This week, Iíve been busy with the California leg of my book tour to promote my new book, What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend. I spoke to a rowdy, vagina-friendly audience of 400 students at Sonoma State University, then 150 hooting, cheering, go-for-it girlfriends at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. So when I showed up Thursday night at the small, private University of Redlands (population 2400), I found myself feeling disappointed that there were only 63 quiet, shy, mostly silent students there.
The bigger, the better?
It turns out that I love a crowd (who knew?) and yeah, the bigger, the better. Their energy feeds mine, and itís so much easier to get juiced up when people are guffawing at my jokes or crying when they are moved. A crowd has a life all its own, and as a public speaker, itís easier to have a conversation with the crowd as its own entity when itís a living, breathing organism of hundreds of individuals.
But Thursday night didnít feel that way. They put me in this great big room, where my audience only filled the first few rows (after I made them all scooch up front). As I started to speak, I felt my energy lag, as if I was back on the coastal hike, talking to myself, the way I practiced my talk for a month before I started my book tour. The people in the audience just werenít reacting much. There were a few scattered laughs, a smattering of cheers, and the occasional nod of someoneís head when I said something resonant. But compared to the bigger crowds, I struggled to stay ďon.Ē
Then I made eye contact with one young woman. She was stunningly beautiful, with these soulful, longing eyes that looked wounded in some way. When our eyes met, our gazes locked and neither one of us looked away. For the rest of my talk, I forgot about pleasing the crowd or being ďonĒ and I just spoke to her, as if we were sitting together over a cup of tea. She nodded, just like a friend would, and except for the fact that I couldnít stop to listen to her stories, it was like we were having a conversation, just the two of us.
When the talk ended, people clapped, but nobody rushed the stage like they did at Cal Poly SLO, where they literally tackled me with a group hug, and the young women lined up one-by-one to get one of the free hugs I was passing out. At University of Redlands, I stepped off the stage and walked back to the book signing table, where one woman was waiting for me to sign her book (instead of the 60 that were already lined up at Sonoma State when I finished my talk).