some personal problem they're contemplating. You appear very poised and spontaneous. Nice talk.

Marsha Ingham

Your speaking to a group is a loving gift of giving of your talent from your heart.
I have been a professional lecturer and teacher. My nerves were settled by thinking of the audience as 'one body'. This body is receiving your care and generosity and returns your love with love. Suddenly, there is no reason for fear or nerves. Peace is the result.
Marsha in Palm Springs.


Relax. When you speak about something that you are knowledgeable and passionate about, it is easy and fun! Relax. Your audience is not judging you, they are there to hear what you have to say and to learn from you. Relax and enjoy the process. (This is from a woman who flunked English 1A the first time around because she refused to get up in front of the class. Now she speaks to auditoriums full of people.) Relax.

Marjorie Recinos

As a recently retired teacher I can only suggest what I would tell my students. That is, take a minute to make eye contact with your audience (wait time), not a prolonged stare, but an acknowledgement that they have assembled to listen to you. Breathe, relax if possible and speak slowly, as anytime we speak slowly what we have to say seems more profound. Imagine you are standing there 3 inches taller wearing the outfit of your dreams (2 sizes smaller) and say what you have come to say. Smile often, look confident because you have practiced this ad nauseum, right? Best of luck to you. Public speaking is easy once you have conquered the fear!

Kristin Espinasse

Cheryl and Robin, loved reading your memories of this talk. Thank you for mentionning Ann -- it is thanks to Ann (, who found my blog and sent a note to Simon and Schuster...

After reading all these tips... how many are itching to get a speaking gig? I know I am!! It has been a while since I have spoken to an audience. The next time will be in November, on the river cruise I am hosting! The doubts are already creeping in... but I know better, now, than to listen to them!

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,

I haven't had to speak in public that often, but when I have it is always nerve wracking and my heart starts racing, I feel weak in the knees, etc. Did you really pass out a couple of times?

I think being well prepared is key and also smiling and maybe connecting with the audience before you begin your talk. Maybe a little story or something that people can relate to. I think being passionate and confident in what you are speaking about is the key. I remember when I was helping with the Picture Lady program in the elementary schools when the kids were younger. Once a month I would pick an artist and a few of his/her works to bring to the classes. I would talk about the artist, the paintings and sometimes have a little art project for the kids. I loved art so much that I would forget to be nervous and just have a good time.

Kristin Espinasse

Paul, Re the frowners -- glad you bring this up. I could not figure out why this was--why the frown? Since, I have noticed that some of us lose awareness of our facial expressions... which sometimes settle into a frown -- and that this does not mean the person is unhappy or bored or angered by the talk. Best to wait until the tomatoes arrive, en force, before believing the audience is displeased.

Gwyn Ganjeau

oh, what good comments here! I think so much can be accomplished in the first 5 seconds before you even start talking by smiling warmly at the audience, making eye contact with a few folks, and welcoming them and thanking them for coming--as though they were guests in your home. they will immediatly respond to your warmth and charm and will be on your side from the very next word.


I have found it helpful to memorize my first few lines of introduction and greeting. I deliver those from memory, and of course they go well, so then I feel that I am well on my way.

Kristin Espinasse

So touched by my belle-mères message (thanks, Marsha. Hug Dad for me!). P.S. I will never forget hearing you speak before an audience at the opera in Sun Valley. I was so impressed, and never believed I could do the same. There is a time for everything. Fear does leave us completely and we can, indeed, grow to love public speaking!

Kristin Espinasse

Yeah! Now I have seen my cousin Freds comment! This is like a reunion :-) I agreed with Fred, memorize the opening lines... it will help center the speaker. Great idea, one I will use (last time I memorize ALL the lines and it was too much!) 

Eileen, yes, I really did pass out two times. Once in high school (so embarrasing to pass out in front of peers!) and once in college (ditto!). I was not prepared enough. And I had not eaten a sustaining breakfast! (Make sure to have a snack a little while before standing up to speak!)

Diane Young

I recently had to talk to about 50 people about dealing with healing from grief, and writing the talk was the best help. I always feel, as I'm sure you do, that the words must come from my heart. Once they're on paper, the hard part is over for me. If I'm happy with the written words, the talk goes o.k. My two biggest problems are a paralyzed vocal cord (which a mike takes care of) and getting emotional. I was so concerned that I would cry during the talk, as I did during the rehearsal, but by the time I started, I had gotten through the teary stage and stayed dry during the talk. Most of the time, I've not had an emotional subject to address, so it's write, write, write until you're satisfied with the talk. You seemed very natural during your talk, and that's what an audience really wants. Humor, honesty and preparation stood you in good stead and you can start looking for another speaking gig now!

