Monday, October 29, 2012
Dear Rocky: The thought of public speaking terrifies me
I'm a writer. I enjoy being alone with my stories. And I'm delighted to report that my my first book will be released in about eight months. All good, right? Wrong!
I listen in awe to so many authors speaking in public, whether at conferences or book signings, and I yearn to emulate them. Comfortable, casual, knowledgeable, best selling (Ha!) - all that and more. But, and believe me, it's a BIG but, the thought of public speaking terrifies me.
When I became serious about writing the need to speak in public never crossed my mind. Now what do I do?
First, congratulations on your book sale! Well done!
But to the point of your letter. You're not alone in your fear. Public speaking terrifies many folks, especially those who're shy or reclusive, such as writers.
Early in my “day job” I tackled my fear of public speaking head on, and while I still get hit with a case of dry mouth before an event, my heart no longer tries to climb out of my chest.
A number of lessons learned have stayed with me from the Dale Carnegie classes I attended, the primary one being practice, practice, practice. If you're giving a speech or even a brief presentation, beforehand, retreat to some silent haven to practice your speech out loud. Over and over again. The point isn’t to memorize what you’ll be saying, but rather to wrap your lips and tongue around the words and concepts so you know your material and don’t have to read your speech, which is boring to an audience.
Speaking of your audience, remember, they're on your side. They want you to succeed.
You’ll also find that the more often you speak in front of a group, the easier it becomes. So before your big solo events are scheduled, you might want to consider speaking on several panels, so that the focus isn't entirely on you. Or offer to speak at a school, where you might be more at ease. Again, practice, practice, practice.
Since you're looking forward to book signings and accepting writing awards for many years to come (I hope!), you might want to consider a class on public speaking. Two options are Dale Carnegie and Toastmasters, though there are many other choices.