Being an author can be one of the most rewarding yet toughest jobs you’ll ever do. My friends and family always laugh when I tell them, “I’m going into the cave.” They know that means I’ll be writing, phone off, no contact with the outside world until I meet that day’s deadline, which is usually two-thousand words. On the other hand, a large part of an author’s life is putting yourself out there and interacting with the public.
Finding Your Inner Extrovert
It can be tough to switch gears from introspective, quiet writing mode to being “on” whether for an intimate book signing, media interview, speaking engagement, webinar, social media posting, or even simply chatting with readers or fellow writers at a conference or convention. Engaging any audience and making a real connection takes courage and commitment, and sometimes, it can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re naturally shy or more reserved. Honestly, it’s even hard sometimes when you’re an extrovert because writing is also such a private experience, and then, to open up about it to strangers, and be comfortable and confident when you do, well, that’s a tall order for anyone, no matter how gregarious you might be.
I’ve been writing and speaking for over twenty-years, and I’ve learned some techniques along the way to help me, as my favorite drama teacher would say, “find my center.” You’d be surprised, that despite how much I enjoy interacting with an audience, there have been moments when I was nervous and uncertain, wishing I was back in the cave facing that blank page again rather than all those eyes looking at me expectantly. Here are a few of those tips and techniques to help you prep before any gig and be as grounded and present as possible. I hope you’ll find them as useful as I have.
Speaking Tips for Authors
The Body Check
Find a quiet spot, close your eyes, and let your awareness move down your body. Start with your head, then your chest, your core, your arms and legs, your feet. Concentrate on letting go of tension. Also, be cognizant of your “body language.” No crossed arms or hands in your pockets. Envision the word “open.” And enjoy knowing that in a few moments, you’ll be changing lives.
If you start to second-guess yourself or get a case of the pre-presentation jitters, close your eyes, and imagine breathing in trust and breathing out fear. As you inhale, visualize the trust as a stream of light pouring down into you from above like a faucet filling you with strength and confidence. As you exhale, visualize the fear as darkness being released from your body through your feet into the ground.
It’s best not to eat a heavy meal before media interviews or author appearances. There’s nothing worse than feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Eat light but smart. I always recommend grazing (eating three to five small meals) and bringing a light snack like raw nuts or a protein bar that you can nibble on during a break.
My go-to is yoga attire. I usually choose the subtle cross-over styles that allow you to go from yoga studio to office and don’t even look like yoga clothes. Whatever you choose to wear, these are the typical clothing distractions to avoid: bras in which the straps are constantly falling; anything that’s too tight and restricts movement; shoes that hurt or heels that are too high; pants or skirts that constantly require adjusting. Bottom line, wear something that you can move in, that you don’t have to fuss with, and that you’re not conscious of having to fix. Loose, comfortable clothing, fabrics that breathe, shoes that allow you to be on your feet pain free. One last tip on attire—dress in layers to adjust for temperature variances in the room.
You Don’t Have to Be Perfect, Just Perfectly Present
As long as you’re in the moment with people connecting on a human level, you can go back to something you may have missed or correct a mistake. The key is to be fully present and engaged.
Keep It Real
Let your personality shine through. Be unabashedly, honestly and fearlessly you.
And always remember, you’re an author now. That’s a huge accomplishment. Enjoy every moment.