At some point, all of you will be required to get up and speak about your book; whether that’s delivering your elevator pitch to your hairdresser, or reading a passage from your book to a room full of people. For some of you, this may seem terrifying. In this article, we give our top ten tips for harnessing these nerves and delivering a speech worthy of a standing ovation.
1. Be clear on your aim
We’ve put this at the top because this should be at the top of every list you make. What’s the purpose of this? What do you want to achieve? Keep it short: it could be; ‘to make my book sound awesome so my hairdresser buys a copy’, or it could be, ‘to establish myself as someone who knows what they are talking about, so the audience will want to read more’. Tweet your aim before you speak if you can, and keep it with you during the speech to keep you focused.
Writers are naturally great at this. How many of you already know exactly what you’re going to do in the event of a zombie war? This is similar – practice your speech, deliver it to your dog, prepare yourself and nothing can phase you!
3. Learn from actors
Imagine yourself as an actor who has to play the part of a confident public speaker. Beyonce famously becomes ‘Sasha Fierce’ every time she steps on stage. Play a role. There are some great tips here for actors on how to get into the role of a character. Use some of the breathing techniques here especially, you’ll be suprised what a few deep breaths and some visualisation can do to calm nerves!
When we get enthusiastic about something, we have a tendency to speed up and ramble. Stop. Pause. Slow it down and wait for your readers to catch up. It’s the same when you are reading from your own work, too. Don’t be afraid to pause and take a breath. Inject some natural voice into your work and watch it come alive.
We all hate how we sound on tape, but listening to the way we say things can help us pinpoint some of the things we do that we don’t notice. It could be a series of ‘ums’ that could be substituted for pauses, or a tendency to overuse ‘you know’. Realise it, then work on eradicating it.
6. Use the stage
It’s tempting to stick to a cosy corner of the stage and camp there for the duration of your speech, but that’s not always visually stimulating for your audience. If you can, move across the stage when changing direction with your speech.
Get closer to your audience with a personal anecdote connected to your book or your writing. By being enthusiastic and personable, you show them why you’re passionate about your book. Passion inspires passion.
In particular – don’t click a pen. In fact, avoid holding pens altogether when speaking. It’s distracting for your audience. Keep your hands loosely locked in front of you and gesture from time to time.
9. Be prepared to make a mistake – and laugh at it
Sometimes things simply go wrong on stage and you have to deal with it on the spot. Try this useful exercise to relax your muscles and prepare you for unexpected silliness on stage. Breath in deeply while raising your arms above your head. Then exhale whilst you bang your chest and make gorilla-like sounds. By being able to laugh at yourself, you’re ready for the unexpected!
Don’t let one bad experience stop you from speaking to people. Being an author is so much more now than just writing books. It involves speaking to people online and offline, so keep on at it. It will get easier and you’ll feel more comfortable the more you do.