‘These days writers don’t get to let their written words speak for themselves. Books must be promoted, which means that book writing is all about book speaking.’ ~ Laura Vanderkam
I’ll admit I tried to resist this truth for many years! In the early days, I wanted to hide in my cubby and write the books. Someone else would sell them. Yet, hearing salient quotes like this reminded me of the reasons to overcome this personal obstacle.
I have always hated public speaking. Let me amend that. I’ve hated it since the age of 12, when I first felt humiliated on stage. I had tried to sing the lead in the HMS Pinafore at my school production, while suffering a throat infection. On a prolonged high note, my voice broke. In one instant, I saw my parents’ stricken faces, and the shame set in.
At the age of 15, I joined a school production. It was being put on by the cool group, whom I wanted to befriend. Midway through our big final number, one of the girls grabbed me and swung me by my ankles around in circles. My skirt flew over my head.
My terror of public speaking had been firmly cemented into place. I’d never set foot on a stage again. Or, so I thought.
There were two times after that, when at big family occasions, I was called upon to speak. I messed up the speeches so royally, they’ve become stuff of family legend. Pulled out and retold at family parties, just to remind me that family never forgets.
Upon engaging a “life coach” a few years ago, I was encouraged to face my fear of public speaking, by doing it.
I said, ‘That isn’t going to happen, because I have a truly paralyzing fear.’
The coach said, ‘That’s just a story, okay? We all tell ourselves stories. Chris de Petty says, If you’re going to make shit up, make good shit up.’
I’ll admit I thought the “cure” was a bit harsh. Yet, apparently, this is a common approach for this type of self-conscious block and it does have good results.
In the January 2016 issue of Toastmaster, there was an interview with a former stutterer, Ken Bevers. Ken joined the McGuire Program which is for people with speech impediments. The program supported him to front up to his fear – by going to busy public places like shopping centers and introducing himself to strangers. In the years since then, Bevers has moved on to become the President of his club, and has been promoted at work to a senior position in his firm.
*Hot Tip: If you want a breakthrough in being able to speak in front of audiences, take a stand-up comedy class. Improv would help, too. Or join Toastmasters.
Despite my immense misgivings, a year ago, friend and author, Lynn Kelley, and I challenged one another to join Toastmasters.
We discovered the life-affirming act of facing down the fear of doing each speech carries with it a payoff. There’s the satisfaction of winning that small victory. This acts like confidence fertilizer.
Of course, extra confidence is helpful in any professional arena. When interviewed in the February 2016 issue of Toastmaster, singer and producer, Quinn Lemley, said, ‘During interviews I stuttered or spoke too fast. I thought Toastmasters would help – and it has!’
The reason Lynn and I joined was to build our book speaking skills.
‘This will prepare me to do lectures and speaking engagements and school visits.’ Lynn Kelley said, in a conversation we had on Facebook recently. ‘You might be asked to speak at a conference someday and Toastmasters will prepare you for that.’
Author and speaker, Laura Vanderkam, explains why the skill of public speaking is good for writers. If I want to keep writing books, I need my books to sell, and that means getting up in front of all kinds of audiences to talk about my ideas.
Toastmasters, Improv, or learning a skill like stand-up comedy can prepare us for promotional opportunities as writers. Fun ways to brush up weekly on our book speaking skills.
What about you? Are there any skills you intend to master in 2016? How do you approach your Book Speaking?
Talk to you later,
Yvette K. Carol
In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. ~ Abraham Lincoln