Suggestions for Being a Good Speaker

Suggestions for Being a Good Speaker

  1. Be active in letting people know you are available to speak.  Once you have a date, encourage the group to publicize your program and tell people yourself.  Inform local newspapers, radio and TV stations and include information about who you are and when and what group you traveled with.
  2. Become familiar with your own denomination’s stand on these issues and bring a copy (or copies) of any resolutions passed recently.  You might want to become familiar with Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) materials since your denomination probably participates in the organization. (
  3. Don’t make the program a tourist trip with slides showing monuments and sites.  If you use slides, illustrate the issues and people.
  4. Bring some handouts such as maps, time lines, recent Emails or website printouts.  Put up a display.  Bring a large map to post as well.
  5. Use you own experience as the basis for your talk.  Tell lots of stories and then relate them to points you want to make.  As you plan, write down points you want to make then think about stories which illustrate them.  In your presentation reverse the order, and tell a story and then what it illustrates.
  6. Focus on children, women, family etc., all of which helps humanize the Palestinians.
  7. Avoid generalizing and putting words into people’s mouths such as “Palestinians say…”  “Israelis say…” Tell about what a specific person said to you.  There are many different opinions among both Israelis and Palestinians. Don’t allow members of your audience to dehumanize either side.
  8. Use the correct vocabulary.  Arabs are not all Muslims.  Occupied territories are not “disputed” territories; illegal settlements imply that some settlements are legal.  None are legal.  Settlements are not the same as kibbutzim.  They are Israeli conclaves built on Palestinian land.
  9. Allow plenty of time for questions.  This is the most fruitful time of all.
  10. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell the person you will find out and follow up on that promise.
  11. If you receive an honorarium and don’t need the money, donate it to a peace movement or other appropriate cause.  Let the group who gave you the honorarium know how you used it.  You might interest them in giving more to that cause.

Pitfalls and problems

Your presentation may be received critically. There are ways in which people can discredit you or cause you problems.

  1. Watch out for allegations that move the discussion away from where you want it to go or irrelevant comments which cast aspersions on a person or group.  Be sure to remind people of context and history.  (People often want to begin questions with terrorism but you need to help them get behind and prior to today’s events with the fact of the military occupation and without excusing suicide bombers.)
  2. Be careful of deflection, such as referring to what other people in the world are doing or have done.  “If you think that is bad, what about…?”  Bring the conversation back to your topic.  “We are talking about….”
  3. Be aware of rhetorical questions.   They often begin with “How can the Palestinians…?”  or “Why do Palestinians…?”  Behind each of them are many assumptions about what Palestinians are and do that need challenging.  Instead of answering them, question them.  “Where did you get that information?”  “Where did you get the idea that…?”  Reframe the question in other terms. 
  4. Distinguish between what you say about the country of Israel and Zionism (political issues) and what you say about Jews and Judaism (religion and ethnic group).  Don’t accept the charge of anti-Semitism unless you always accept charges people make against you or unless it is justified.  (Anti-Semitism is not the same as anti-Zionism, no matter what a person might tell you.)  Don’t go on the defensive or offensive.
  5. You are an expert on your own experience and no one else is. Just tell your story.  “This is my experience.  Maybe you had a different experience.”
  6. Avoid tit for tat discussions.  People will come up with different information.  You can always say, “This is how I experienced it and what I have read.  Maybe you got your information from a different source.  Where did you get that information from?” Do not weigh lives one against another but do not let statistics reflect only one side. All are human beings.  This is a real balancing act.
  7. Remember: You can’t change history.  All you can do is present or misrepresent it.  Watch out for lies and myths.  Your job is to challenge the myths and lies that have been put forth and to tell the truth as we see it and have experienced it.

Some suggestions for topics:

  1. Living under the occupation, closure and curfew and living with the separation barrier.  Define the terms and then tell a story about such things as permits and checkpoints; land confiscation, settlements and settlers roads; medical problems; educational problems; human rights, etc.  At the end of each story point out the consequences and also the relevant international laws.
  2. Use your itinerary as an outline and relate it to events since 1967.
  3. Present questions you had as you started your trip and the answers you discovered.
  4. How have you changed your mind and what are the events which changed it?
  5. Base your speech around specific people and tell their stories.
  6. Tell about the crisis for Christians in the Middle East and the important role they have carried over the years.
  7. Be sure you know as much as possible about the separation barrier and the International Court of Justice advisory decision as well as the UN General Assembly vote. Keep yourself up-to-date.

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