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Friday, May 6, 2011

Public Speaking Jitters: How To Conquer All Encompassing Nerves Part ONE


Public speaking scares the heck out of (almost) everyone, right? Your heart starts thumping distractingly, you start getting sweaty palms, you blush and for some reason you forget how to use the English language but you CAN'T STOP TALKING.

It's a big part of being a professional writer, speaking at schools, at conferences, at book launches and signings, at festivals, on panels...gone are the days when a writer's literary prowess could speak for itself!

But fear no longer, fellow glossophobics (the word for fear of public speaking. You learnt something new just then, didn't you.), Public Speaking is a learned skill and I gots some easy tips to help you through it! This is part ONE of a TWO part series on conquering your public speaking nerves.
First up lets talk

Who are you presenting to? A bunch of kindergarteners, year nine girls or Wall Street bankers? Even if the difference isn't as profound as this, merely knowing you're speaking to Women's Magazine editors instead of bankers will make a difference. By knowing your audience you can

You might be doing a presentation on writing, so when discussing writing sales copy to the Women's Magazine editors you might talk about use an example of different approaches to writing about shoes, whereas you might talk to the Wall Street bankers about the lifestyle they are selling their clients.
Enhance interest in what you're saying by tailoring your anecdotes and examples to appeal to your specific audience. By doing this, they will be more actively engaged in your talk and listening attentively. And it will help you feel more CONFIDENT on stage.
But what if you are the last speaker of an awfully long morning and everyone's zoned out and ready for lunch already?

Notice that a half the audience is dozing in their seat, or doodling in their notebook or perhaps whispering with a friend about their weekend. Do not just:
Your audience have been LISTENING and LOOKING for a long time. Get them out of their seats and MOVING: make them jump up and down a little or perhaps do a spontaneous dance. Make them stretch or SPEAK - for five seconds, have them introduce themselves to the person behind them. And after five or thirty seconds get them sitting down and ready for your presentation and you'll be surprised at how attentive your passive audience of seconds ago has become.

SMILE. Even though you're nervous, make sure you SMILE A LOT. It is a proven fact that people are more likely to warm to you if you smile.
PUT YOUR SHOULDERS BACK and stand up tall. This gives you the appearance of confidence and tricks not only the audience, but your body into believing you are confident in front of your audience.
PROJECT YOUR VOICE. Audiences that cannot hear the speaker are likely to tune out and either talk to their neighbours or look bored. And seeing people look bored can cause little gremlins of doubt to enter your brain and convince you that you are boring and shouldn't be there. But in fact all it really means is that you should speak LOUDER.

That's it for PART ONE: Know your audience, tailor your anecdotes, observe your audience and use your body. In PART TWO I shall discuss zipping your lip, getting there early, and knowing your product.

Big kiss,


DISCLAIMER: I am by no means a public speaking aficionado. I do it very infrequently and it makes my heart thump, face heat up and I can't control my mouth to make it shut up. I tell you this because I do not want to heighten your expectations of my public speaking skillz. My public speaking nerves are however, what happens now. They are not forever. These tips come from a training seminar I attended this week which I wanted to share.


  1. This is such a great idea to blog about! I am petrified of public speaking :(

  2. Thanks Jess, and me too! But I will NOT be forever. It's an important skill for writers! For everyone, really.


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