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.


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.)

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.


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