by: Shirley Crowder
At writers’ conferences, I often hear people say, “I’m a writer, not a speaker!” That statement is followed by an explanation of why they aren’t a speaker that usually includes them being afraid of public speaking.
I’m sure most of us can relate to that sentiment! We are very comfortable sitting alone and writing. Yet, if we want people to know us and be familiar with our books and our name, we need to seek opportunities to speak.
Speaking engagements can generate income through paid events and book sales at the event. It enables you to connect one-to-one with people and get a clearer understanding of what interests them most about your writing. You receive free publicity because those attending will post it on their social media and tell all their friends about you and your books. And, it only costs you time.
Here are fifteen things that help me stand in front of a group and speak without fainting or getting sick to my stomach.
PRAY – Ask the Lord to help you learn to be a good speaker.
BREATHE – Remember to breathe deeply and often.
GO TO THE RESTROOM AND DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH BEFORE YOU SPEAK – I don’t think an explanation is needed here, right?
LEARN TO SPEAK WELL – Find three-to-four people whom you think are good speakers. Listen to them and make note of the things you like and don’t like about their speaking. I’m not talking about content here—I’m talking about delivery. Listen for techniques to learn, not things to mimic. We use critique partners for writing; why not use them for our speaking also?
BE YOURSELF – Don’t try to be someone else. Let your own personality shine through when you speak.
STAND UP STRAIGHT – Not only is standing up straight good posture, but it will also help open your lungs up so oxygen flows easily to your brain and you have enough breath so you can speak an entire sentence without taking a breath. Hold your head up high and make eye contact.
DON’T WEAR NEW SHOES – Be sure your shoes are broken in and comfortable to stand for the period of time you will speak and answer questions. It’s hard to concentrate on what you want to say when your feet are throbbing with pain.
DON’T STAND IN ONE PLACE – I don’t mean pace around so much that you make your audience dizzy as they try to watch you. Even if you have a fixed-position mic on a stand you can move to the left and right. This will help you not be so tense, and the movement will help your audience focus on what you’re saying.
SPEAK SLOWLY – Speak slower than you normally speak in casual conversations. Enunciate clearly.
CHANGE YOUR VOLUME AND TONE – Be sure to emphasize certain words or fluctuate your volume, as appropriate and mix up your tone of voice. This will help keep the listeners’ attention. Even the most mundane information, when delivered with fluctuating voice volume and tone can grab peoples’ attention.
GET RID OF “FILLER” WORDS AND SOUNDS – I heard an author speak at our local public library recently. In the first eight minutes of his talk, he said, “Uhhhhh ….” 63 times—and yes, I did count! In the same way, our editors tell us to be concise in our writing, be concise in your speaking.
DOUBLE-CHECK YOUR NOTES – Make sure you have everything and that it is in the correct order in time to get everything ready.
HAVE WATER CLOSE AT-HAND – Even if you’re like me and talk a lot all time, your mouth can get dry. Keep water where you can take a sip if needed. The more formal speaking the setting, the drier my mouth gets. It’s hard to speak clearly when your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth.
DO NOT MAKE SELF-DEROGATORY REMARKS OR APOLOGIZE – I heard a speaker begin her talk saying, “Sorry they couldn’t get a good speaker and you’re stuck with me—I don’t know anything.” If I had not been the next person to speak, I would have left at that moment. Why in the world would I want to stay and hear someone speak for forty-five minutes when they don’t know anything?
ACKNOWLEDGE AUDIENCE RESPONSES – If the audience claps or laughs during your talk, give that time to die down before you continue, otherwise, people may not hear the next thing you have to say.
HUMBLY ACCEPT COMPLIMENTS – When people are moved by or like what you said, they will be excited to tell you how great or meaningful your talk was. Do not deflate their excitement by not accepting the compliment. “Thank you” is always an appropriate response. I usually respond with something like, “Thank you. I’m grateful the Lord enabled me to speak and share with you.”
With prayer and practice, you can go from a scared speaker to a confident speaker.
I’ll end with what for Christ-followers is the foundational principle on which we stand for everything: When God calls us to do something, he prepares, equips, and enables us to do it! Remember Moses?
Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”(Exodus 4:10-11 NKJV)
Writing Prompt: Fiction writers: Prepare a two-minute talk about one of your fictional characters. Non-fiction writers: Prepare a two-minute talk about a topic in your book.