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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Presenting.... The Art of Public Speaking and Why We Should do it!

Holding presentations are an excellent way of building a fan base and creating networking opportunities.  Whatever your presentation is about takes the same kind of skills, or similar skills, to whatever you are doing in your professional life.  If you master the skills described below you will be able to function effectively, and more importantly professionally, in your career as a writer.

Why is this important to learn?  Well, writers have to be able to do a few things.  Sell themselves (marketing), as well as do readings, panels at conventions and interviews.  Learning to speak effectively, builds your brand as a writer/author.

But how to get over the nerves and butterflies that go through us to become effective speakers?  This is something I still struggle, even though I've done plenty of public speaking events.  I've moderated panels at conventions before, as well as been on panels.  I've held online classes on writing.  I've even read my work in public.

Even though I have plenty of experience under my belt, I still get nervous before "going on."  This is only human nature though.  Human nature is to be nervous before doing something that could go either incredibly right, or incredibly wrong.    Luckily, I've never had anything go the latter extreme...thankfully.  But I've gotten tongue tied before, and looked like an idiot.  But luckily, those are few and far between.

So how to do so.  Well, preparation is very very important.  What are you going to present?  How are you presenting the information that you have to relay?   Preparation (I will repeat again), is extremely important in being an effective presenter.  You don't want to just "Wing it." (which I have before, and it wasn't horrible, since I knew the subject really well), but also it wasn't very organized which is the second step in becoming an effective speaker/presenter.

You need to have your material organized in an easy to understand way.   Also having slides (PowerPoint is excellent), as part of the topic is also very important, handouts, and even Cd's with the program on it can also be helpful as a take home from the panel/talk, etc.  Bookmarks to put out at freebie tables.

There are organizations out there that help in getting comfortable with public speaking.   Toastmasters was the first one I heard about from another writer friend, whom joined to get some help speaking after suffering a stroke.  It helped her recover faster.  Here is their link to the worldwide organization.

Acting classes can help you learn how to project your voice as well as the Toastmasters.  This comes in handy when you have to project your voice to the back of your audience.

Things to avoid when public speaking:

  • Avoid saying "ummm," or "errrr." too much, that is the way you show your nervousness, and can have your audience start to lose focus/interest.
  • Don't talk in monotone, that also can make your listener nod off.   Think Ben Stein in that one show, and in Ferris Buehler (but it's hysterical there, so maybe not a good example?)
  • Do not chew gum, or eat anything to a presentation, WATER IS A GREAT THING TO HAVE.  It helps you from going dry, and also you can use it as a foil for when you hit a brain fart.  Or when you want to stall for some reason.
Things to do:
  • Make sure your equipment (mics, audio/visual) are in working order before you start.  This will lead too a smooth professional presentation.  If you don't know how to do this yourself, hope you have someone who is knowledgeable in this area help you.  Or you can learn part or all of it yourself.  
  • Project your voice if you don't have equipment, or it doesn't work somehow.  
  • Practice in front of a mirror, and into a microphone.  That way you can hear what you sound like, and get comfortable making eye contact etc.
  • Practice in front of friends and family.  If you can, do some readings in a book club or a library maybe.  That way it's a bit less intimidating.

Public speaking can be fun, but it can also be a nightmare too.  If you follow some of these steps: 
  1. Be prepared.
  2. Avoid the pitfalls of public speaking.
  3. Have your equipment in working order.
If you follow the advice laid out in this article, you should have a pleasant experience and also one that will linger on in your memories, and those of your audience.   

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