Olé to You! Don’t Be Afraid, Just Do Your Talk!

Why a whole post on Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray,Love ?

  1. I started a series on Powerful Women Speakers
  2. In this TED Video, Elizabeth Gibert is totally "naked"
  3. She illustrates the magical power of metaphors and stories

The secret impulse, which triggered this post, is that it's one of my favourite TED Videos, along with Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of insight and a dozen of others I will share here in this blog.

What can you learn from this presentation, that you could use in Your Next Presentation?

  • You can perform on a stage with nothing else but your presence,yourself, no technology.
  • You can rely on stories and myths to give flesh to your talk.
  • You can be perfectly structured with elegance and flow.

  • Another Naked Presentation

If you look at this video, you will notice that Elzabeth Gilbert embodies simplicity.

She is all dressed in black, with a very simple and casual black turtle neck (is it the new Steve Jobs Fashion?), black pants,ballerines, no jewels, very little make up.No laptop, no remote control, no visual aids, no notes,not even any back screen image. Black stage. Empty


Yet, she's shining

We follow her expressive face, her hands like butterflies, we watch her "dance" on stage and hear her inspired voice and delicious humour charm us along her talk, very simply.

No PowerPoint, no beam of light except the light that shines through her eyes, and her Passion.

And she's not a one woman show professional actress! She's a writer!

I know corporate settings don't always allow us to make such simple presentations and that when it comes to presenting charts, graphs and results, slides are necessary.

However, speaking in public doesn't only refer to formal presentations settings.

Every time you're asked to speak during a meeting, or in any professional conversation, you're having an opportunity to make an impact, be heard, be understood, make a change.

This TED presentation show us that you can achieve that very simply.

  • Again, the Power of Stories and Metaphors.

Elizabeth Gilbert takes us back to Greeks and Romans.

She's looking across time, other societies," to see if they might have had better ideas about how to help creative people manage the inherent emotional risk of creation".

  • When she talks about demons and geniuses, she does it by giving examples (Socrate) and also evocative images (hilarious when she compares the greek Genius divine entity to Dobby the House Elf)Toby the House Elf( In Harry Potter Publishing  JK Rowlands)

  • How does she make us understand that during the Renaissance, we did a "huge error"? She uses a fantastic metaphor"It's like asking somebody to swallow the sun"

  • The presence of god in the artists projects ? "It's like rubbing fairy juices on their projects"

  • I'm going to leave you listen to her two stories of the American poet Ruth Stone and the musician Tom Waits. Commenting on them would only give you a pale idea of the wonderfully evocative power of her words. Her language is multisensorial and it just gives me "goosebumps" (and not "goosepumps", like I thought it spelled…)

She speaks about her meeting with Ruth Stone two extraordinary minutes (from 10 to 12 min in her talk). Really worth watching!It's actually like watching the scene with her playing all the roles. She's miming with her whole body  the beautiful phrase:

"Ruth Stone would catch the poem by its tail and she would pull it backwards into her body"                                                                                                        (This reminds me of Robert Frost definition of poetry, a way of "taking life by the throat")

Her interview with Tom Waits is also a peak moment of her speech, which brings unexpected laughter.Watch it, it's between 13 and 15 minutes in the talk.

Now, is she just very gifted and just improvising?

  • How to structure your talk with elegance?

Let me guide you through the underlying structure of this talk, which seems to be flowing spontaneously like a river from her. Again, this hides careful preparation. ( When Elizabeth says her creative process is one of "a mule", I suspect she may have prepared this talk, with "mulishness", in order to be caught by the "glimpse of god")

Observe how she very elegantly, and with humour, keeps her audience on track:

"Stay with me, because it does circle again back!"

She gives us some clues about where she's going to take us, how she will do it, and how she will take us back… Beautiful, very clever!

So her plan looks more like a circle:

Starting her circle with:

 Her personal story, how having written this huge success "Eat ,Pray and Love", could have driven her to anxiety or depression.

  1. Brief history of demons and genius in ancient Greece and Rome
  2. The huge error of rational humanism and Renaissance
  3. Story of the Poet Ruth Stone
  4. Story of the Musician Tom Waits

Circles back to: 

The impact of these stories on her writing and how accepting this "glimpse of god" could save TODAY creative people from madness.

My tip: The more aligned you are with your words, the better they will flow…


  • You can perform on a stage with nothing else but your presence,yourself, no technology.
  • You can rely on stories and myths to give flesh to your talk.
  • You can be perfectly structured with elegance and flow.

Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray,Love, the mega Best Seller which is soon to be a movie starring Julia Roberts.

So, Olé to you , show up for your next presentation, and do your job!

If the glimpse of god visits you, Ole!

If not? Ole to you anyway, just for having the courage to show up and talk.

7 thoughts

  1. Oh Marion, thank you so much for having drawn my attention to this post. I would not have missed it for the world. I saw this video at the TEDxDetroit and thought it one of the most compelling and inspiring speeches I have had the pleasure of watching in a long time.
    Your points are well made and elegantly stated. Nicely done!

  2. Thanks so much for posting this – I had not seen this TED talk before. I’ll admit to having a love/hate relationship with Gilbert and her work, but seeing this nudged me a little more in the direction of the former. I’m all about showing up and doing your job. Sometimes doing only that takes a tremendous amount of courage.

  3. Olivia, Allen, Lisa and Louise,
    Thank you for stopping by and commenting this post.
    Coming from women I value and admire greatly, it means a lot to me.
    I will be adding, week after week, more examples of presentation styles in order to show a diversity of styles, matching different personalities.
    I believe in finding our own voice, (or voices, depending on the context…) rather than trying to follow the “rules” and stereotyped models of perfect speakers.
    Presentation coaching is about helping people express who they really are, what they believe in, with clarity , simplicity and sincerity.
    It’s a fantastic step towards empowerment and building self confidence.
    Thank you for your support!

  4. Why I Have a Problem With Elizabeth Gilbert

    So—Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, “Committed ” is out. Haven’t heard of it? Perhaps you’re familiar with another little thing she wrote, called “Eat, Pray, Love ”? By the time I first heard of it several years ago, “Eat, Pray, Love” was already in paper…

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