In 2004 I made a goal to do something scary every month. Something that challenges me. I haven't been particularly good about following through on that goal, but periodically I try. This year, with that goal in the back of my mind, I enrolled in a professional development class at College of DuPage on "Effective Presentation Skills".
Public speaking terrifies me. I mean turn to jelly and feel my heart race. Cold sweat. Mind goes blank.
I've always avoided jobs that put me in front of people. Hence the newspaper jobs and the technical writing. Lately, I've decided that I'm tired of being limited by that silly fear of public speaking, especially if I want to get out there and promote myself as a writer. If a non-credit, four-week class can teach me a few strategies for dealing with my fear, then it's worth the agony.
Surprisingly, the class hasn't been so bad.
Week 2's assignment was a 5-10 minute demonstration speech. My presentation was about 7 minutes on clicker training a dog to do a trick. Audience response and feedback were excellent.
Week 3's assignment was a 2-3 minute intruduction of a speaker or product. I pretended we were at a romance writers conference and I was introducing a workshop. Again, I had excellent audience response and feedback.
Positive comments from both assignments have far outweighed the areas of improvement. People in the class say: I have a good podium presence with nice eye contact and natural posture and hand gestures; my subjects have been interesting and well organzied, with good use of props and handouts where appropriate; and my voice quality has been relaxed, strong and clear.
However, I do need to slow down a bit, eliminate the one or two "ums" that sneak in, and remember to breathe and smile.
I must be better at hiding my nervousness than I thought.
Now, we're on to Week 4's assignment, which is a 12-15 minute informational speech using Power Point.
My topic is still undecided. I think I want to do something about the Romance industry, probably using some of the reader stats RWA has compiled. But my husband pointed out that I could do a historical subject also - something utilizing my research for the book.