I have a speaking engagement this evening. While I’m always advising writers to broaden their reach by developing a public speaking plan, I am aware that the thought of standing before a crowd is terrifying to some.
Writing Tip for Today: So if you’re a shy writer, how can you overcome anxiety and speak to promote your writing?
- It Ain’t Easy. We’re all different, so what looks like a piece o’ cake to one writer strikes abject fear into the next. But here’s a secret: Almost every speaker gets butterflies. Many tricks to overcome performance anxiety are around, including imagining the audience wearing only their underwear, picking a focal point in the back of the room, or doing some deep breathing and praying before you go on stage. Many famous actors and singers have admitted to severe stage fright, yet they have learned to manage it. You can too.
- Practice Makes Perfect. In theater, memorization is key to a good performance. If your brain doesn’t have to concentrate on the words, it’s free to think of other things, such as interpretation or physicality. For speakers, organize your thoughts beforehand, then practice. I don’t memorize, but I do organize and then practice until I’m solid on the points I want to cover in the talk. You could record yourself and then play back to weed out bad habits such as too many ums and ers, long pauses or redundancies.
- The More, the Better. You will probably flub something your first few times out. I know I have. But as you speak more often, you’ll learn what not to do, what works or doesn’t works, where your comfort level is. If you speak about something you are passionate about, your feelings will transfer more easily, giving the audience an emotional gut punch. More than information you want your audience to understand and participate in your emotions–whether you’re speaking about a cause you believe in or a character you identify with. Hiding from the “speaking” role of the writer won’t help. Get out there and try. If you just can’t force yourself, another secret of performers everywhere is use of the beta-blocker drugs, which lower your heart rate and keep you from panicking. Not recommending, just sayin’. Speaking in public should be part of every writer’s promotion plans.