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?


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.