Sunday, October 13, 2013

Writer's and Speaking

The day this blog posts I will be flying home from my youngest son's wedding.  I don't have wedding photos to post or stories to tell yet, so I thought I dig into my previous Sunday instead. On October 6th I was fortunate to be a speaker at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Trade Show in Portland, Oregon. I presented with fellow Windtree author, Paty Jager, on the Power of Author Cooperatives. The presentation was designed for both authors and booksellers. One of the ways I build relationships with readers, booksellers, and vendors is through public speaking engagements.  For many writers, the thought of this is scary. However, learning to be comfortable in public can be useful to your career.

After doing a reading last month at Bards N' Brews in Hillsboro, one of the aspiring authors in the audience later asked me: "How do you get up there and do that? How do you talk to people so easily." So, I thought I would share a few of my tricks.  This was a great venue for reading by the way. It's in a wine store and restaurant, Primrose and Tumbleweeds. If you can arrange it, try to be surrounded by wine bottles. It makes everything look and sound better. :)

Fake it, 'til you make it. My public speaking self is a persona--a character who is confident and occasionally self-effacing. In other words I am acting.  Certainly, I'm still me but I'm a more confident and occasionally even funny me. Not how I perceive myself inside. I learned how to do this at my first professional job in my twenties.  My boss always said: "Fake it, 'til you make it."  In other words, if you act like you know what you are doing people will believe you--even if inside you aren't so sure.  It really is true. It's also true that if you "act" confident enough times, you get good feedback and that builds your confidence.

Think of Everyone Wearing Only Underwear.  This was advice given to me by a speech teacher. I have to admit, it doesn't work too well for me.  I either end up laughing or grossed out. It doesn't help me speak better, but it does help me relax before I do a presentation. Try it. Peak at the first few rows of people and imagine them in their underwear. Unless you are at a celebrity health club, the picture isn't usually hot. In the right frame of mind you will crack up. Laughing is a great mechanism for sloughing some anxiety.

Practice the Whole Presentation. Before doing the reading from my novel, I practiced several times. I wrote notes to myself on the pages. Things like "breathe" and "female voice" and "talk faster" or "talk slower" in order to emphasize things. Writing it down helped me remember it and seeing it on the page was a comfort. When I do a formal presentation with a PowerPoint, I also practice to make sure I have something more to say than reading the slide.

The key to practice is to go through the whole thing, even when you make mistakes.  Do NOT stop and start over when you make a mistake. That solidifies the mistake in your mind. If you go past the mistake all the way to the end, it doesn't seem as big. You will make a mistake. We all do. Mistakes can actually make an audience like you even more, because they an identify with someone who is human instead of perfect. It's only bad if you stop and fall apart. In the beginning you notice every flaw and may feel like you are juggling plates that will all fall at once. Eventually the practice will become memory and, if you keep breathing and move forward, memory will take you all the way to the end.

Smile.  Always smile when you start. Smile when you have a point to make. Smile at the end. If you are kind and friendly, the audience will forgive all kinds of things. You don't have to be young, gorgeous, or a celebrity. Believe me, I'm none of those things. Friendly and caring will win the day.

Now tell me, what kind of underwear are you wearing?


Paty Jager said...

Danita always comments on my public speaking. I don't like to talk to more than two people at a time in any other situation, but when I do a presentation, I know the material and I know the people who attend want to hear it, so it helps me to relax, have fun, and give them the information. I don't go over my presentation from start to finish. I put the power point together now the points I want to hit and talk about and make up the hand outs. It usually works for me. And I've found I enjoy giving presentations, but don't expect me to be the center of attention any other time!

Jamie said...

Interesting that you wrote about this. I was just preparing a post (for January) all about my fear of public speaking. Thanks for the tips.