Author Events and Public Speaking

Confession: I hate public speaking.

The few readings I’ve done have been preceded by me telling my husband that fiction writers shouldn’t be expected to talk in front of other people, and that public speaking is a bizarre form of hazing. Nothing bad has happened–usually things go well–but they still make me nervous.

For the next one, I’m definitely going to reread Cynthia Leitich Smith’s post about how to handle public speaking events and potential problems like hecklers, not having enough time, and small turnout. Lots of really helpful advice and great anecdotes. I especially like her suggestion for how to politely respond to awkward or obnoxious questions.

Also, something very important to keep in mind about all kinds of author events:

“Say thank you, no matter what. The vast majority of children’s-YA book event planners are volunteers and among the most formidable champions of your field.”

Public speaking can be overwhelming, but it’s really helpful to keep in mind that the people planning and attending the events love these books. They’re not out to get you or make you feel awkward. They want to listen to you speak because you make something they love. And then you get to talk to them, too, and engage with them about their own reading and writing experiences. How cool is that?

4 thoughts on “Author Events and Public Speaking

  1. Annie,
    Thanks for the link to Cynthia’s post. Great stuff. I work in an indie bookstore in Michigan and wrote a similar post about what things and author can do to have a successful in-store event (http://joshmosey.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/bookstore-symbiosis-planning-a-successful-in-store-author-event/). I hope you overcome your dislike of public speaking and that the crowds that come to your events are large but personable. Thanks for writing!

    • Thanks Josh! Your post is fantastic. I especially like: “Even if people didn’t show up for the event, the card will reinforce your brand and help retailers to sell your books by giving them a pleasant talking-point with customers.” Another reason not to be terrified by the idea of no one showing up.

      • You’d be surprised at some of the big name authors who have had no one show up. In spite of all the marketing efforts, sometimes it just happens.

  2. Great article, thanks for posting!

    Make sure to practice early and often. Practicing at home in front of a mirror can help you with your body language. Do whatever it takes to become comfortable with what you have to say. Being familiar with your speech is a necessity, but memorizing or reading from written material is not. Instead of reading your whole speech when you are at the podium, make a list of points that will remind you of each subject that you plan to cover. It is always a good idea to personalize your speech, and discuss personal stories that will hold the attention of the audience. Also remember to pace yourself, and speak slowly and steadily so that you are understood by everyone in the room.

    http://publicspeakingcourage.net/

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