|International Women's Day, 2017|
For five years, I was a part of the planning team for a local International Women's Day celebration. Along with organizing and implementing the event, I participated by bringing my newspaper column, "In Conversation With..." to the stage.
It was always a showstopper: Every year, I was honoured to have a live conversation with a local woman whose story was remarkable and inspiration. The first year, I interviewed by friend and local businesswoman Alia, who told her story of emigrating to Canada from Lebanon when she was 19 to join her new husband here -- and learn English as she worked!
In my final year of participating, we went with a multi-woman format (pictured* above) for a conversation about women's friendships.
I don't do much public speaking but I'm well-trained for it, thanks to two things:
1) My mother, choir leader, teacher and pianist, who taught proper diction to her young choir members, including her two daughters. She would stand at the back of our large church and holler, "I can't hear you!" when we practiced singing, or rehearsed the Christmas play. She taught us how to project to the back of the church where those older people sitting under the balcony (which blocks sound) might have forgotten to put in their hearing aids! As much as I chafed at it when I was ten and twelve, I am utterly grateful for that early training.
2) My years in radio. My instructors taught me to lower the pitch of my voice; a lower voice is easier to listen to than a high-pitched one. Then I worked on a microphone for eight years, five of those doing news in Vancouver. So I'm comfortable with a microphone, which is really important, because what we have to say matters but if no one can hear the message...
What I have a hard time controlling is emotion. When I feel very strongly about something, I get emotional; I don't like to do that -- it messes up the speaking -- but sometimes the passion comes to a boil. I've learned to literally step back from the microphone, send out a watery smile to my audience, and take a moment to regroup with deep breaths. Most people understand, and some even appreciate the emotion for what it represents.
I love speaking in public. That was the best part of publishing my first book in 2016: Doing book events and getting to talk about the book and about writing, and meeting readers. I'm an introvert but when it comes to public speaking, it's like a switch is flipped and I suddenly become this extroverted version of myself. I love it! Because I can "put on a persona" -- not fake, just assuming a role -- public speaking and meeting people are exciting times for me.
Sure, I get nervous -- and talking about faith and spirituality in my progressive, radically inclusive, 21st-century relevance context can be downright terrifying! But I believe deeply that the world needs more kindness, mercy, justice, fairness and peace, and my passion for that drives me and takes the words right out of my mouth. The last thing I worry about is people hearing those words -- I know they do, even if what they're hearing makes them uncomfortable.
*Photo taken by Dave Mathieson, a reporter for the local newspaper - March 2017