Saturday, October 2, 2010

On Public Speaking

I have a dickens of a time working up my nerve to speak publicly. Horrible thoughts run through my mind. Here are a few of them....

What are you doing, you fool? What makes you think you have anything worth saying? Can you even remember what you're supposed to be speaking about? How does your hair look? Are your hands noticeably trembling? OMG! Did your Spanx just roll up around your waist?

In my saner moments I do know I've learned a lot about writing over the years, and am willing to try to pass some of it on for others' benefit. Can I remember what I meant to say? Well, I have notes. Reading notes is better than staring blankly, totally mute, into a sea of faces, isn't it? My hands may certainly be trembling--I'll just tell everyone my Parkinson's has gotten worse. That's the ticket. (Yes, my doctor says I may be in the beginning stages, but I've had no tests. Don't want to know.) My hair? Oh, to perdition with it. I've had crappy hair all my life. And my Spanx? It'll force me to watch my posture and stand up straight. Then it'll be fine.

I'm speaking to a fairly large group this coming Thursday on the subject of taglines, hooks, and queries. My nerves are already getting to me and yet, I'm looking forward to it. What a person of contradictions I am.

This isn't my first venture into public speaking. I've done smaller women's groups and libraries, but, aside from making a pitch to the Western Writers of America folk and persuading the group to come to Spokane for the 2005 convention, it is the biggest.

Please, wish me luck. I'll try not to make an ass out of myself.



Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Just make eye contact with different folks as you're speaking. Remember, they came to hear what you have to say. As long as you know what you're talking about, you shouldn't have a problem.

Wishing you the best and plenty of calm.


Kit Sloane said...

I rely on preparation before a talk. I write and rewrite what I'm going to say and by the time that's finished I've nearly memorized it. Then I print it up with the important items in LARGE type or colored type so I can see it at a glance. Being really prepared helps my stage fright!

Also don't be unnerved by the one person who ALWAYS seems to take a nap! That used to really disconcert me, though they generally wake up in time to applaud!

Good luck and have fun!


carol Crigger said...

I should have the thing memorized by now, I've been over the material so many times. And yes, I'll be holding cards with the key points in large type. We're going to analyze several examples, which should help the flow. Thanks for the tips.


Holli said...

I've heard some people imagine everyone in the audience in their underwear, but that image terrifies me.

I have found at some point during a speech you get into the "zone," that place where the words flow naturally and you don't even have to think about what you are saying. If you know your material well, and it sounds like you do, you'll get there early in the presentation and be just fine.

And if you start off a little nervous, most people will sympathize if you admit it when you first start speaking. Everyone is a little nervous during those few sentences. Good luck!

Holli Castillo

Sunny Frazier said...

Holli's right--there is a "zone" you get into.
I used to be a nervous speaker. I slaughter the English language. I tell the audience that I'm more intelligent on paper. You have to be willing to laugh a bit at yourself. Put the audience at ease. They are rooting for you1
When Gillian Roberts loses her thread of thought, she simply announces "Jet lag!" Works every time!

Eyre Price said...

First of all, good luck.

After almost twenty years as a lawyer I can tell you that the key to public speaking is 1.) PREPARATION, as Kit Sloane has already pointed out. Know exactly what you're going to say. 2.) PERSONALITY, as Sunny Frazier has identified. If you've ever had the pleasure of seeking Sunny give a presentation, you know that she's not afraid to be herself and her effervescence just draws in an audience as effectively as if she was having a conversation with an individual. 3.) PERSONAL CONTACT as Ms. Meredith has already said. There will always be a portion of any crowd that will look completely disinterested (they're often the ones paying the closest attention) but ignore them. Every audience (or jury) has at least one person that you can make eye contact with. Talk directly to them. It will make you more comfortable and from the audience's perspective it makes it appear as if you're talking directly to everyone.

The absolute key is this: CONFIDENCE. You were undoubtedly chosen to make this address because people believe you have something to say. You've done the necessary preparation, including having developed a strategy for how you're going to deliver. The secret now is to understand that this is no accident that you're giving this address. People believe that you will give a wonderful speech and I'm guessing that you know that you're capable of doing just that. In the calm before the storm, make sure you understand that. All the doubts now can be dismissed as just the little blips that go along with being human. Nothing more. Take a deep breath. Believe in yourself. And have a great time.

jrlindermuth said...

Getting into the zone is the key to salvation. The hard part is getting there. The usual culprit is focusing on the possibility of making a mistake. The answer to that is remembering most people will forget any mistake you do make before you do. So don't sweat it.

Carol Crigger said...

Thanks, everyone, for your good wishes. I sincerely hope I don't see people in their underwear. If I do, I'll know the writers have finally run amok.


Suzanne said...

Public speaking isn't something that scares me. Maybe it's because the "ham" gene is strong in my family.

Nevertheless, it would be a disservice to my audience if I went in unprepared, so I rehearse my presentations at least twice in advance. I also try to arrive early enough to talk one-on-one with people in my audience. That helps me connect with them during the presentation, plus I can use their first names during Q&A. An additional benefit to arriving early is that I don't rush through my set up.

If I screw up, I blow it off and move on. And if some rude bore in the audience tries to take over and dominate the event, I ignore him/her. After all, I was the one invited to the podium, not the bore.

Suzanne Adair

Marja said...

I used to be painfully shy, and speaking to a group was like being punished. Then I found my key.

I zero in on someone in the audience and pretend he/she is my best friend, and we're just chatting like we've always done. I glance at other people, but I keep coming back to that one person (pretend friend). Before long I realize I'm not looking at that person anymore, and I'm talking to the whole group.

There was the time I fell climbing up the stairs, and when I put on my sunglasses one of the lenses fell out at my feet, and the wheel fell off the thingy I was using to carry my books. Honestly, this all happened at one event. And it made both me and the audience laugh.

Your blog was humorous, so just keep it light.

Dac said...

As soon as I get the first words out -- I'm in the zone.

Years ago I went on a speaking circuit. Everything imaginable happened to me during those talks. Now, if the lights suddenly go out -- I remember, yes, that happened in Denton, Texas...

jack everett said...

Firstly Carol you are not alone most people get an attack of the collywobbles either before or during a talk. You have been offered sound advice by the others that have commented on your blog but I have a small idea that I have used on occasions that might help. I have a card/note with two or three headings on and If at anytime I forget where I'm going or feel myself starting to freeze I look at my 'get them to ask me questions headings.' I find that by suddenly saying something like "anybody here like to ask a question so far?" Or "I'm sure someone would like to ask a question at this point? Did anyone wonder why I killed the villain off on the train in my third novel?"
I'm sure you get the point and it helps you to regroup and forget why you froze, then you can return to your talk or say "I'm enjoying this let's continue with the questions.
I hope this is of help?

Carol Crigger said...

Jack, I do find your suggestion very useful. Thank you. Everyone has such good ideas to pass on. This is a great group and I'm proud to be part of it! Can't wait until my book comes out.