Monday, March 1, 2010

Writer's Fear: Public Speaking

I know many wonderful writers--lovely, talented women who (unlike me) have no problem putting a story to paper. Words flow from them unencumbered unless...they're in front of an audience.

Well, finally I can best them on something! Because guess who will talk to anybody about just about anything. Mwahaha! Yep. Me. Put me in a line at any Disney ride and within 15 minutes, I'll have everyone's life story and email addresses.

Such is the power of the extrovert.
So here are my talking tips (gleaned from years of community theatre and professional customer service training):
1. Breathe - I know it sounds obvious yet we still need reminders because when you're in a stressful situation you tense your muscles and involutarily hold your breath increasing that tension. Remember childbirth classes? No? Okay, about your last yoga class? Breathe, sweetie. Your neck muscles and your brain cells will thank you.
2. Smile - It makes you instantly beautiful and people really do hear it in your voice. With so much stress in our lives, people are starving for positivity. Be a good vibe generator! Show off your pearly whites and your audience will smile back. Or wonder what you've been up to. ;)
3. Posture. Posture. Posture. - Why? Well, it projects confidence. Even if you're not sure of what you're'll look like you do and image is half the battle. Oh, and you'll give those lungs a little more room to breathe.
4. Eye Contact - Yep, to borrow a cliche, let your eyes sweep the room. Find a friendly face. There's at least one out there. Remember that your audience wants to hear what you say or they wouldn't be here. Looking at your audience is another way to establish a connection. It's also a way to acknowledge and include them in your presentation.
5. Speak up - In theatre, actors are told to play to the person in the last row. As a speaker, you're addressing your entire audience, even those wallflowers hanging in the back. You can't reach them if you don't turn up the volume. So pump it up!
6. Know your stuff - In theatre, you learn your lines and your blocking (physical directions) by running through the play. The workshop or presentation is your play. Know the material and practice with a friend or in front of a mirror. Bring cue cards with an outline of points you want to cover in case you forget or wander off into tangentland.
6. Relax - Yes, it's difficult but you're a writer and writers are tough. Embrace the curiousity of your audience. It's great for the Q&A section of the presentation. And remember to have fun. As a writer you want to connect to your audience and now you've got one!
Enjoy the journey,



  1. Oh, man, anyone can beat me at public speaking! Well, except maybe for babies who can't speak yet. I like to lead sessions where I just have my "audience" quietly do writing exercises most of the time and then take turns reading them aloud. I smile, nod and tell them they're awesome. Now I know to add eye contact *heh*.

  2. Great post, Talia. I used to teach Public Speaking 101, and you hit all the high points in your post. As with everything else, about 90% of public speaking is attitude. Yeah, you need to have a grasp of what your talking about, but as long as you project self confidence and a positive vibe, you can get people to listen to almost anything :)