Five years ago, public speaking was a dreaded, but necessary, horror for me. You’d have had to shoot me with a tranquilizer dart and prop me up at the lectern to prevent me from looking like I was about to pop out of my skin. If you’d looked up the phrase ‘nervous wreck,’ it would’ve pictured me for illustration.
Nowadays I’m speaking in public so often that the biggest danger is that I look bored. Frequently, I am bored! If you’ve been listening to someone repeatedly give the same spiel, as I’ve listened to myself, then boredom does set in.
I have a few tips of my own, learned the hard way.
Bring water. Sometimes the venue organizer will provide it, but more often they’re so busy that they don’t think about it. I’ve had coughing fits before and just had to get up and leave. (I’m sure SWINE FLU!) was going through everyone’s mind.
Bring money. If you’re speaking in a library or to an organization (and are selling books), bring lots of ones and fives. I’ve forgotten to bring money to several of mine and when the people asked if I had change, I said, “No. But what do you have?” Bartering at its finest.
Arrive early. I don’t like surprises and events are very different from each other: with microphones, without mikes, standing, sitting, sharing your time with other writers…it’s just good to know what’s expected of you before your talk starts.
Arriving early also puts me more at ease. If I meet people as they arrive to listen to me, I feel a lot more comfortable talking to them later.
Watch eyes and faces. They’ll let you know if you’re getting too boring. If I signs of sleepiness, I’ll change my talk’s course.
Too short is better than too long. Notice when you’re starting to ramble. This can be a symptom of being too comfortable with public speaking, but there’s also a nervous rambling that happens with newbie public speakers…I did it whenever I lost my train of thought or forgot what the original question was. Now I just wrap up my segment quickly when I feel blah blah blahs coming on.
Have fun. Be funny. Those in attendance are so appreciative if we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
How about everyone else? Any good tips to share?
Elizabeth Spann Craig
Pretty is as Pretty Dies—Aug. 2009