Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Marvin Wilson Talks Public Speaking

I am on vacation and good friend, author and blogger Marvin Wilson has agreed to expound on one of my favorite topics, public speaking, in my absence. I often say that speaking (and teaching) the number one ways to promote one's book and one's writing career. Here is Marv's expert take:

On Becoming a Public Speaker
It’s All About Faith, Belief, and Works

By Marvin Wilson

Today we are talking about public speaking. While becoming a public speaker is not absolutely necessary, many authors have gone on to fame and fortune while remaining reclusive hermits, it is one of the most effective ways of making large advances in self promotion and marketing in your writing career. So. Let’s assume you have already decided, you’re going to do it. You’re going to book TV and radio talk shows and interviews, get booths at markets and fairs to sell your stuff, do book signings, give talks at libraries, church socials and other social groups and clubs, teach a class, give a speech at someone else’s class on your subject of expertise, you’re going to line up a whole roster of events and appearances. But for some there is still one problem.

You are scared (bleep)less!

Have no fear, your edifying friend Marvin is here! What was it Winston Churchill said? “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh, I know, I know, easier said than done. Nice rhetoric, but how am I supposed to overcome my fear of public speaking by quoting some famous deceased statesman? I break out in hives at the mere thought of being in front of a room full of people. Been that way all my life.

Well, waa, waa, waa … get over it. Look, you have to do this. And, you can do it. I believe in you. You’ve written a book. That means you’re a talented person. It means you are intelligent. You can reason, reflect, speculate, consider, calculate, work your craft, and make informed choices. It’s time to choose to get over your fear of public speaking. Right now.

Now, if you’ve never so much as introduced yourself in front of a Sunday school class before, I’m not proposing you start off with a keynote address to a national convention of thousands of people. That would be psychological and emotional suicide. No, I’m suggesting you set yourself up to succeed. Start small. Baby steps. There’s a personal development technique I learned years ago called “stepping outside your comfort zone.”

We all have a comfort zone (let’s acronym it for brevity here – CZ). We have a CZ for noise, for proximity of strangers, for habitat, for temperature, for love and intimacy, for financial security - for every aspect of our lives, we establish CZ’s and love to stay within them, hanging onto our security blankets, contained within our little circles, our bubbles of coziness, as if we’ll get eaten alive by rabies-infested hobgoblins if we dare to step outside our warm and fuzzy CZ’s.

Well, you know what? Your CZ’s are exactly what is holding you back from busting loose, from getting free, from becoming all that you can be. That entire whole being that God and the universe intends and wants you to be. So, start moving (carefully at first) out of your CZ. You don’t want to leap way out of your CZ intitally, because you will probably get burned and your resulting gun-shyness will cause your CZ to shrink as a result. Diminishing returns. Trust me, I know, that’s what happens in most cases. (Been there) There are rare exceptions, people who are natural born quantum leapers. Only you can know if that cosmic shoe fits. I recommend for most of us, that we take baby steps. Here are some ideas.

Join your local Toastmasters. This is excellent training with people exactly where you are at. Take a class at your local junior college or university on public speaking. Stand up in front of your family gatherings, get everyone’s attention, and pronounce to them all that you have just published a book and then tell them why it is so great and why they should not only support a family member with their purchase, but also talk you and your profferings up to their friends and co-workers and encourage them to do themselves a favor by obtaining some of your books also. Do some networking and form a local social group of people just like you who want to overcome their fears and get out of their CZ on speaking. Meet weekly and give presentations to each other and give constructive critiques of each other’s performances. Invite a professional speaker you know to come to your meeting, give a talk, and then listen to yours and share his or her knowledge with you and critique your speeches. This is all safe stuff! Nobody gets hurt … well not too much – a little pain is going to be necessary. As the old Zen saying goes, ‘No pain, no gain.’ But it’s worth it. You will grow and gain in confidence as a result of making yourself vulnerable to the candid and honest opinions of those who care about you.

An interjection is apropos here.

Those jitters? The stage fright? That queasiness in your stomach? It never goes away. For some more than others it will to some degree, but for all performers worth their salt, there is always an element of nervousness before a performance. It means you care. Get used to it and get over it. It’s actually good for you. Adrenalin rushes through your body – it peaks your attention, your awareness. Your nerve endings are tingling – great. You are sooooo alive! Barbara Streisand, arguably one of the greatest singers of all time, used to literally throw up before every performance. She would puke. Then she’d collect herself, go out and mesmerize her audience with her dazzle, her maxi, her fabulous talent. The moral of this interjection? Your fears are your best friend. Embrace them. Thank them, and use them to your advantage. Do you know what the difference between a coward and a hero is? A coward is afraid and runs away. A hero is also afraid, but pushes on anyway. Okay, let’s move on.

Next step? All right, your precious little circle of comfort, your CZ has been “stretched” – it’s bigger now. Now stretch it out some more. You follow my drift? Whenever you’ve achieved a larger CZ, push it out a little further. From toastmaster and freshman class courses and speaking to friends, family and church/social club/class members, you go on to requesting to speak to a local meeting of the AARP or the AA, or the MAD, or the (fill in the blank with whatever fits your genre/demographic and area of expertise) – step out and start speaking to people who don’t know you. Big step. But not so big you can’t handle it after all the preparation you’ve done.

Get comfortable with that CZ, then stretch your CZ some more. Repeat the cycle, over and over, until you are no longer comfortable being comfortable.

Repeat those last seven words to yourself. Absorb them.

Repeat them again. Absorb them some more. Meditate more on them. Now personalize it.

I am no longer comfortable being comfortable.

There is no growth in comfort, do you understand? If you are not moving forward, you are falling back. Stagnation is regression, because your competition is always moving forward. The world stops for no one.

Eventually, if you commit to this regimen of personal growth, you will be confident enough to appear on live TV and be interviewed on live radio, to speak with authority in front of hundreds. But keep pushing, keep stretching. Never let your CZ hold you back from the next stage of growth. Set your goal right now to one day be the keynote speaker at that national convention in front of thousands that we talked about (in fear) earlier. Picture it. Visualize it. You are there. You deliver your speech; you receive a standing ovation, sign three hundred fifty hundred copies of your purchased books afterwards, and have invitations to speak all across the nation (and around the world) from thenceforth. Can you believe it? If you can believe it, if you really own it and are willing to do whatever it takes, stepping out of your comfort zone every time it gets too “comfortable,” it will happen.

It’s all about faith, belief, and works.
Contact Information:
Blog: http://theoldsilly.comTwitter page: page:

Marvin’s books can be purchased at:
I Romanced the Stone -
Owen Fiddler -
Between the Storm and the Rainbow -

Read reviews of Marvin’s books at:

And watch the Owen Fiddler book trailer at:
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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