Whether making a presentation via videoconferencing or standing in front of an audience, the idea of speaking to a group is enough to set many writers’ knees knocking. But as a self-published author, promoting your book is going to fall squarely on your shoulders—and that includes speaking events and readings. Don’t panic! The experts at Self-Publishing Relief have some easy, effective public speaking tips that will help you feel more confident and relaxed while talking about your book to groups.
Public Speaking Tips For Authors
While you do want to sound natural and unrehearsed during your presentation, you should definitely practice and prepare beforehand. Depending on your personality, the amount of preparation can vary; do you feel comfortable improvising parts of your speech, or do you want to stick more closely to your outline? Practice your presentation with someone you trust (or even a dog—they’re often very good listeners!). Outline your presentation and write notes on index cards. Even if you don’t use them in the actual speech, notecards are a wonderful way to physicalize the words and help them stick in your mind.
If you’ll be videoconferencing, make sure you’re familiar with how it works. Try a dry run with a friend or family member to ensure you can log in and your microphone and camera work. If you’re making a presentation in public, visit the location beforehand if possible. This way, you’ll be more comfortable with the technology or the surroundings on the day of your event.
When you’re speaking, don’t put yourself on autopilot. Even if you don’t feel confident, you can look more confident if you are aware of your body language! For example: you might find yourself staring down at your book for a long period of time. That’s a big no-no. Be sure to look up often and make brief eye contact with multiple people in the audience (a little harder to do via video, but remember to look into your camera). Mind your hands as well; many nervous public speakers wave them around, which can distract an audience.
Finally, be sure your voice is loud enough. Mumbling and whispering can alienate people, especially those who are at the back of the room. If someone can’t hear what you’re saying about your topic or book, they’re not going to be intrigued enough to make a purchase.
Using notes for a speech or reading is a good idea, but only refer to your notes briefly to keep yourself on track—reading verbatim from a sheet of paper or a group of index cards will make you seem disconnected and not very knowledgeable. Instead, make sure you have practiced enough times so that you can talk to your listeners in an open and honest way, straying from your set guidelines from time to time. They will appreciate that you don’t sound stilted or monotone! And when reading from your book, speak expressively and clearly to pull the audience into your writing.
Establish A Rapport
If you’re still feeling a bit anxious before your big debut, remember that no one in your audience wants you to fail. In fact, they’ve come because they like you and your writing! So don’t be afraid to connect with them and ask if they can hear you. Engage them with questions and/or humor. Tell the story of how you came to write the section you’ve presented. And if you make a mistake—don’t start to stumble and panic! The audience knows you’re human, and a slipup may even help them feel a common bond (we’ve all been there!). Acknowledge the error and simply move on. (Find more tips on engaging your audience here.)
If you practice before your public speaking event, have good notes, and remember that your audience likes you and wants you to do well, you’ll feel much more comfortable and less stressed. Now, take a deep breath and relax—you’ve got this!
Question: How do you avoid becoming tongue-tied in front of an audience?