Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Public Speaking? Me? by Sandra Ardoin

I’d known since my first book released that I needed to prepare something for an occasion of public speaking. At the least, I needed to prepare some possible topics. Well, since no one beat down my door with invitations, I kept putting it off.


I got the call in mid-July. It came from a woman who had asked me years ago to speak to her small church group of about eight other ladies, which I did. That was before I began writing novels. It was my first time to formally speaking to a gathering of strangers about my writing experiences for denominational publications. I shook like dog on its way to the vet, but I guess it went well enough. However, it was my last time to stand in front of others and talk.


She was looking for an August speaker for a different group. Of course, I said yes to a wonderful opportunity for this shy introvert to hone those skills that authors need.


She told me I’d be expected to speak about my writing career for forty-five minutes. Forty-five minutes? How was I to fill forty-five minutes? Honestly, it’s not as hard as one might think. And if I can stand behind a microphone and rattle on in a somewhat coherent manner, believe me, anyone can, but it takes organization and time.

Here’s how I did it:

  • I brainstormed three different themes and included quotes from others that served as examples of those themes. Once my opening was set (a few minutes for an invitation thank you and a little personal information about myself), I could use it for any topic. I included a bit of humor in that opening, hoping that when my audience laughed, it would help relax me. It worked. 
  • After choosing my approach, I wrote my talk out word-for-word, typing it in a 16-point font that could be easily read. Then I practiced—alone and out loud—timing it as I went. I tweaked it and practiced again. You know that forty-five minutes? In the end, I had to whittle it down! I sent it to my tablet and practiced until I could speak without stumbling or constantly looking at my script.
  • I intended to use that tablet while speaking, but needed a backup—just in case. My talk turned out to be twenty-four pages long, and I didn’t want to fumble with that much paper. Once I was certain I knew what I would say, I typed up a 4-page outline of my points (again, in 16-point font) and printed it. 
  • One of the surprises I received that day was being interrupted for questions. That was okay. It allowed me to ad lib a little and put me more at ease—like a conversation. So, depending on where you speak, be prepared for such surprises. 
  • As I spoke, I could pick out those who were interested in what I had to say and a couple who were just “there.” Even so, I was careful to spread my eye contact across the room. 
All in all, it went well, and I drove home without crying. Of course, it helps to have an audience willing to put the speaker at ease.


I have a speech all ready to go for the next time someone asks me to talk about my writing!

What tips do you have for surviving a public speaking event?


Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. She’s the author of the heartwarming novella, The Yuletide Angel, and the award-winning novel, A Reluctant Melody. Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out. 

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