Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is This Thing On?

Me and O At some point during the promotion of my book, I'll be stepping up in front of a crowd (well, at least a few people who aren't relatives) to do a little public speaking. Whether it's at a book signing, a library event, a conference panel, or on the platform waiting for a Metro train, I'll be talking about DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD.

I'm sure you've all heard about the polls where the fear of public speaking "beats out" every other fear, including fear of death.

I'm no exception. I usually don't look forward to getting up in front of an audience, where all eyes--and ears--are on me.

Most of the time, I do fine. No major stammering, no fainting, no projectile vomiting. I'll prepare a few comments beforehand and wing the rest. Taking a lot of questions from the crowd seems to work well. My goal usually is to "not suck." Although I don't fall flat on my face, I feel I can--and should--do better.

I think it will help that I'm very (very!) enthusiastic about my book and about writing. It's much easier talking about something you love. As a reader/fan, I'm always enthralled by whatever a writer has to say about the writing process and the publishing business, even if that person isn't the most dynamic of speakers. So I've got that going for me, too.

I'll try to be engaging and funny and charming and interesting and compelling. I want to totally rock.

I'm planning to prepare several different presentations, tailored to different audiences. I may put together a PowerPoint slide show (the engineer/businessman in me), and I'll work up some good handouts (with help from Photoshop, of course). I'll probably even practice my spiel once or twice.

What other things should I consider to help me get ready? Toastmasters? Offer the neighborhood kids free donuts to listen and critique my delivery? Should I videotape myself? Should I wear costumes? Go in drag? Learn how to speak with a British accent?

Or should I just employ the services of a stand-in, so I can stay home and write?

As usual, all suggestions welcome.



Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think you should *definitely* go in drag. :)

I used to despise public speaking with a passion, but now I'm just 'meh' about it.

I talk to myself in the car on the entire way to the event and run through my spiel from start to finish. I ignore the fact that it looks like I'm talking to myself.

On a Metro, this could present some challenges, though. You certainly don't want the little men in white coats to come after you. :) Maybe clip on a Bluetooth and pretend you're on the phone?

Mystery Writing is Murder

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Alan - I'm so glad that you brought this topic up, because I think it's a really common challenge that authors face. We're writers, not salesfolk, but when it's time to promote a book, we have to get outside ourselves.

I have a certain advantage, I must admit, in that I've been in higher education for a long time, so I'm used to public speaking. But I still prepare carefully. Like Elizabeth, I practice what I'll say and choose carefully the snippets of my book that I'll read.

If I may suggest...anything you can do to get your audience participating will also get them interested and keep them enjoying what you say (and hopefully, pulling out that ol' checkbook!). One thing I do is ask the audience questions (e.g. "What do you think you might do if you had to [situation a major character faces].?"). One thing I avoid like the proverbial plague is telling jokes and trying to be funny. I was born without the humor chromosone, although I can appreciate a good joke. Any joke I try to tell always sounds forced - not good - so I don't do that. Just my $.02...

Terri Thayer said...

You're funny, Alan. And that goes a long, long way. Leave 'em laughing.

BTW, Joanna Campbell Slan has a great list of public speaking tips on her website.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

You're going to be great, Alan. You're funny and articulate. Just talk to the audience as if you're blogging, but without the ability to edit before posting.

Alan Orloff said...

Elizabeth - I love the Bluetooth idea, although in DC, you can just talk (and yell) to yourself on the streets and no one even looks at you funny.

Margot - Getting the audience involved is a good idea. Maybe I can type out a little speech and get a volunteer to read the whole thing! That way, I can save my energy for signing books :)

Terri - Thanks (and thanks for the tip-off to Joanna's tips). What's that saying? Leave them laughing or leave them crying--just be sure to leave them? (Oh wait, I just made that up.)

Sue Ann - Thanks. If I had one-tenth of your "presence," I wouldn't have a care in the world about public speaking.

Anna Marie said...

I actually don't mind public speaking for some reason. I am afraid of so much, so I find it curious I did not get the fear of public speaking gene. The one piece of advice I just never understood is the one from the Brady Bunch where you're supposed to picture the audience members in their underwear. Sorry, I just find that gross and a bit creepy. So don't do that.

Elspeth Futcher said...

Biggest rule? Don't talk too fast. If you can videotape yourself, I would. You may have habits you may not be aware of. Watch to see if you move your head around too much, or constantly shift your weight from foot to foot.

Audience participation is great, it wakes them up if they have to speak.


Alan Orloff said...

Anna Marie - Usually I take the advice from the Brady Bunch to heart, but I think I agree with you here. Picturing people in their underwear isn't the way to go.

Elspeth - Weird habits? Moi? You mean like seeing if I can touch my nose with my tongue in public? (I can't, by the way.)

Galen Kindley--Author said...

This is a terrific post, Alan, right down to the photo. Nice job. Actually, you sound like you’ve got a great plan. I like it all, especially the getting the audience involved, that always helps. I think you’re a terrifically funny and engaging guy. I’d be shocked if you did anything other than rock the house. As you said, just be yourself and rocking is guaranteed.

Best Regards, Galen

Imagineering Fiction Blog

Fred Thomas said...

Hi Alan,

This should really be fairly easy -- your talking about what you are the world's undisputed expert on.... your book & it is fiction. You should be able to say any outlandish thing and have fun with it. In today's world if you come off as a wing-nut that is even better for sales... Example -- Glen Beck.

Unknown said...

Alan, with your wit and charming disposition I'm SURE you will most definitely ROCK!!

Be sure to let us know how it goes! I'm really anxious to hear about this one!!