Speak Up!

Have you ever stood before a group of people to say a few words and felt your heart hammering against your ribs, your hands damp as a dreary day on the coast or your knees knocking like castanets? I have, far more times than I care to remember.

I’ve discovered a tool to help me survive—and thrive—in such situations. It could help you, too.

ACT – That’s the acronym for my three-step plan to reduce the fear of public speaking.

A: Assume an Alter Ego

C: Clothe Yourself with Confidence

T: Think About Them, Not You

Long before I learned to ACT, I landed a role in Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream—my one and only venture into drama. I was in sixth grade. Since I was the smallest girl in my class, I was picked to be Puck, the fairy.

The experience was so traumatic that I’ve blocked out most of it. What I do remember is standing on stage in my mother’s filmy nightgown and completely blanking on my lines. It was one of those mouth-moving, no-sound-coming-out moments of utter humiliation.

I didn’t know a thing back then about handling myself before an audience.

I had to learn to ACT.

And now let’s look at the first step.

A: Assume an Alter Ego

When I go to a writer’s conference these days, interview someone for an article or give a speech, I become another person. I leave Shy Keli at home. Instead I reach deep inside, pull out the best of myself and present that to the world. I call my alter ego Courageous Keli. She talks to people, carries herself well and has a good time.

You might be wondering how I make this shift. That’s step two.

C: Clothe Yourself with Confidence

I have certain clothes that make me look and feel my best. They’re what I wear when I want to bolster my confidence.

Another thing I do when I go to a conference or meeting is perform a ritual beforehand. As I put on my nametag, I think to myself: OK, you’re Courageous Keli now, and she can do this.

And then, I move on to step three.

T: Think About Them, Not You

I used to worry about what I was going to say to people.
And then I learned a technique that takes the focus off me.

Let the other person do the talking.

How?

Just ask someone a question about himself, and, viola, the conversation is underway. He’s happy because he’s talking about his favorite subject. You can relax because he’s not even thinking about you.

* * *

So there you have it: three steps for overcoming paralysis at the podium.

The next time you go to a writers conference, workshop or writers group and face the daunting task of addressing an audience, don’t panic. ACT!

I invite you to leave a comment and share your tips for dealing with fear of public speaking. (Note that the link is at the top of the post by the title.)

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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3 Responses to Speak Up!

  1. Tatia says:

    Thanks, Keli!

    Off to find clothing to fit my new “Articulate Tatia” persona. Do you think she’d wear pink?

  2. Anne Barton says:

    Thanks for the tips, Keli. Being part of this fun, supportive group helps to calm the nerves too. It’s really hard to fret when you’re laughing. 🙂

  3. Keli, these are GREAT tips! I always trip over my tongue and insert foot into mouth, so I am going to give these three steps a serious try at conference. I want to be FEARLESS… and I always like to ask others about themselves…much more interesting to talk about them rather than me.

    Thanks!

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