READ IN PUBLIC? WHO ME?
By Natasha YimRecently, I presented my new book Sacajawea of the Shoshone (Goosebottom Books, 2012) at the Sonoma County Book Festival. I even dressed as Sacajawea for the occasion. My stomach churned uncontrollably. I kept telling myself: “Get a grip! You’ve done this before. You know her story. Why are you so nervous?”
When I had my first reading and signing at a book store for my first picture book, Otto’s Rainy Day (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000), I was petrified! I had to ask my brother-in-law to read the book! School visits were even more terrifying. Speaking in front of 50, 100, 150 kids? Forget it. I avoided doing school visits for the longest time. I’ve come a long way. I’ve done quite a few public speaking engagements now and managed to have fun at most of them. And even though I can read my own books and get to the stage without stumbling, the nervousness never goes away.
So, here are a few tips about public speaking I’ve learned on my way to the podium. They may not make you a great orator, but it’ll help you manage your sweaty palms, hammering heart, and the urge to throw up all over your audience.
1. The only way to get a handle on your fear of public speaking is to just DO IT. Over...and over...and over again. The more you do, the less terrifying it becomes (note I’m not saying you won’t be terrified, I’m saying you’ll be less terrified).
2. Don’t think sales or marketing. Yes, you’re putting yourself out there and forcing yourself into this misery called public speaking because, in part, you’re promoting your book. But ultimately, what you’ll get the most joy and satisfaction from is connecting with your audience.
3. Use visuals. Power Point...best invention, ever! Actually, I have an Apple computer, so I use Keynotes which is more intuitive than Power Point, but you can include fun graphics and pictures, make them move across the page, shimmer or sparkle. Kids love the little airplane icon that flies across the map of the world from South East Asia to California when I talk about my childhood and journey to the US. You can enlarge the pages you’re reading from so they can see the illustrations better. And it takes the focus off of you as the speaker. When and if Power Point isn’t feasible, copy, blow up and laminate images, illustrations and graphics that relate to your book. Tip: pictures of pets are always a great hit.
4. Go with the flow. Sometimes, you’ll appear at an event and you’ll have one person in the audience or none at all, or the bookstore owner didn’t order enough books (or as the case may be—any books). I’ve turned book events into one-on-one chats (hey, she took the time to come), or signed free bookmarks for the attendees who didn’t want or couldn’t afford to buy the book. Make your time worthwhile, no matter how small.
5. Have a sense of humor. A friend of mine presented her book for ages 9 - 13 at an event where most of the kids who came were barely in pre-school, and the Q & A segment went something like this: “When is the skater lady going to be here?” (Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi was also scheduled to read her children’s book that day). You never know, those embarrassing moments could be the start of a new book! At any rate, they’ll make great stories to tell your grandkids...or your writer friends...who then put it in a blog post...
Connect with Natasha on her website: www.natashayim.com
Her blog: www.writerslife2.blogspot.com (You can find the next stops on her blog tour in the sidebar.)
and check out the fan pages for Sacajawea of the Shoshone and Cixi, The Dragon Empress.
And if you're in the bay area, Goosebottom Books will be launching Sacajawea of the Shoshone and 2 other fall releases (Njinga, The Warrior Queen, and Horrible Hauntings) at Reach and Teach bookstore, San Mateo, on Oct. 27, 4 pm. Come join us for a Halloween-themed book party with scary treats, a scariest reading contest (the audience gets to pick the scariest reader), book readings and enter the best Sacajawea look-alike contest. More details on Natasha's blog to come.