Louis Plauche'

Be yourself...and pretend the audience is not wearing clothes.

Bill Facker

One would never know you are fearful of public speaking by your excellent performance, Kristin. And to speak at Shakespeare and are surely still basking in the glow and triumph of that special moment! However, I must cry "foul" over the fact you have that elegant "sweeping hand through hair motion" which gives you unfair advantage over the majority of us. Very few are trained in the specific Kung Fu art of "Sweeping Hand" .. designed to grasp the listeners attention while establishing an air of authority and wisdom. Oh, that I could gain the wisdom and master the are so fortunate! Methinks thou art more astute in the art of public discourse than one wishes to reveal...fantastic job!

Bill Facker

DEBBIE...Be yourself, your everyday self. Don't attempt to embellish "You" simply because it is a new and unfamiliar arena. "They" will respond to the honesty of that "inaction". Aloha, Bill Facker

Christine Allin

Debbie...sometimes it helps to find a friendly face or two in your audience
and to focus on the smile or nod that
comes your way while you are speaking. Amazing how reassuring that can be.

The others are right...don't worry about the
scowl or frown. For many, such expressions
happen while they are concentrating and processing the information they are hearing,
which, ironically, can reflect intense interest in what you are saying!

Marcia Douglas

I remember having to speak to a large group of school teachers back around 1998. I was working as the mgr of the Barnes & Nobles Junior Department and it was teacher's night. I had just taken on the position a month earlier and I was on the shy side, even though I had worked there for several years as a bookseller. I did fine, organization and preparation was everything. The manager before I took the position had been an acting student in Chicago, and it really helped to have seen her prepare, as she rehearsed what she would say. Even when we prepared for story time, I would see her rehearsing in a corner.

Debbie Ambrous -

I am reading and seeing helpful information in each comment. From Bill's comment with an "Aloha" I realize that I must be sincere with no pretension of being anyone but myself. My biggest worry is having a "hot flash" and turning red as a tomato. Maybe I should warn them in advance!
Debbie Ambrous


Our dear Kristi,
You were so poised,sincere, and sweet during your speech! I am just as impressed now as I was then.
IMPOSSIBLE to believe that you passed out twice!!!!!!
You have given us inspiration that when we face such a challenge, just take a deep breath,have faith and go for it!
Also,dear Kristi, your kindness in trying to help all the speakers-to-be tells volumes of the truly wonderful soul that you are.
How privileged WE are!
Love, Natalia XO


I have seen a comment about "faltering voice" and the recent one about "hot flash". There is a book on reflexology "Hand Reflexology Revised & Expanded" by Mildred Carter, Tammy Weber with the chapter 14, page 107 named "Many Speaker Turn to Reflexology for Relief of Vocal Stain".. and the whole two pages on the specific points follow. And another chapter (just another page) "Reflexology Used by Opera Singer to Keep voice Beautiful". Chapter 37 "Relaxing Nervous Tension with Reflexology" p.257-265.

I am sure there are some other books on reflexology as well, if one gets interested.

Hope it helps.

Becky Cooper

Before I became a teacher, I trembled during graduate school presentations, and I wondered if I would ever feel comfortable in front of a group. Imagine my relief upon discovering that focusing on the comfort of the classroom audience instead of my own discomfort would completely eliminate my anxiety.

It's really not so different from writing preparation--know your purpose and audience; then make content and delivery decisions accordingly. Arriving early to meet individuals also makes it easier to think of the audience as guests in your home when the presentation begins, which also shifts your focus to graciously meeting needs instead of performing.

You appear to be a natural communicator. Your good will and responsiveness to nonverbal cues come through in the video. According to Darren LaCroix, a world champion of public speaking, the best prescription for anxiety is stage time, so the more stage time you accumulate, the more comfortable you will feel.

I look forward to seeing more of your presentations on video. Best wishes to your friend. I'm sure you have helped her more than you realize.

Kathy Shearer

Whenever I give a book reading, I always start out with something humorous, which relaxes both the audience and myself. It worked very well for you, Kristin, as we can see in this video clip. Preparation is key, but also don't be afraid to loosen up and adlib, while keeping an eye on the clock.


