Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Speaking Engagements for the Shy

by MarcyKate Connolly 

One of the things you may not think much about when you’re writing that first book or just dipping your toe into the query trenches is that if you do get that book published, you may have to talk to a lot of people.

As in, in front of them. Standing up. Trying desperately to keep your lunch down and not flail so hard you actually take flight.

If you’re shy like I am, this might be a bit of challenge for you.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a couple of groups (one as a guest speaker at a local reading council and another as a presenter on Scrivener), and while I’m definitely still learning, I thought I’d share what helped me stay calm and keep on.

Namely, passion.

I was terrified for that first event. They wanted me to talk about me and my publishing journey, a topic I suspect would make many shy writers feel squeamish. (They want to hear about me? But I’m boring!) It was a challenge to find a way to make it engaging, and fortunately I was able to also read an excerpt from my book (which is infinitely more interesting than me!).

Practicing my speech beforehand helped considerably for that first event, but the second was easier (even though I had to talk for 2 hours instead of only 30 minutes!) because it was a topic I was passionate about: Scrivener. The fact that it was a familiar atmosphere (NESCBWI, my favorite conference), also made me feel more at ease.

This is not to say it went entirely smooth—we had some technical difficulties with the microphone, and with getting a room full of people at various levels of usage all on the same page with Scrivener. But it was a topic I loved, knew inside out, and could easily wax poetic about for hours. So, I did.

If you’re fairly shy too, and the thought of public speaking makes you twitch, here’s my suggestion: start small, and start with what you love. If you can, arrange something in a place that is familiar like an event at your local library or a presentation or panel at a local conference you’ve been to in the past. Even better if you can choose something you love to speak about – maybe it’s revision, or story structure, or fairy tales, etc. If you’re passionate about the subject matter, and the location is familiar, an event like that can be a great way to ease into it before you have to stand up in front of a group of strangers.

Since I’m still learning too, I’d love to hear your thoughts on ways to feel more comfortable and be successful at public speaking!

MarcyKate Connolly writes middle grade and young adult fiction and becomes a superhero when sufficiently caffeinated. When earthbound, she blogs at her website and spends far too much time babbling on Twitter. Her debut upper MG fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be out from HarperCollins Children's Books in Winter 2015.


cleemckenzie said...

I start by telling myself that the people in the audience want me to succeed, that they came to see and hear me, so I can't be that boring.

But I know exactly what you mean. Good for you to have the courage to do what scares you.

JeffO said...

Way to go, MarcyKate! I'll add this: most people don't know that you've messed up, unless you call attention to it.

Debra McKellan said...

I feel like no matter what preparation I'll make, I'll find someway to forget everything I wanted to say. Hope I can overcome that one day. lol