Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Public Speaking … Not So Scary After All by Varina Denman

I would rather eat bugs than stand-up in front of strangers, but since my writing doesn’t pay the bills, this introvert has stepped out of her comfort zone in order to tackle a few odd jobs, including public speaking. My first few engagements made me slightly nauseated, and after a particularly lively group at the public library, I honestly had dizzy spells for a week. But I’ll go to great lengths to support my writing habit, and I’m happy to report that things are getting easier.

A therapist friend of mine suggested I think of myself as another person. (Like … a person who enjoys talking to people.) It was a stretch at first, but now I see the logic behind his suggestion. Lately, it’s been easier for me to “slip into” the role of public speaker, especially when the audience doesn’t know me.

Another trick I’ve discovered is to write every single word of my speech ahead of time. That just makes sense, you know, since I’m a writer. Before I started doing this, I would stutter over my thoughts, because, of course, I’m better at writing than speaking. Once I accepted that fact, I started to use my strengths to my advantage, and now each sentence is strategically crafted, right down to the subtle jokes to keep the audience’s attention. Not that I always stick to the script, which brings me to my last suggestion.

I practice, practice, practice the speech, not memorizing it word for word, but familiarizing myself with it enough that I don’t have to look down at my notes constantly. By doing this, the words more easily roll off my tongue. It’s as though my muscles already know the words, so when my brain doesn’t keep up, my mouth can fill in the gaps. I know that sounds silly, but it works for me. All the practice gives me confidence so that I feel comfortable straying down a few rabbit trails, knowing I can come back to my pre-written lines whenever I need to.

These are definitely not foolproof, or introvert-proof, tips, but they have helped me to overcome my paralyzing fear of public speaking, and therefore to supplement my income enough that I can keep writing. And it’s worth it.

Have you discovered a way to make public speaking easier?



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Varina Denman writes stories about women and the unique struggles they face. Her award-winning Mended Hearts series is a compelling blend of women’s fiction and inspirational romance. Her latest novel, Looking Glass Lies, tells the story of Cecily Ross, a recently divorced woman struggling with low self-image. Connect with Varina on her website or one of the social media hangouts.

11 comments:

  1. Thank you for the opportunity to visit your blog. I enjoyed writing his piece. :)

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    1. Varina, thanks for showing us that with a little preparation, we don't need to quake in our boots over speaking to others!

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  2. Varina, I can relate. Just before my first few library presentations my stomach hurt so much that I thought I might be sick. Your tips are on target. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I'm right there with you, Dora. I still lose a little sleep the night before, but it gets easier every time.

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  3. I pray before speaking and that gives me comfort. :-)

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    1. Yes! Thanks for pointing this out, Melissa. I also find myself praying a lot afterward while I'm second guessing myself. It's best just to give the entire ordeal over to Him, but...easier said than done.

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  4. I agree! Public speaking can be painful. I don't seek it out, but when asked, I'll try to step up to the challenge. I've given talks and workshops at writers' meetings and conferences. It really helps me to be prepared - have everything written down and go over it in my head many times. Once my speech becomes a part of me, I can talk from my notes and focus on connecting with the audience. It's also easier for me to speak in front of strangers than people who know me well.

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    1. Dawn, I think you and I are the same person!

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  5. YES to writing it down and learning the thing. when i gave my Senior Capstone presentation four years ago (interior design - MY design) i knew it inside and out (literally)
    i did two things: 1) i printed my speech in 16 or 18 point font and read it aloud over and over. 2) i recorded it as a voice memo on my phone and listened to it over and over.
    when it came time to give my presentation, i didn't have to look at my notes (the font was large so IF i needed to peek, i could easily find my place) but i had rehearsed like lines in a play, and only missed one minor point. i was so at ease i was able to take questions confidently, too!

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    1. Ah, I love the voice memo idea! I'm speaking at a couple of women's retreats this fall, and I'm definitely going to try that. Thanks, Robin!

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  6. Varina, I've been teaching public speaking to college students for 20+ years (and still don't like speaking in public myself)! But you tapped into the most important thing I tell my students on the first day of class (and repeat most days afterward): Prepare, prepare, prepare. Nothing will help you feel more in control (and settle your nerves somewhat) more than knowing you are prepared! I love Robin's suggestion about recording the speech and listening to it. Many of my tech savvy students have started doing that on their own.

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