My stomach would tighten and my pulse would race every time I started a word that I could barely finish. Oftentimes, the other person would finish the word for me and I don’t understand why but that caused me even more embarrassment.
I hated speaking so much that I barely spoke in class and instead buried myself in my books. I read voraciously and as often as possible because in my mind, I never once stuttered while reading silently.
But I couldn’t escape the times when a teacher would call on me. Part of my problem was that I could never anticipate which word was going to cause me to fumble my syllables.
As I grew older, I got better at this. My mind would race ahead and delete the word that I was about to say before I used it and replace it with another.
I stopped stuttering by the time I was in high school, but I never lost what I call the stutterer’s mind. That is the ability to see the entire sentence I am about to utter and quickly replace the unspeakable word with another.
The sad aspect to all of this is that most of my life I was never able to express myself by using the words I preferred to use. I would always substitute troublesome words with weak replacements that didn’t reflect my true feelings.
Fortunately, I no longer stutter and I no longer have the stutterer’s mind. About 10 years ago, I suddenly was able to enunciate every word I wanted to use and it’s been a huge relief.
My Journey from Stuttering to Public Speaking
Given my history, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to speak in public. However, I held positions that required me to do this. So I would write my speech, memorize it, and hope for the best.
I was always nervous and grateful when my speech concluded. However, I realize now that despite the kudos I have received for my public speaking ability, I never used to connect with members of the audience. I always saw them as a sea of intimidating faces instead of individuals who might be interested in what I had to say and who wanted to hear anecdotal information – stories – that could help them remember the message of my talk.
Author Public Speaking Series
We spend oodles of hours writing our books, revising our words, working with editors and designers, until we can finally publish what we’ve written. Great, our book is out in the world but who is going to know about it unless we get out and start to market it?
That’s why public speaking for authors is so important. Whether you want to share your thoughts with book groups, answer reporters’ questions, or read to a packed house at your local bookstore, you need to feel comfortable about speaking in front of groups.
I’m not saying that you don’t need to use social media; that’s a given. I’m just saying that there will be times when you’ll need to leave the virtual world behind, temporarily, and give your readers a chance to meet you.
Author Public Speaking Tips
Throughout the course of the webinar, Betsy offered a number of tips.
- Public speaking is a learnable skill. Don’t feel as though you need to be gifted in this area. Everyone can learn techniques that will help to calm their nerves.
- Nerves and anxiety are underrated and should never keep you from doing something you really want to do, which is market your book. Some nervousness can even improve your performance.
- Have a one-on-one conversation with everyone in the room. Don’t think of the audience members as a crowd. Look at them one at a time and talk to them as though you just met them at a party.
- Remember why people come to author events. They want to meet the person behind the pages and they want to hear the back story to the published story.
- Be honest with your listeners. If you are five minutes into your talk and your throat feels parched, breathe, then take a sip of water, and tell the audience you’re feeling nervous. They’ll get it.
Betsy ended the webinar with a quote from Maya Angelou, one that just happens to be my favorite: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget you made them feel.”
Note: If you’re interested, Betsy and Howard will be offering a four-week, online course on public speaking for authors September 19 through October 11. The workshop will include tips for reducing anxiety and improving engagement with an audience, creating an elevator speech, and handling tough questions.
About the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media strategist, trainer, and author of Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+.