As someone who effectively spends my whole life presenting ideas to classes, and who is more than accustomed to reading aloud, you wouldn’t think the prospect of doing a public event for my novel would be daunting.
But it is.
Oh, how daunting it is.
The thing is, in this day and age, authors (especially ones such as my almost-self who is at the very start of their hopeful career) cannot escape the publicity machine that is required to make their novels are a success. Readers are much more demanding of their authors than they used to be. As an avid reader, this thrills me. I love that I’ve had the opportunity to see so many of my favourite authors talk (and will see some more at Noirwich this weekend!) and feel really privileged when I’ve had that opportunity. As a new writer, the potential of being on festival panels is so exciting.
Now the reality is here, as I might have mentioned, I’m daunted.
So here’s the advice I give to my students when they’re feeling nervous about giving a speech. Maybe writing it down will help me follow it through!
1. Rehearse, practise, know your stuff
In many ways, performing my own work should make things easier. I wrote it so if my mind muddles up some of the words then it’s only reflecting on me. Should make it easier. Doesn’t really as I’m very conscious of the fact people are spending their time listening to me. So I will rehearse, practise and make sure that I’m giving a confident performance.
2. What’s the worst that can happen?
This is my favourite question to ask my students. Really, I mean really… what’s the worst that can happen? I stumble over some words? People are bored? I fall off the stage? I break down in tears and have to be led sobbing from the microphone? Things are getting scary now! But realistically, I know this stuff isn’t going to happen. And if it does, will the world end? Nope! If people are bored, it’s only for four minutes or so – they can sacrifice themselves for that short period of time.
3. We are our own worse critic
How many times have you ever watched a public speaker and made notes of every time they stumbled over a word? Or had a false start? Or self-repaired? Or repeated or paused or used a filler? We don’t do that to anyone else, why do it to ourselves? Be kind to yourself. No-one else is poring over every error, don’t do it to yourself.
No, really. Don’t forget. Just take a few deep breaths. Breathe throughout. Slow down, take a breath. It’s all fine. It’s four short minutes from your life.