The fear of public speaking is right up there with fear of drowning and waking up naked in the middle of the high street for a large chunk of the population. If you’ve been asked to speak in front of an audience, though, there are a few things you can do to make the whole ordeal less traumatic. As an author, coach, or other creative indie, you’ll probably be approached to talk in a group setting at some point, so you might as well prepare for public speaking.
You might think you don’t know enough, but as I’ve said before, even a relative beginner can usefully show the uninitiated how to get started. If you’re a real expert at something, even better.
There was a time I would have laughed (hysterically) at anyone who suggested I would be comfortable talking in public. The first time I ever did it was at a consulatation held by the local eduacation authority to discuss the possible closure of the sixth form at my school. I was 18, I stood for nearly twenty minutes waiting for my turn to speak, and by the time I did, I was shaking and my voice was barely audible.
As a Librarian at the local prison, I was called on a few times to give reports to visiting magistrates and education assessors. I was a nervous wreck every time, stumbling over my words and gabbling though my piece to get it over with as quickly as possible. I would go red and my hands would shake.
Being trained as a hostage negotiator and later getting involved in network marketing changed all that. I learned to hide my nerves, and then with repeated exposure to larger groups, got comfortable with it. As a florist, I gave demonstrations to groups of students, managing to appear calm and in control (most of the time) even when things went horribly wrong with the arrangement. I learned to be honest, explain what had gone wrong, and how to put it right.
I was even interviewed on the local radio, and that was more exciting than scary.
So if you ever get the chance to talk to people about your hobby, take it. Start by offering to speak for ladies lunch clubs, and use your writing to back up your position as, if not an expert, then at least a knowledgeable amateur.
Your speech probably won’t be perfect first time, but if you stick to what you know, and follow the tips in this article to prepare yourself, you’ll be fine. You might be able to sell related items after your talk, and in time you might even build a reputation as an after dinner speaker, and get paid. Who knows? At the least you’ll connect with potential readers and be asked some questions you can use to create articles with the answers.
How to Prepare for Public Speaking
First, know beforehand how long you are expected to talk for, and what you’re going to talk about. Clarify with the person who’s asked you to speak the message they want you to put across.
Make notes and practice making the points you want to make. Don’t write a speech word for word, instead give yourself clear pointers and write them on index cards. Use a hole punch and string to keep these together and in the right order in case nerves get the better of you and you drop them.
If you’re going to be using any technological aids, make sure you know how to use them beforehand, and check everything is working as it should on the day. Be prepared to go on without them if they fail on you, though.
Dress so that you will feel comfortable. Smart enough so you won’t feel under dressed but casual enough so you’re not fidgeting with collars, or tripping over high heels etc.
Eat far enough in advance so your stomach isn’t rumbling, but not so close to the time you’re bloated or picking at food stuck to your teeth with your tongue.
Check yourself in a mirror, or ask a friend. Is there anything that will take your listeners’ attention away from you and your message, such as your trouser band rolled over (wear a belt) or an unbuttoned jacket over a white shirt drawing your listener’s eyes down (button up or wear a dark shirt.)
Know your subject, and be passionate about it. With knowledge and conviction comes confidence, and you will find yourself speaking more naturally and forgetting how many people are watching.Know your subject, and be passionate about it. With knowledge and conviction comes confidence Click To Tweet
Remember that an audience of one can be more nerve racking than an auditorium full of people. If you don’t believe that, imagine being trapped in a room with an interrogator convinced you are guilty of a crime you know nothing about, and compare that to the image of a room full of friends, family, and colleagues all cheering you as you receive an award.
Now realize that ninety percent plus of your audience have probably never spoken in public and are petrified at the thought. These people are in awe of you and respect you for even having the courage to stand up, no matter what happens after that. The other ten percent have some experience and sympathize entirely with the nerves.
Listen to some calming music to take the edge off your nerves if you’re too jittery beforehand. If you want to be pumped up and full of energy, though, play something upbeat.
Oh, and if you find yourself with a blank mind in the middle of your speech, you can always fall back on a trick I learned from a friend. Just say, “Have you ever gone to the fridge and wondered what you went for? You’ll have to excuse me, I’m just mentally going to the fridge.” It relaxes your audience and gets them onside, and more often than not by the time they’ve finished laughing, you’ve remembered what you were going to say.
Whatever happens, remind yourself it is not life or death, and you will be forgiven for any mistakes. Fortunately, once you’ve fluffed a speech in public and survived it, it makes relaxing the next time a little easier.