Public Speaking: If I Survived, So Can You

public_speakingAs I write this blog post on Thursday afternoon, half of my mind is on the reading I will be doing tonight. The truth is, I don’t want to do it. I’m here to tell you that in the annals of authordom, I’m more J.D. Salinger than J.K. Rowling. If I could get away with being a recluse, I gladly would.

To repeat, I don’t want to do the reading tonight. I just don’t. That’s the introvert in me who balks when it comes to public speaking. And, in fact, when it comes to public speaking, I’ve successfully kept my head buried in the sand until now. Apparently, I love writing so much that I’m willing to face public speaking as part of my writer’s life. Astounding really.

The last few months I’ve been facing my fear, and I’m here to tell you that even though I’d prefer not to do a public event tonight, I’m not shivery with nerves either. Maybe I’m getting used to it? Or, have I been so terror-stricken lately that I’ve gone numb and finally, at long last, have ceased to care (in the good way)?

Let me tell you a few of the ways I’ve been terror-stricken lately:

1. Noir at the Bar, Portland: This is a big reading event everywhere it occurs in these United States. This was my first official reading of KILMOON, and it wasn’t the wading pool of reading events either. There I was, the only goil (that’s noir-ish speak for “girl”) with five men who collectively have landed on NYT bestsellers lists, won awards, and been featured as answers to Jeopardy questions! I barely remember the evening. I was so nervous I felt doomed–like I was about to die.

2. Brown Bag Lunch, Wordcrafters writers conference: This was my first teaching event, in which, yes, I was supposed to know something and impart this so-called knowledge to pre-published novelists. Fellow debut author Christina Lay and I talked about what to expect of the publishing process, complete with tips and tricks. This was supposed to be a cozy little brown bag lunch event. Sit around, eat, chat, take questions. But noooo, we had so many people, we had to stand up and project our voices. We had to be speakers. Right before our talk started, I turned to Christina and said, “I think I’m going to have a panic attack.” I kid you not.

3. Left Coast Crime (LCC) conference, Debut Authors Breakfast and also a panel. I had a blast at LCC, don’t get me wrong–it was my launch week after all–but the thought of having to present KILMOON at a lectern, with a microphone, to 200 readers in hopes they would buy the novel filled me with dread. I only spoke for a minute–that’s all the time we each had–but somehow that made it worse. Later I participated in my first panel. This wasn’t as bad, but at one point I lost my train of thought so completely that the moderator had to save me.

4. My launch party. You’d think I’d have relished this celebration, but I was just as wrung out and strung out as I mentioned above. I’ve always been the elopement type, so throwing myself a party challenged me in so many ways. I think there’s a special fear called fiesta-phobia, the fear of throwing parties. I’m just not a hostess–it stresses me out. Would anyone come? Would they buy books? Did I have to speak (yes), must less read (yes, but only for three minutes)? The party was a great success, but still, I was a basket case until I completed the public speaking part and guzzled down a couple of Kilmoon Sours.

Looking back, I’m amazed by how far I’ve come. I’ll always prefer to be a recluse, but now I know I can face my discomfort and survive the physical symptoms that come along with my nerves. I might even have gotten used to it–maybe.

I’m the poster child for, If I can do it, so can you. I don’t have any tips or tricks for you, except to give you my promise that you’ll survive your public speaking forays and after showing up with your terror a few times, it will get easier. You may even enjoy it–maybe. Or maybe not. But you’ll survive to write another day. That’s all that really matters.

So, how are you with public speaking? Have any tips for me?

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Lisa Alber is the author of KILMOON, A COUNTY CLARE MYSTERY (March 2014). Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, dog walking, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging at Lisa Alber's Words at Play round out her distractions. Visit her at www.lisaalber.com.

11 thoughts on “Public Speaking: If I Survived, So Can You

  1. I’m not much of a public speaker – and I’ve taught in the past (it was my chosen profession once upon a time). Always fills me with nerves and butterflies. I’d like to think I could handle an event for my own book, but hey, you never know. But multiple surveys have shown more people fear public speaking than death, so at least we introverts know we’re not alone!

    • Death? No biggie. Public speaking? ARGH. 🙂

      I bet you could handle a reading event — seriously, I am probably the most adamantly, stubbornly don’t-wanna person around. It’s ridiculous. But somehow, I do it. (But I’ve gained weight — that’s the telling thing — and that’s a whole ‘nother topic!)

  2. I’ve never liked public speaking, either, but–like you–I’ve just done it until I know I can. My problem is that I overschedule these things and, like clockwork, the day of each event I get the don’t-wannas.

    • By appearances, you seem like such a natural, Lori! You were such a great moderator for that LCC panel — your humor shines through. Glad to know I’m not the only one who gets the don’t-wannas. 🙂

  3. Hilarious, a kind reader just notified me about a typo. I’d written “anals of authordom” instead of “annals of authordom.” Hah! That tells you a lot about my crap mood yesterday.

    • Thanks, Kristy! And thanks for visiting this week. You’re new to us, right? I just visited your website (nice!). Girl, get a description of your novel up, stat! Everyone who visits will want to know about it. That’s huge, and congrats!

  4. I’m so not a fan of public speaking, either. I’m excited about my book events coming up, but also pretty nervous. The best advice I ever got was to try and redefine how we think about feeling “nervous.” In other words, instead of internalizing it as bad energy that’ll trip us up, think of it as your body being excited and revved up and try to use that energy in a positive way. When I got that advice it made sense to me because I used to dance, and for years, no matter how many times I’d gotten onstage and performed and thought I wasn’t nervous, in those 2 minutes before curtain my body would react–butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, etc. I never stopped being nervous but I eventually got to a point where that was part of the excitement and the rush of it. Let’s hope I get to that point sooner (rather than later) with book events!

    • I’m sure you will, Natalia! Your performance experience already puts you ahead of the game when it comes to accepting and using the flutters. I can’t wait for you release!

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