Don’t get me wrong – I love being the centre of attention in a small way (I’m a Leo so that comes with the territory) and don’t have any problems chatting to strangers. Speaking to a large audience, however, is a different matter. Then I’m far from confident and envy those people who can just stand up and keep a crowd enthralled. How do they do it?
I don’t ever feel that I have anything very interesting to say and I’m useless at being funny. At least intentionally. I once fell into a shop window in Oxford Street by mistake (I thought there was a glass partition protecting the dummies and leaned on it, except there wasn’t so I landed in a pile of fake snow) and that caused a great deal of amusement. In fact, my brother still laughs every time he even thinks about it. Sadly, I can’t perform such feats on command.
Some people seem to be born comedians and/or talkers and they’re never lost for words. Me, I’m the kind of person who always thinks of the witty repartee AFTER the conversation is finished. That’s why I became a writer, because then I have the time to think about it first! But that’s no good when you have to promote your book.
I’ve come a long way since that agent’s talk, but public speaking still gives me stage fright. I am learning though and in order to improve I even did a one-day course in public speaking, which was great. We learned that preparation is key – things like knowing your audience (what kind of people are they? what do they expect from you?), arriving early so the location doesn’t give you any nasty surprises, knowing your subject and being enthusiastic about it – this all helps. Always have three main messages that you want to get across and not lose sight of them. And it’s okay to be nervous, the adrenaline may even help.
I’m not sure I remembered any of those things during my recent attempt at public speaking as part of a panel at the RNA conference, but it went better than I thought so perhaps there’s still hope for me. At least I proved to myself that I can actually do it if I have to and practice makes perfect, right?
Anyone else a shy wallflower? And if so, how have you overcome that in order to do talks? I’d love to know.
Don't forget to pop back on Thursday, when Liz Fenwick will be posting.