Thursday, July 24, 2008

Overcoming fears

They say public speaking ranks as high as death in people’s fears. It certainly ranked high in mine.

But no more. Last month I was invited to talk to a group of business women in Orangeville – actually over a 100 women turned up – so more of a crowd – which made it all a bit more nerve-wracking. I’d convinced myself that if I blew it, it wouldn’t matter because I wouldn’t see these women again… when in walked someone I knew, not only that, she’d brought her team to hear me. The pressure was on.

I spent much time debating what I could talk about and decided to follow the maxim that you do best when you talk about what you know. So I talked about the life lessons I’d learned in running Company of Women.

Over the years I’ve painfully witnessed what speakers should not do, and so I was determined to make my talk interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking. Being visual, I used photos as my prompts, as relying on my menopausal memory is not always a good idea.

The end result – it went well. I didn’t get my usual dry mouth, I made them laugh, and cry. And … not only did I survive the experience, I actually enjoyed it. Now that’s a first.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Life is not all black or white

Listening to Marina Nemat describe her life as a thirteen year old – reading Jane Austen and watching Little House on the Prairie, it would be easy to believe that she was living in Canada, not Tehran.

However, in three very short years, her life would change dramatically and at sixteen, when young women here would be planning their prom, Marina found herself imprisoned. Instead of giggling with her girlfriends, she was listening to them being shot. She herself only avoided execution because Ali, a guard, married her at 17.

Perhaps the most poignant message of all is that while it would be all too easy to see her husband and his family as evil, and she was good – It was never that black and white. Her husband himself had been tortured and brought that baggage to the relationship, but his parents welcomed her into the family and were kind, good people. After Ali’s assassination, it was his parents who got her out of prison.

Reunited with her own parents, life was not that simple. They never asked about what happened, and you get the sense that they thought Marina had betrayed them and their faith. But the man she loved had waited for her, and as soon as they could they left Tehran and came to Canada, where she wrote her enthralling book - Prisoner of Tehran.