Wow, this has come at a great time for me as I have to give a talk on Feb 6 - also about my writing (but as a journalist). I am absorbing all these tips too. My fear is that my voice will get reedy and thin. I have read about the Alexander Technique, and know it is a matter of relaxing the head and not stretching the neck forwards, but it is a matter of trying to remember all this advice at the time. Good preparation, smiles, and a way of bringing the audience with you is my tip. Kristi does this when she asks the audience questions. Kristi, you did so well and no-one would have known the nerves behind the smile. Best of luck, Debbie.

Dana Wilson

Mme. Espinasse . . . First of all, you are absolutely charming; you are your own harshest critic. You can feel secure knowing that you can be yourself and everyone will love you. You are well prepared and speaking on a subject you know in depth.

Everybody's nose runs. Do look at Notre Dame though. Focus on a gargoyle and pick out a look-alike in your audience. Try not to giggle.

Seriously, you're great. The more you put yourself out there the easier it will be. According to some lists, people fear speaking in public more than they fear death itself. C'est normal.

Thank you for the bit of cheer you bring to my emailbox every morning.

Bill Facker

DEBBIE .. at the beginning of your "talk", tell the audience you are blessed with a gift of heightened perception which notifies you when in the presence of those possessing superior intellect. Further, inform them "the gift", once initiated, bestows upon your body the rare and highly pleasureable "Receptor Red" enzyme, which is immediately conveyed and shared with those in the group who have incredibly high IQ's. When your fears mount and you turn red, smile inwardly as you enjoy the spectacle of watching everyone cast brief glances at their own extremeties as they hope, wish, and pray for the gift of "Receptor Red"...AND intelligence. :-)

Carolyn Chase

Find someone in the audience who looks pleasant and interested (or bring someone!), particularly midway back, and speak to them.



There are a lot of good comments here, and I would say the most important thing to me is to KNOW the story you want to tell and the point you want to make. It is not unlike you, Kristi, and the video you have just shared on your writing career. You were never sure about wanting to write and never had confidence that was your place in life. Once you come to that realization, you are much more comfortable with relating it.

Bonne chance.

Wells Edmundson

As a physician, I occasionally have the opportunity to hear of the travails of individuals and their anxiety over public speaking. Anxiety sparks surges of adrenaline that accounts for the sweating, racing pulse, cracked voice and mild confusion...even hyperventilation! A small dose of beta blocker medication before 'show time' blunts all of these reactions. The symphony violinist, assistant minister, and junior executive have all found benefit from this simple pharmacological trick....Kind regards/Wells


I am loving all of these comments - maybe I'll be back later to tell you about all of the phone calls Kristi and I shared before her big event three years ago.



Kristin Espinasse

Hi Mom, speaking of phone calls, I tried calling you yesterday and today -- just so you know... I am thinking of you! Would love to read your memories of that public speaking pep talk  you gave me.

Other tips I thought of, for public speaking: to memorize my speech outline for Shakespeare and Company, I sang it!--alone in the car while running errands, etc. Another astuce: I used my video recorder to film the practice sessions (my poor Mom got a dozen of these, via email. Mom would write back pointers such as, Jump up and down several times (in private) to get that blood flowing and to release the nervous tension!

And did anyone mention prayer?

Edie DeWeese

Get into a comfortable position and take a deep breath before you start to talk. Tuck your chin down a bit if you tend to get squeaky--somehow your voice has to be normal in this position. And then slow down. What you think is a long pause doesn't seem like much to the audience.

Best of all, think of the energy you feel as excitement, not nerves.

Betty Tuininga

Kristin, You really are a natural once you get warmed up...You have a wonderful sense of humor which is endearing and helps to relax your audience. This is not toastmasters, but a small intimate group of like minded people, who are interested in your content and suggestions, and are less apt to hear what you may consider errors in your speaking abilities! I loved you piece and think as you have further opportunities, you will become more confident!

Rosalind Mustafa

I trust you've spoken already. But, for next time. I will share a bit from one of my favorite professors. First, the audience doesn't know what you've forgotten; they know only what your remember. Whatever you speak about, always speak with great passion, sincerity and from the heart. It's about them and not about you. Find a face and speak to that one. Even if their 'visage' blurs as you talk, smile and speak to that one. As you gain confidence shift to another 'one'. And, so on. Most of all, never be afraid to stand before the audience in silence to collect your thoughts and your nerves. YOu are a star!

Sharona Tsubota

As a wine and spirits educator, I have spent many years speaking to groups of all sizes. Do I still get nervous? You bet! It helps that I am passionate about my subject, well-informed, and I try to get my audience involved at several points in the talk.

