Saturday, 28 July 2012

Public Speaking Events, Ahhhh!

Recently, I told my marketing manager: "If you would have told me a year ago that I would be doing school presentations, library visits, book signings, and live radio interviews, I would have told you that you were crazy."

You see, I am not one of those naturally calm public speakers that engages an audience. In fact, I have more of a tendency to run away from being the center of attention in a crowd.

My fear of public speaking goes back to my childhood. I was an extremely shy child and mostly only spoke to my parents, sister, and grandparents.

My first day of grade one: my mom, my grandma, and my teacher all trying to pry me off the classroom doorknob. I was winning for quite awhile, but eventually, they did get me off the doorknob and sitting in a classroom desk. The whole class was laughing. I was not laughing. I vowed to never speak again, well until supper, anyway.

 I don't know why I was so terrified of being in front of a crowd, or even around a crowd, but I was. I was the kid in the school play that was frozen, mouth agape, eyes bulging. You know, you've all seen that kid and probably wondered, what the heck is wrong with that kid? Sheer terror, I tell you.

What was going to happen if I said the wrong lines or did the wrong actions? Was I going to be sucked into some kind of dumb-kid vortex where all the unable-to-speak, frozen kids from the earth were kept?  Then hoping my parents could rescue me from this dumb-kid vortex, and assuming they wanted to rescue me, how long would I be in this frozen-kid vortex?

 And another question I had: why are all those other kids able to say their line, dance, do what they were asked to in front of a crowd and not seem scared? The answer--they were not real kids, they were robots! I was sure of it.

Some of these robots were my friends. But my good friends were really non-robots acting as robots for the benefit of parents and teachers.

Ahha! Soon, the answer came to me. I had an acting problem, not really a fear-of-crowds problem at all. Intent on fixing my fear-of-crowds problem I focused on my acting lessons.

My main and only acting pal was my younger sister. I would make up the situations and plot the adventures. She really would go along with all my senerios as long as she could wear her cowboy suit. This didn't quite fit into my princess/prince stories (which all the plots were), but with a little imagination on my part, she was a fine prince. She listened to me.

Same plot, different day: I was a princess in distress, she was my hero prince about to rescue me.

One day, I took the plotting too far (or so my mother said). My sister was to jump from the edge of the roof and spring on top of the imaginary, nasty villian that was trying to kidnapp me. She played her part perfectly, her flight from the roof was spectacular--all except for the part about breaking her arm.

According to our parents, my acting lessons were over. Indefinitely.


Well, to me, indefinitely meant moving my plays deeper into the forest, where we had more privacy. I thank my sister for all the years of helping me with my acting lessons, that in turn have helped me to become a better plotter, a better writer.


As an adult, I have found a  few things that help me prepare before a public speaking event:  a 10 minute session of  deep breathing before I have to engage a crowd, and visualization meditation such as Kundalini the morning of the event. If these things fail, a big yell outside the building you are about to enter does wonders too, although this does make you look unstable and ridiculous. Use this last technique with caution.


In the last several months since my first book's released, I have participated in several public events. A couple of crowds were nearing 100 people. They always clap and some buy my book. Whether they are clapping because they liked the presentation or they are giving encouragement to the stunned, horrified looking adult on the stage, I don't know.


 But book signings, presentations, school and library visits, will all become a big part of an author's promotion of their book. It's something an author must do.


The good news is, it does seem to get easier each time I do an event. Maybe it is something, like all things new, we learn with time.


My first author event was a book signing in Maui, Dec. 4, 2011,
at Maui Grown Coffee House. This is me with the owner, Jeff.