What I Learned from a Library Presentation

1-    The young librarian had been right: people always come to library events. Even on a lovely, sunny Saturday afternoon.  And not only because it is free of charge. People are curious, intrigued and supportive.

2-    I was right, too: not so many people attend ‘meet a local author’ event. Totally understandable when the author is unknown.

3-    One size fits all doesn’t apply to a public library presentation. Unlike a school event, a library event will attract different people. I was glad to have thought of the issue ahead of time and to have prepared enough material to interest teens and adults alike.

4-    Making eye contact. I really enjoy other human beings’ company but sometimes I find it hard to maintain eye contact. Just some kid’s shyness that stuck to me. But I pushed my fear back and focused on the eyes of anyone who asked me a question. The good news is that I got better after a little while. People need this ‘meet your eyes’ when they attend a ‘meet a local author.’

5-    Making people laugh or at least smile. What separates us human beings from animals is our sense of humor. It unifies us, too. Although humor varies from one country to another, light jokes that illustrate the cultural differences but also the universality of humankind work well to warm up an audience. Since I talked about learning a foreign language I used a few examples to show how lost in translation I was in my early days in California. When I tell Americans that French men wear smokings and not tuxedos or that in France we have a cat in our throat when we have a cold and not a frog or the hen bumps and not the goose bumps, it’s a fun way to catch their attention. Telling of funny and embarrassing moments linked to the process of learning another culture always triggers interesting questions. Ultimately they bring people together.

6-    Being visual. Think of the success of Instagram. Fewer words, more pictures. I’m not sure it will be easy for us bloggers, but we have to face it: people want visual. Since I wanted to talk of the challenge of writing in another language, showing where I am from was important. I was helped: my native Normandy and Paris provide nice background. People really like it when you open your life to them.

7-    Being flexible. I had prepared more about the process of writing fiction than I could use. Talking of characters, setting and plot was good. But when I realized that I had more adults than children I decided to skip the basic steps (Beginning, Middle and Ending). I didn’t want to talk down to anyone.

8-    Asking for questions. I could finally drink some water while someone asked me about my next project. Talking of my next project nudged me. If I told about it, I had to finish it.

9-    Being less timid. Initially I didn’t want to be too specific about my novel and so I chose to spend more time talking about writing in general. I thought I would be too showy if I spoke of my work. In reality, people come to hear about OUR work.

10- Being nice and courteous. It goes a long way, really. The young librarian had always been very kind. I had probably been nice, too, because when I was finished packing my stuff, she said, “I really enjoyed what you’ve done. I’m not sure if you are interested but I was thinking of a couple of other libraries where you could make a presentation. If you want of course.”

11- Of course, I want!

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