Friday, October 23, 2009

And The Speaker Is...

Some years ago, I sat on a committee that oversaw extra activities for the company’s employees. My special activity was the Toastmasters meetings. I didn’t join in the meeting itself, but mainly attended a few times, making myself available for questions or complaints from the members.

I found so much of what they did fascinating. At each meeting, two or three members would stand up and give a speech about anything. It could be about the best method of mowing their grass to the last time they went deer hunting. After the speech the others members would give critiques, such as whether the speaker used “ahs” or stared down at a sheet of paper or read from notes or slouched, etc. Of course, they also mentioned positives like speaking clearly and at the right tone, smiling (unless it’s a sad or negative subject) and using moderate hands movements.

You know me and lists. Something to keep in mind.
1) Be prepared and know the subject. Practice your speech.
2) Show enthusiasm for what you’re talking about. Smile. You will be surprised how it will relax you. The crowd will be attentive as they want to know what has gotten you so excited.
3) Stand up straight. Not scared stiff, but more of "I’m so proud to be standing in front of you."
4) Don’t play with your notes. The audience will watch your hands instead of your face. That’s not good.
5) Pretend you’re talking with a roomful of friends. They want to hear what you have to say so they can learn something.

You’re asking, why am I telling you all this? I believe as writers, there may come a time someone will ask you to stand up and talk about your book or your special way to plot or whatever strength you possess. You better be prepared. I recommend either joining the Toastmasters or purchasing a book about the subject.

To promote your books, you want to present yourself in the best light. If a speaker rambles on, tells you nothing and varies from high to low tones with lots of ahs, would you wonder about her writing? I would.

Just warning you...LOL!

Side note about practicing your speech: My lunch buddies at work have heard a few of my speeches and they probably know more about writing now than they ever dreamed of.


Christine said...

Great post. My dad was a TOASTMASTER. I took the Dale Carnegie course years ago and loved it.

I recently had to present the MAGGIE award to the winner in the published category mirroring mine. I didn't feel nervous at all because of that background.

What a nice dream: to one day speak about our PUBLISHED life.

Jeanie said...

This is also good advice to prepare you for pitching your novel to agents and editors! You have to know your stuff, be enthusiastic, smile and look them in the eye. You've only four or five minutes to sell yourself and your manuscript and you'd better be prepared, energetic and dynamic. Good post!

Carla Swafford said...

Thanks, Christine and Jeanie.

Callie James said...

My mother was in Toastmistress for years.

Public speaking is one of those things I need to do but don't plan to any time soon. I need to wash my hair first. Clean the windows. Write a few more books.


Louisa Cornell said...

I've been fortunate in my life to spend a lot of time performing in public. Of course I'd much rather go onstage to sing than to speak, but I've done both. My fellow singers and I would stand backstage ready to do one of two things - pass out, or throw up. Not just the first time, or the first ten times, but EVERY time. Then the orchestra would start the overture and it all went away. Like you said, it was something we loved and something we wanted to share with others. The same can be said of our writing. We love it and we want to share it. That thought might make it easier when the time comes to give that big speech - hopefully accepting a RITA !!

Christine said...

Callie: you could speak in public, I know it... or lead a group and teach them and motivate them if it is about writing. When we talk about what we love, we do talk well.

Louisa: I am so in awe of your singing background. I wish I had that talent. I wish you all the best and hope you do get to give your RITA speech THIS YEAR at the NATIONALS. Woot...

Callie James said...

Christine, I actually won best speaker in my high school speech class. My fear of speaking now is because my lack of memory these days. I'm often in mid-sentence and forget what I'm talking about. Put me in front of a crowd when this happens and it would be worse than anything I can think of, truly.

I've had so many embarrassing moments in my life. I just don't want to add to the long list. But you're right. Eventually if I want to succeed as a writer, I need to do the public speaking thing.


Christine said...

Callie: i forget what i am saying all the time--hormones! AACK--hence my love of index cards and notes on them. But worse, i mix up nouns now--i never know what i am going to say in my perimenopausal moments LOL.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Excellent advice, Carla. My husband and I were in Toastmasters for three years and got our Competent Toastmaster award (the first level). I loved it!

When I was an undergrad, I would race through my speeches and not even remember giving them. By the time I went to grad school (post Toastmasters), I was able to give a speech at graduation in front of several hundred people, and be in the moment, totally aware (still nervous, though). It was unbelievable.

I'm a firm believer that public speaking skills are valuable no matter what you do, and the confidence you gain is empowering.

M.V.Freeman said...

I don't like to speak in public. In fact, I'd rather stick a fork in my eye (Yes, Christine, I got that from you!)

But I have spoken. I am not at ease, but I can survive it.

Two thumbs up Carla, I think you are very comfortable speaking. :)

Carla Swafford said...

Thanks, Callie, Louisa, Gwen and Mary.