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The Writer as Speaker: Overcoming the Fear
by Kathryn Lay
All my life Ive suffered from shyness. Perhaps
my desire for writing partly came from this malady. Whenever I wanted to express
myself, even to tell my parents what they meant to me, I wrote it down. Id
never felt comfortable formulating my words into speech as someone watched
Yet, the more success Ive had in writing, the
more Ive been asked to speak in public. Whether to children at schools or
libraries, or other writers at meetings or conferences, I struggle with
mind-numbing terror up to that moment. And yet, each time Ive been amazed at
the response from my audience, and amazed at my ability to share the
information, and even elicit laughs and more questions than I have time to
As writers-turned-speakers, how do we conquer
that fear and learn to enjoy the opportunity to share our expertise and
knowledge to others? How do we stand before an audience of children or adults
without turning into a quivering mass of jelly?
MAKE YOUR SPEECH NOTES CLEAR.
Dont write down everything you want to say, only the outline. By writing down
every bit of your speech, youll be tempted to read it and therefore drone on.
And with so much text, you may lose your point and spend moments looking for
your place, leaving a deadly silence as everyone watches you flip through pages
Instead, I write my main points on index cards
in large lettering, then add the sub points that I hope to hit. Know your topic
well. After all, youve been asked to speak so you must be the expert on the
topic for that program.
PREPARE ON THE WAY. Before you
arrive at your speaking engagement, practice speaking loudly and clearly in your
car or at home. You dont have to give your actual speech, if you stumble during
this last minute practice, it may make you afraid. Recite a poem or have a
pretend dialogue, but speak loudly without yelling and clearly without
CONQUER STAGE FRIGHT.
Ultimately, our true fear is speaking in front of others. Its that moment of
standing before a crowd, in front of a microphone, and wondering how to begin.
Find a relaxing technique before you begin your talk. Perhaps you need to sit
for a few moments in your car, taking slow breaths, inhaling slowly and counting
as you exhale. Take one last look at your notes, concentrating on your
beginning. The rest will come; its those beginning moments that stop you
BECOME A FRIEND. When you begin
your talk, smile at your audience. Force yourself to make eye contact. Look for
a friendly face, someone you know or someone who is smiling back and focus on
them. Although you may want to start your focus this way, avoid the temptation
to talk only to one person. You are not addressing a hostile audience. Remember,
they are there because they WANT to hear what you have to say.
BRING VISUAL AIDS. When I talk
about my marketing techniques, I bring my notebooks of guidelines and the
processes I use to keep track of markets and manuscripts that are out. When
talking about specific genres of writing, I bring books and magazines that
represent that genre. It not only gives my audience a physical explanation of
what Im saying, but reminds me of what I want to talk about and keeps me from
gripping the podium in fear. I am more relaxed by picking up these items to
HAND OUT NOTES AFTER YOUR TALK, NOT
BEFORE. By giving handouts and notes to your audience before you talk,
you give them the go ahead to noisily flip through the papers rather than listen
to what youre saying. If you have a book to sell or want to solicit further
speaking engagements, put the information on your handouts, including your
contact information, both phone and email.
INFORMATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN
PRESENTATION. You dont want to bore your audience. That is why you
come prepared. But not everyone is a born speaker, not everyone has a
charismatic personality or keeps the audience in stitches. At the first large
writers conference where I spoke, I was one of a dozen speakers throughout the
weekend in small sessions. My room was packed
After my session, I was surprised at how many
people stopped me to tell me how informative and helpful my talk had been. I had
worked hard on preparing to give them as much information as possible in my 45
You can learn to enjoy speaking about your
writing. If you have books to sell or classes to offer, this is an excellent way
to promote yourself. After one speech, I told everyone that I had copies of my
self-published booklet on being an organized writer. Within a few minutes, all
copies sold and I had orders for 10 more.
Financial benefits include payment for your
talk, and sometimes a free membership to the group that has had you come and
speak. There may be an editor in the audience or someone who is in need of a
writer. There may be librarians and bookstore workers attending who will be
anxious to invite you to speak at their school, library, or store. One speaking
engagement often leads to another.
You can conquer your fear of speaking with
planning and preparation. Take that first step and say yes when you are asked to
talk about your writing. You may find that you truly enjoy it. And so will your
© Copyright 2002, Kathryn Lay
Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through firstname.lastname@example.org
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