Career Authors

Speaking of Speaking

Which do you fear more: Heights? Or public speaking? Spiders—or giving a speech? Plague? Or teaching a class? For some people, the plague is preferable. At least you can handle that alone and in your jammies.

But listen, authors: This public speaking thing can be fun

Okay, how many of you are laughing? Really, it can be fun. (And I say that as someone who is nervous EVERY TIME. Truly. EVERY time.) Today and in some upcoming posts, we’ll talk about it—and see if we can explore your fears and provide some answers.

Try string

Yup. Here’s a tip I swiped from a public speaking consultant: pretend there’s a string attached to the top of your head, and that’s attached to the ceiling. Okay, as a person with some imagination, I’m not comfortable with that, (ow!) but her point is that you stand straight. Like a dancer. Like a statesman. Like a queen. Really, it helps.

Try a cape

Or imagine you have a big flowy cape, gorgeous and velvet or chiffon, and it’s flowing regally behind you as you speak. How would you feel then? Stupid and overdressed, I know. But you see the point. You’re in a glorious and enviable position. Everyone is there to hear you and love you. Soak it up.

Get big

Yes, get big. You know how cats—when faced with danger and uncertainty—puff up? They puff up their bodies and their tails and take up all the room they can. Well, there’s a reason for that. It makes them feel powerful. And it works for humans, too. What if you were a big successful fabulous author, with millions of fans and a huge bestseller (or three) and more to come, and a wildly cheering audience. How would you feel? Pretend.

Now—why not just behave that way? (without the diva-ness, please.) Just—get big. Inside. Smile. Use your hands and take over the room. Remember that song from The King and I? Whistle a happy tune? “Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect, and whistle a happy tune, and no one will suspect I’m afraid … and when I fool, the people I fool, I fool myself as well.”

Really whistle?

Of course not. Don’t really whistle. But there’s a lot to be said for confidence. And if you don’t have it—and so many of us don’t, including introvert me—why not just pretend you do? Who’ll know? Call on every bit of your adrenaline and your energy and your power. Use it ALL. You can collapse later—but right now—you’re on. Hurray. This is what you always hoped would happen, right?

Practical magic

Duck into to the bathroom before your speech. Look at yourself in the mirror. Check your teeth for broccoli. Lipstick. Poppy seeds from the bagels. Check yourself, then forget about it. You look fine. You look GREAT.

Make the podium your friend

The podium. I love them, because you can use them to hold your watch (take it off so you can check the time without looking at your wrist) and for your water and for your notes. But don’t stand behind it, or lean on it, or use it to keep our shaking body upright. The podium can be a barrier … and it can take you out of the sense of the room. (Okay, if you need it? It’s a nice lifeline. You can hold onto it with one hand, briefly, and it may hide your shaky knees. But do NOT grasp it like a lifeboat.) I always come out from behind the podium. Connect. Be present.

Can you hear me now?

Do check the mic. It is fine, absolutely fine, to say—“Is this working okay? Can you hear me?” And MOVE the mic if they can’t. Nothing worse (well, there are worse things, but they’re not gonna happen to you) that having people in the back of the room muttering that they can’t hear you. Test it, fix it, go on.

Hank gets sappy

You are an author, the main speaker! And these people have arrived to hear you. Okay, it’s sappy, but they are there to LOVE you. They want to love you.

So—you love them back. That’s what it’s all about. You are there for THEM, not for you.

If you’re asking: But Hank, what do I say? Do I need to type it all out? Do I need a new speech every time? What if something goes hideously terribly wrong? Good questions! And I’ll give you that scoop in a future blog. And if you want to chat now—come see me on the CareerAuthors Facebook page!

Now. Get writing.