Monday, June 14, 2010

Public Speaking: Taking your writing on the road

Well, I mentioned on Friday that I had to speak at my church--on a topic I am NOT an expert on and really had no clue about: Intentional Living. (Fortunately my Women's Ministry leader gave me some great reading material on the subject so I was good to go!)

I was really nervous about speaking. I mean I've not spoken in front of an audience since high school! But people tried to encourage me by saying, "Well, you're a writer, so you'll do great."

Well, that was NOT encouraging!

Writing a book does not equal speaking well in front of people. Speech writers just write speeches. They don't give them. LOL

And I had NO PROBLEM writing my presentation. I easily put together about 25-30 minutes of material. I even had funny stories! But how I was going to deliver it without shaking like a leaf or my voice cracking? Would they even laugh or learn anything from what I was saying?

Why am I even talking about public speaking?

Because as a writer, you never know when you will be asked to give a presentation. Maybe you'll want to give a workshop some day.

And in order to do that you're going to need to establish some goals for your speech:

1) you may want to build credibility
2) you may want the audience to understand or learn something from you
3) you may want the audience to agree with you
4) you may want the audience to laugh


I had all those goals in mind, but maybe you won't. Maybe you'll just have one goal. (Those goals are from Public Speaking For Dummies by Malcolm Kushner--a book I found EXTREMELY helpful as I prepared to speak.)

You'll find--like I found-- that writing what you want to say is the easy part. We're writers after all! So I won't go into how I wrote my speech.
But remember, people don't want to be lectured. That's boring!

Think about what you like to hear when you go into a workshop. Usually it's the personal experiences mixed in with the information that you will remember and take with you after you leave the room.

When I gave my speech I would make key points from Scripture or from what I read in Christian books and then I would further illustrate my point with a personal story (sometimes a funny story), because that's what helps your audience relate to what you're saying. Plus, it's interesting. You're giving them a part of yourself.

And isn't that the reason we read certain blogs? Because we're not just lectured to. We feel and enjoy a personal connection with the writer.

Okay. So I had a sparkling, funny, heartfelt presentation. I had that part down.

STAGE FRIGHT was my concern.

Well, this is what Malcolm Kushner's had to say on the subject:

Stage fright is a very egocentric affliction. I'm scared. I'm nervous. I'm going to pass out. Me. Me. Me. It's easy to lose sight of your audience's interests, but the audience has as much at stake as you. In fact, your audience may be more scared than you. They may have to suffer from seat fright--the fear of wasting time listening to a bad speech.

Hilarious, but true!

That really helped me put things into perspective. You have to realize the audience wants you to succeed! They're not against you. Once I had that in my mind, I lost all my nervousness.

(That really helped and all the breathing exercises he listed in the book too!) :)

I really recommend that book. It was simple, gave great tips, and also helped me read my audience. And my public speaking debut was a success!

Are you comfortable speaking in front of others?
Do you plan to in the future?
What tips have you learned from your public speaking experience?

37 comments:

Jessica Nelson said...

Interesting post! I get very nervous speaking in front of people, but depending on my subject matter, I may get excited too. I wouldn't say I'm a good public speaker though, whether I like the subject or not.
Sounds like you probably did an awesome job!:-)

Maria Zannini said...

I love this post! And I will definitely look for that book. I gave a presentation at a writers' meeting once, and it terrified me that all these people were looking up at me as some sort of expert.

I wanted to yell at them: Go home! There's been a mistake. You got me instead of the expert. LOL.

The only thing I wish I had done differently is that I wish I had had some water with me. Just sipping it would have calmed my nerves.

Sarah Forgrave said...

I've done a lot of teaching in the corporate environment for work, so I guess that's sort of the same. The thing that always helps me is to know my material inside and out. That way I can focus on my delivery and audience rather than the actual content itself.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Maria: Too funny!
PS. Every time I practiced I needed water but when I did the actual delivery, I was fine. Funny, huh?

Sarah: so true. Once i knew the material inside and out, I could even ad lib when something would pop in my mind. :0

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I was in sales & marketing and I gave frequent presentations. Also, I speak for moms groups now and I enjoy it. I feel confident in front of folks if I know what I'm hoping to say.
~ Wendy

Vicki Rocho said...

If I have time to prepare, I do okay. I still get nervous, but I know I have solid material to carry me through...of course most of my speaking engagements have been in school or at work (moderately friendly faces).

What really makes me freak out is being put on the spot. ACK.

Laura Pauling said...

I'm pretty comfortable. I'm a teacher. Now, speaking in front of a large group of adults? I think I'd be okay if I was passionate about the subject matter. And I totally agree about the personal experience. I love hearing personal stories that are relevant.

Terri Tiffany said...

My dream is to speak in front of people and not drop over dead.
My voice shakes, my heart races and I panic. I love small groups but make me stand--ugh. I even took TOastmasters awhile and it helped but I still am not comfortable.
I like what you said about the me part. It isn't about us, but we make it about us. I feel everyone is judging me but do I do that when I listen to a speaker? Not at all.
I'm glad you prepared and it went off well!

Chicki said...

I'm so glad your talk went well. Public speaking is one of the scariest things there is!

Last Saturday I spoke at a local library writer's workshop. This was only the second time I've spoken to a group (other than my former local writer's group, which was very small.) I think I did okay. At least nobody fell asleep or walked out ...

Great points! I think I'll order the Dummies book for future reference.

Joanne said...

Great ideas to consider here. The most public speaking I've done recently is to speak in front of a college class I took. But the class, and topic, was a passion of mine - music - so the words came easily. I think that helps, when the subject matter is something close to our hearts.

Jen said...

Wow Malcolm Kushner had some great things to say! I'll think about that the next time I need to get in front of a large crowd!

I'm nervous by nature but have recently been working on stepping outside of my comfort zone (part of Project Jen) I did it this evening, only with 6 girls, but hey it's a step up!!!

I'm glad your talk ending up going well though!

JustineDell said...

Ewh. Public speaking. I'm terrified. It will be the hump I never make it over.

~JD

Jennifer Shirk said...

Joanne: I think you're right. :)

Justine: You can do it, girl! Especially, if I did it. ANYBODY can.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I do a LOT of public speaking. As a member of my local school board, I get up and talk in front of a live audience as well as whoever is watching in cable-TV-land.

What you said about having a personal connection with your audience is important. How you do this will vary with the kind of speech you're giving (or dialogue), but people want to feel like you are engaging them, even if you're the one doing all the talking. I try to put dry school-board-ish matters into language and similes the audience can understand and appreciate.

I think it was Angela Mayou who said, "People will not remember what you did, or what you said. They will remember how you made them feel."

This is SO true. And if you focus on how you are making your audience feel, rather than how YOU feel, then you have the right emphasis to do great.

p.s. Good for you for plunging in!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I do a LOT of public speaking. As a member of my local school board, I get up and talk in front of a live audience as well as whoever is watching in cable-TV-land.

What you said about having a personal connection with your audience is important. How you do this will vary with the kind of speech you're giving (or dialogue), but people want to feel like you are engaging them, even if you're the one doing all the talking. I try to put dry school-board-ish matters into language and similes the audience can understand and appreciate.

I think it was Angela Mayou who said, "People will not remember what you did, or what you said. They will remember how you made them feel."

This is SO true. And if you focus on how you are making your audience feel, rather than how YOU feel, then you have the right emphasis to do great.

p.s. Good for you for plunging in!

Karen Lange said...

Good post, and I agree, I think public speaking skills are important for writers. Well, and most anyone else too. We should be effective communicators no matter what we do. The nice thing is that it gets easier as you go - you know, that whole practice makes perfect thing.

Laura Marcella said...

Great post! I'm terrified of public speaking. But thanks to a required speech class in college (in which I received an A!), I know I can do it and I know I can do it pretty well. For me, it's all in the preparation! Public speaking goes smoothly when I'm fully prepared and have practiced it over and over again.

Kenda said...

The few times I've done any public speaking, I've certainly been nervous, but that's not been my biggest problem. My problem is in figuring out how to present the material without being tied to the notes and looking like I was reading everything. That's the quickest way to take the life out of a presentation! I still haven't solved that one...

Bossy Betty said...

Great post! I enjoyed the excerpts from the book. The interesting thing I picked up here is that the audience wants you to succeed. That's so right! When I see someone who is nervous and trying to make a speech I get nervous too!

Patti said...

