Authors and Public Speaking: Shedding Fear

By now, you’ve heard that many authors tend to share a certain personality trait: introversion or shyness. Which doesn’t help when it comes to marketing and promotion of our books. In fact, it can prevent us from doing what we may end up enjoying immensely: meeting valued readers. The people for whom we wrote our books.

Shyness used to be my Achilles’ heel. Decades passed before I could muster up nerve to ask a question when in a public setting. On my third bookstore signing, a former colleague stopped by the store. We hadn’t seen each other in a long while. Her first question: “How can you do this?” “This” referred to the fact that I would appear before an audience and would have to do a fair amount of speaking. In fact, it was my first actual talk. And I admit (to you anyway), I was terrified. But I refused to admit it to her or anyone else. I reminded her that she’d not seen me in a while and a few things had changed. But had they?

Fortunately, I was on a panel with two other authors who knew what they were doing. I watched and listened and learned…fast. In fact, I learned at warp speed because I had to. By the end of our session, I felt like an old timer. So how to speed up the fear-shedding process? The crash course:

1. Remember why you’re there. You’ve published a book! It’s like climbing to the top of Mount Everest, discovering the Fountain of Youth, finding a cure for stage fright! Public speaking is one of the most common phobias. It’s not fun to be phobic.
2. Smile. Pasting a smile on one’s face does wonders for warming up one’s blood and diminishing a cold sweat. Every time I look out into the audience, I see people’s expressions change instantly when I’m smiling. They smile right back. It sure helps to look into a crowd of happy people.
3. Make it personal. Talk about your journey, your inspirations, your need to write. When it gets personal, the impact can be monumental. Most of the time, I have no memory of what I’ve said, but attendees come up to me later and thank me for being inspiring or entertaining or informative. Really?
4. Be grateful. Gratitude is the elixir that pumps calm through one’s bloodstream. I always pause and wonder, am I really here? I contemplate how grateful I am to have made it to the exact place where I wanted to be.

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Nell CastleAmanda UhlKatieORaymona Marie AndersonTina Stanley Recent comment authors
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Johnny Young
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Johnny Young

With a smile, the world is ready to hear what you have to say! Great blog!

Lida Sideris
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Lida Sideris

Thank you, Johnny, and thanks for the visit!

Tina Stanley
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Tina Stanley

Public speaking is horrifying!! I commend anyone who can do it. I went to your Santa Barbara book signing and you were excellent!! I love your book, thank you:)

Raymona Marie Anderson
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I commend you for overcoming your dread of public speaking and just doing it. I’m an extrovert (except at gatherings where I’m milling around with other writers–go figure). Years ago I spoke often in front of groups, but when it came time for my first presentation about the book, really had cold feet. It was so good to discover that I still have what it takes. I’ve sold more books personally than I have on any of the buy sites. Continued success.

KatieO
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Great post! I too suffer from shyness, and have to force myself to get out there. Once I’m there, I’m usually okay. But getting there? ugh!

Best of luck with your writing!

Amanda Uhl
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As an author gearing up for her first book signing, I read this with interest. My question: When you are the sole speaker (no panel), do you focus on the book or do you talk more about yourself? What resonates more with your readers?

Nell Castle
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Great topic, Lida. You’re inspiring a whole bunch of us introverts. I gave myself a pass on doing any public appearances with the release of my first book. It was just too scary. Now that I’m in edits with the second book, I have to start facing my fears. It helps to read how other natural-born introverts face their fears.