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A surreal evening…

The 1990s ride again. No, really. At a meeting yesterday evening for autoentrepreneurs (small business creators),  I was dragged back to a business style that I thought had disappeared. By the end of the evening, I was having difficulty hiding my amusement. John Cleese’s Video Arts training company would have relished it as a ‘how not to do it’ example. I didn’t know whether to post this report on my property finding blog or this one.

Picture the scene: an excellent line-up of speakers from the chamber of commerce, the URSSAF, the RSI and the tax office gathered to inform existing and wannabe  autoentrepreneurs about the scheme and to give pointers, tips and hints. They’d planned in a long question and answer session. So far, pretty classic for a business presentation cum seminar.

The meeting leader was clear and clever, the perfect understudy for Joel Grey’s MC in ‘Cabaret’. He kept his frustration with less talented presenters well under wraps. But still… First up was a tall, imposing speaker from the tax office. We listened respectfully as her 1990s-dressed figure paced up and down, reading out her notes and lecturing us in a way that strongly reminded me of my first year maths teacher. We hung on every word.

The next act was the trilling twins. Gaunt, nervy and very knowledgeable, one with space age spectacles and a nineteenth century voice, the other younger, much taller falling over her words when not swallowing them, they regaled us with their insights into the social security system. The French system is split into a multitude of different caisses, or social security departments, each dealing with different occupations. Even the French audience was baffled. The second tax speaker, a young man, capable, but evidently a fish out of water when surrounded by fifty of the real public, was soon snaffled by two of the audience to be initiated into their complex personal tax problems.

The audience responded, some asking sensible questions, some with off-this-planet ones. Few seemed to have read the excellent website http://www.lautoentrepreneur.fr/ which, if truth be told, provided all the information that the specialists were giving. Then the fun began in that inimitable French way where a question gets taken apart, by four or five people discussing it, conceptualising it, going all around it and finally coming to a mutually acceptable conclusion. Not always the definitive answer, though…

All the speakers were eager to impart information and anxious to help. They’d all come out on a wet evening after a long day at the office. But oh, dear, were they in need of some presentation training! My heart wept for ‘Joel Grey’ as he attempted to control his herd of cats. Perhaps someone ought to tell them that you don’t read from the Power Point slides or from printouts, that you outline your speech first, that you keep the information simple and to three points maximum, that you invite feedback, that you pause for breathe.

As an autoentrepreneur, I didn’t learn a great deal; as a creative writer, I garnered some great characters to use in my next story…

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