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SPEAKING IN FRONT OF PEOPLE

August 18, 2021

            In May of this year, I talked about interviews and what, as an author, you’ll eventually have to do if you expect to ever market your book. Okay, some of you may NEVER market your book, but don’t expect it to sell like hotcakes, or at all.

            Some of you can maybe get away with the bare minimum, and some of you may do okay, sort of. Then again, if you put all the time and effort into writing a good book, why not overcome your terminal shyness to at least take on a question/answer session with someone? That form of an interview doesn’t mean speaking in front of a crowd. Then again, I’ve already discussed that issue in the former article.

            Today, I’m going to talk about something else. That is passing on your knowledge. In other words, paying it forward in a more direct way by teaching a class or conducting a training session, two terms for the same thing?

THE TRAINING SESSION

            Since I have a background in training, speaking in front of people goes with the territory. Not to put too fine of a point on it, just being a member of the Henderson Writer’s Group, which is a critique group, reading chapters of any one of my books to the group means I have to speak in front of from tens to dozens of people all at once.

            Aaaagh! Oooh! Aaaah!

            Am I paralyzed with fear? Am I trembling in my shoes?

            Do I barf before I go on stage?

            Uh, no.

            I’ve been speaking in front of people in one form or another since I was in elementary school.

            Just yesterday, as I write this, I was at the Local Authors Literary Fair and there was a signup sheet to volunteer to teach classes at the library. I’ve done it before, so of course, I signed up.

            Why?

            Because not only do I have a background in teaching, but I like to pay it forward.

            These classes can be fun, and the payout can be tremendous.

CROWDS

            For someone terminally shy, the fear of failure is often a phobia. It’s like any other phobia. Quite often it’s not a phobia at all, but a self-imposed fear brought on by something that is nothing more than an unknown. Why?

            Because you haven’t done it before, and don’t know how to handle it.

            That’s all it is.

            Speaking in front of a crowd is no different that chatting with a group of friends. While some terminally shy have that wallflower syndrome and don’t even speak up amongst friends, some have no problem speaking up among a small group of friends.

            Strangers?

            That’s another story.

            Why?

            Because they aren’t friends yet.

            Some of them may never end up being friends.

            Oh well…

            Consider this.

            Many of them are just as terminally shy as you are.

            Ever thought of that?

            Yup.

            Just think of this. Many of the people in the crowd are in fear of you, the instructor or speaker, of eyeing them, or calling on them. In fact, one of them could be you.

            Ever thought of that?

            Before you get worked up about being the one up there on stage petrified that you’re speaking in front of a crowd, think of those in the audience petrified and hiding in the back, or even somewhere in the middle, that won’t make eye contact with you. They sort of scrunch down, listen, but keep to themselves and try to hide. They’re just as scared as you are that you might pick them out and call on them for some reason.

            Do you think they’re going to point and laugh at you because you stumble over a word, or stutter, or get a fact wrong?

            No. They’re afraid you’re going to pick on them for not paying attention!

            It works both ways.

            Of course, there are those that are aggressive, paying attention, and that are looking at your every move, but they’re more often than not polite and will give you the chance to make your point. As you progress in your talk, they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and let you have your say.

            You may be bombarded with questions afterward, but the more you speak, the more confidence you gain. You will never be able to do it if you don’t start.

SOME PEOPLE

            Some people are just not made for speaking in front of a crowd.

            However, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to do it and do it effectively. That also doesn’t’ mean you can’t face your fear.

            It also doesn’t mean you have to do it every day, or often just to torture yourself.

            As an author, you only have to do it as often as necessary to let your readers know you are there for them.

            In a way, you owe it to your readers to be available for them.

            That doesn’t mean you need to pay it forward by teaching classes like I love to do. Some of you are not cut out to be teachers. No rule says you have to. An occasional event where you speak to your readers to let them know you appreciate them is fine.

            Maybe a chapter reading, and a pre-talk or pre-speech at a book signing would be nice.

SUMMARY

            Speaking in front of a crowd isn’t the end of the world. As a writer and author, it’s part of the deal. However, it doesn’t have to be a psychological barrier to keep you from your readers.

            Happy writing!

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