My best tips:

1) Take lots of deep breaths and do some neck rolls (in private) before getting on stage.

2) Prepare well, then go with the flow. I'm often inspired to go off on a tangent based on the interests of the audience, and as long as I don't stray too far from the key points of my talk, I think the spontaneity keeps the audience engaged.

3) Never beat yourself up for forgetting something. No one but you knows what you intended to say.

4) Connect with people to your right, left, and center, in the front and in the back of the audience. But don't look like you're watching a tennis match!

5) Try to wear comfortable clothes and shoes. If your feet hurt, you may end up shifting constantly from foot to foot, which looks rather odd!

Kristin Espinasse

Great tips, Sharona! Ill add another suggestion -- have someone film your talk. Even if you cannot (do not wish to) view the footage right away, it may be useful or helpful in the future. I am just now going over the footage from this talk, though it happened three years ago! We become less critical of ourselves as time passes.

Debbie Ambrous -

I suppose that I know most of these tips. Now it is a matter of putting them into practice, getting down to work and putting aside worries of my inadequacy compared to the other speakers. The other lineup of speakers are Kobe steak, and I am sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping. It's time for me to find the right ingredients to make my presentation tasty and enjoyable. Hopefully, someone will want my recipe in the future. Kristin, thank you from the bottom of my Alabama heart for this wonderful surprise! A special thanks to the generous people who have given encouragement to me and shared their recipe of success. Thanks to those who bought my book and subscribed at my website. Ya'll are such lovely people!
Debbie Ambrous


What happened to the "Recent Posts" in the right side of the page? It was so convenient to go there when desired to repeat or refresh any previous words, expressions or topics? How and where can we reach it now? Thanks.


Sorry, I know I am always late to this post, but I want to pass along this advice. I taught 7th through 9th graders speech for several years in addition to English, and many of my students who stayed in touch over the years told me that this helped them most. Pick three people in different parts of the room to look in the eye as you are giving your speech. If one of them seems bored/inattentive look for someone else. People who are not listening will only distract you from your thoughts. People who are listening will give you feed back with their eyes. Good luck.

Kristin Espinasse

Becky, That is so true: focus on the comfort of the audience! I remember giving myself a pep talk about this very topic, realizing how important it is that the audience not feel stressed for the speaker, on top of things! (The thing is to not get stressed about not wanting to stress the audience... :-) Seriously, though, this is a valuable and key tool. Glad you brought it up!

Mara in Wisconsin

For speeches with no visuals, I write out the entire talk--and then seldom need to turn the page, secure in the knowledge that there it is!

Early in my career, I spoke on the telephone with a woman who said she was looking forward to my talk the next day. Great,I thought,I'll focus on Lorraine. So of course my boss sat down right behind her . . . on to Plan B.

And speaking of plan B: The VERY WORST is depending on visuals (via Internet or PowerPoint) and then having equipment failure. In case of Internet failure, have a PowerPoint with screen shots of at least some of what you hope to show live. A USB drive can be your rescue.

Remembering that your audience ASSUMES you are knowledgeable and interesting. They are already inclined to like you or they wouldn't be there.

Kristin Espinasse

Francesca, thanks for your note. The recent posts are now located farther down the blog, in the left-hand column. You will also see a new feature: the most recent comments by readers are featured there too. (These features may move to the right-hand column, so please look for them and thanks for any feedback!)


When you first went to college, you wanted to major in writing, but didn't because the other writing students had probably all been writing since they could pick up a crayon. Kristin, you're probably the ONLY one out of all of those students who is now a published author. (And quite famous, too!) Isn't it funny the way life often turns out? Congratulations on fulfilling your dream of writing, being the mom of two great people, being a supportive wife, your sobriety, your grace and beauty and all of your other accomplishments. Kudos!


The Secret to a Talk is:
People are there because you have something to offer.
You are the Expert, the Experienced One and the audience want to benefit from that knowledge base, whatever the topic.
As a teacher of many years, I had many parent nights and whilst I was always a little anxious, I felt that they were there to gain knowledge and support in my role as a teacher of their special person.
Each and everyone of your audience is there because they are interested in You. If you are honest and relaxed, the audience is forgiving. A little lightheartedness helps to relax the audience and create a more personal environment. You have all those ingredients, so bask in the glory that people want to be in your presence and enjoy the moment. And of course, a very important ingredient to assist in that happening is your husband's magic 'drop'. Parfait!

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