Saturday, November 19, 2005

Public Speaking for Authors

Public Speaking: What Are We Afraid of? by Francine Silverman

Why is public speaking so stressful for most of us? We’ve all heard that the fear of speaking is greater than the fear of death. As Jerry Seinfeld quipped, “That means most people at a funeral would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy.”

As authors, we need to speak. It’s one of the best ways to sell our books. When you speak, they think you know. You’re viewed as the authority, the teacher, the expert. As Dr. Morton Orman states in his article, How to Conquer Public Speaking Fear, if you give an audience something of value they will consider you a success. He goes on to say that people remember few of the facts speakers convey and that it’s best to stick with two or three main points.

I recently served on a two-person panel at the Learning Annex in New York City. There were about 60 people in the audience and the subject was nearest and dearest to my heart – how to promote your book. I was prepared and yet a bit nervous. I truly didn’t know how I was received until the end, when students came up to both of us, thanking us for giving them good information. One even said my talk energized her!!

Why are we afraid to speak? Does it hark back to high school when we were ridiculed? Do we worry that we’re not as smart as others or will be embarrassed by the attention?

Hildy Gottlieb began to relax when she began teaching. She realized that as a public speaker she had been too worried about herself rather than focusing thoughts on her audience. “When I was afraid to do public speaking, the fear was all about ME,” she said. “What if I choke, what if I mess up, what if I don’t remember. Me me me.”

But as she began concentrating on the content and the audience, the better she felt. “That’s what teachers do: They know they have a lesson to give their students, and they know that if the students don’t get it from them, they likely won’t get it at all. They aren’t there for themselves; they are there for their students. They are there out of love of the subject they want to convey.

“Teachers refer often to their notes; they don’t perform. Teachers make certain the group understands one concept before moving on to the next one. They ask for feedback as they’re going along. Teachers answer questions to be sure the group is following the subject matter. So go ahead - become a teacher.”

If you view a speech as a performance, you’re in trouble. This is anxiety provoking since you have to guess the kind of performance the audience wants. It’s much more comfortable to view your talk as a communication encounter and share your ideas with the audience.

I have read two suggestions for preparing a speech that are worth a try:

Use a mirror. Then say the speech, looking to the mirror. This helps with concentration and if you use notes it allows you to practice eye contact with the audience.

Stand in the corner. The sound reflects back to you, and you can get a good idea how you sound when you speak.

About 85% of the population experiences stage fright when they give a speech, but 90% of nervousness doesn’t show. If you're still not convinced that there is nothing to fear, read the articles on the Internet about the fear of public speaking. You’ll realize one thing for sure – you’ve got lots of company!!

Francine Silverman is editor/publisher of Book Promotion Newsletter, a biweekly ezine for authors of all genres, and author of Book Marketing from A-Z, a compilation of the marketing strategies of 325 authors. Visit and click Ask the Experts for answers to your book marketing questions.
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