That's my biggest fear about publishing a book, is having a book reading. I'm so not good at public speaking, which is probably why I should practice it more often.

Lydia Kang said...

I have no plans on public speaking any time soon! But if I do, I'll check out that book. It sounds like a wonderful resource.

Lindsey Edwards said...

Good post. When I self published DREAM CHASER when it was thirteen(my YA romance) I spoke at Toast Masters and answered questions about myself and my book. It was a great way to build up public speaking skills!

Jeanette Levellie said...

I'm happy for you that you did well, Jennifer. I knew you would.

I am such a ham, I love to speak to crowds. I need a book called, "Shutting Up for Dummies."

Love,
Jen

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Jennifer, you just addressed my biggest concern this summer. Truly! I have two big things coming up where I'm going to have to be around people I don't know and talk to them like I know what I'm doing. One of them is the ACFW conference. I'm going to have to do pitches and it scares me to death. But you're right, the agents and editors WANT me to succeed--they don't want me to be nervous and waste their time and my time. This helps, thanks!

Mohamed Mughal said...

I agree that there's a WORLD of difference between writing alone in your study and speaking in public. Luckily, I'm not bothered by public speaking. I've done it before; I know I'll do it again. In fact, in many cases, I've enjoyed myself. Is that perverse?

Diane said...

Great prep work for your speech. Looking at it from a different point of view helps. :O)

Kimberly Franklin said...

Public speaking has always terrified me. Even in high school. I absolutely dreaded those days when you would have to get up in front of the class. ::shudders::

But I'm happy you did great on your speech!! :)

Wendy Ramer said...

As a college professor who constantly speaks in front of peopel, I think the key to feeling confident is believing you are the expert on whatever your topic is. That gives you the edge. (Notice I said "believing" you are the expert. So key.)

patti said...

Since I've taught junior high and college age kids (starting at age 22), public speaking has been a snap. I mean, with those narrowed adolescent eyes saying, "Really?" to EVERYTHING, I can stare down at ANYONE.
Lol.

God has gifted me lots of audiences, from a small writing group of five (like today) to 208 at a women's event. Praise Him for giving me the words to say.

Congrats, girl.
You did it!

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm glad you enjoyed your speaking. As a teacher I speak in front of groups all the time, but I still get nervous - especially when it's to large groups of adults. *shudder* I tend to fake my way through the first few minutes, then it gets easier :)

LOVE that quote!

Mary Aalgaard said...

Hmm. depends on the setting and what I'm doing. I was a teacher, so you're in front of a group all the time, but that gets more and more comfortable as you get to know your students. I've done some acting, but there has always been a script. I used to freeze when I had to speak off the cuff. I've overcome that pretty well, now. I have to do the introductions and welcome for piano recitals. I am less comfortable in a formal setting, but I can do it, with practice, and knowing what I want to say. The more you do it, the better you are, and the less you shake before during or after!

T. Anne said...

Sounds like you did terrific! The books sounds like it was super helpful and I might get it just to have in my tool box. I have enough of the dummy series it's almost embarrassing. I think stage fright is my biggest hurdle as well. Did you sweat to death? Did you hyper venilate? Did you say um about a dozen times in a row? Oh wait, that's from my playbook. ;) I'm glad you pulled off a good one.

Julie Jarnagin said...

I did a lot of public speaking in high school, but that was years ago. I have a very small speaking engagement coming up, and it makes me so nervous!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great post, Jennifer! This is a scary topic for a lot of people. I was a high school speech coach for 9 years and I am a conference presenter twice a year, so I'm pretty comfortable in front of others. Best advice: RELAX. It's never as bad as you expect, and people are generally very kind. :-)

Lynn said...

Good tips on public speaking! I teach seminars and the best tip I have is to know your topic! I also like to break up presentations with a video.
Taking an acting class helped my public speaking skills too, and it was also a lot of fun. I highly recommend it!

Warren Baldwin said...

Good suggestions on public speaking. Another helpful thought - you know more about your topic then most of the others in the audience, that is why you are speaking on it. So, even if there are some things you don't know, and even if they ask questions and you have to say, "I don't know the answer to that one," you still know more than most of the audience, at least on the specific issue you are addressing. I find that thought gives confidence (but you still don't want too much! :)

Good post.

And thanks for the visit to and nice comment on Family Fountain.

wb

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