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.
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.
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?