Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The not so fine (with me) art of public speaking.

Having hailed from the ad world, I know writers who can sell ice cubes to Eskimos, talented public speakers that keep their audiences hanging on their every word. I experienced this in grad school too, as I witnessed authors who spoke to packed houses as if they were chatting with best friends.

And then there are some of us who probably gravitated toward the solitude of writing in the first place because of our general lack of confidence in our ability to work a room. Yes, we saw that yawn, that not so discreet glance at the watch, and read your minds as you wondered what was for dinner. (Liver, hopefully.) And, yes, we actually thought that joke about the funny thing that happened to us on the way here was, well…funny.

And yet, any author who achieves even a modicum of success is expected to step out of her private world and speak in front of large groups of people. Oh, the irony.

The truth is, for years I sucked at public speaking, lips catching on dry teeth, voice wavering two octaves above sea level, hands shaking like a Chihuahua on meth. I practiced. I meditated. I took classes. I even took martinis. But nothing really helped, until the day I magically found my mojo.

It was toward the end of the season of promoting my first novel. I was invited to speak at a literary tea to benefit a local library along with some pretty big name authors. Naturally, I was nervous. I can’t explain precisely what happened to me on that day except that by watching the other presenters, how at ease and authentic they were, I relaxed. They had set the tenor for the event and I followed their lead. That day, I put down the well-rehearsed script, stopped “speaking” and started talking from the heart. Rather than rush through with the assumption that no one cared what I had to say, I slowed down and, guess what? They did care. After the event, I actually had people congratulate me on my presentation. I had broken the code. And while I would never be Jennifer Weiner, who can use the c-word in a room awash in Lily Pulitzer and still elicit adoration, I had finally found the value in just being me.

And so now, facing into a season of promoting my new book, I carry that experience with me. (Along with a jar of Vasoline to lube my teeth, just in case.)

Here are two upcoming events. For a complete up-to-date list, click here.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

You were awesome at our program!