Please welcome author Donna Galanti to WU today! Donna, a frequent presenter, is here to share a bounty of tips that promise to make us more comfortable, efficient, and effective presenters. More about her:
Donna is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. She is represented by Bill Contardi of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers The Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna enjoys teaching at conferences on the writing craft and marketing and presenting as a guest author at elementary and middle schools. She also loves building writer community. Check out her 4 Proven Steps to Connect with Readers Right Now (Before Your Book Even Comes Out!).
Prepare to Present with Confidence
As authors, we need to be in the public eye. Often this includes presenting at conferences, being a guest author at conventions, giving school assemblies, doing group author events, and more. Saying YES to these opportunities will force you to get over your public speaking fear. You may even come to enjoy it! Doing public events can also open many new opportunities for you as an author.
I was so nervous the first time I had to give a talk that I didn’t sleep well the night before, I felt nauseous all the way to the event, and my heart raced as I thought, “What if I make a fool of myself?” That was my biggest fear. I’ve come to realize that when all those people are staring at me as I speak that they are there because they want to be there – and are interested in what I have to share.
I’ve come a long way since that first talk to a small group of 35 people at a monthly writer’s group meeting. I’ve given dozens of presentations to groups of 50 to 350, from children to adults. Speaking events are now one of my favorite things to do as an author – and I never thought I would say that!
General tips to prepare:
To prepare for an in-person audience before you even create one, take notes at other presentations you attend. They can be any type of presentation, not just one for writers. Did the presenter have a handout, a PowerPoint, or exercise? Was it quality information in a manageable chunk?
Mimic what worked for you as an attendee to deliver your own passionate, quality presentations. Provide a survey to your audience, gather emails for your newsletter, and follow up with positive responses to request a testimonial.
People love handouts! You can distribute yours after the presentation so they must stay for the duration, but do let them know up front you will be giving one out at the end so they don’t have to take so many notes. I prefer to distribute a handout in the beginning as some people use it as a reference and take notes directly on it.
- Tips to combat anxiety:
- Prepare! (See notes below.)
- Speak slowly and with pauses, especially after questions. This also helps when your mind blanks on the next thing.
- Take deep breaths or a drink of water.
- If you flub up, laugh it off, engage the audience, and then get back on track. People like to know you are human, too.
- Use language to include the audience when asking questions or referring to a point in your slides. For example, ask questions such as “What canwe figure out from this?” or “How did we arrive at this idea?”
- Hold your script or notecards as a prop if you need to — holding something makes me feel more secure — but have practiced your talk enough so you only glance at it now and then.
- Be sure to make contact with the audience around the room. Having people stare at you is unnerving, but remember they are there because they choose to be and are interested in your topic! They are soaking up all your excellent information. You can connect with them through eye contact (or look at foreheads but never the floor or ceiling), gestures with your hands, and asking rhetorical questions (and then answering them).
- Think of your presentation as having a conversation, and be your true self.
- Project your voice, and practice volume, pace, and pitch to make the presentation lively. You will sound more commanding and confident – and feel it. Remember, you are in charge of the room and energy. Be energetic!
- Project confidence with your posture and presence. Standing behind a lectern can put a wall between you and the audience. As you speak, practice walking across the front, standing on the side, or going down the aisles to engage people. Don’t be afraid to wait until people settle down to continue, and move things along if running out of time. People will understand.
- Practice so you can be sure to end on time to allow for the next presenter. If you don’t get through all your content then refer people to the handout (they may not even know you didn’t get through the content). Ask them to contact with you via email with any questions, or if you’re at a conference ask that they connect with you later during the event. Make yourself accessible.
- Smile often!
- Tips to create your presentation: