Writing fiction doesn’t necessarily require me to speak, but being editor of FundsforWriters.com does. Writing conferences ask me to participate at events across the country, and while speaking did not come easily for me, I soon learned how to manage. Before long, I developed tricks and a keen sense of the dynamics of a room full of people. I soon learned who and what to ignore in that audience, and to save your sanity and self-esteem, you should, too.
Just like you cannot write a book that pleases everyone, you will not please everyone in a room when you are speaking. If you speak more than a few times, you’ll soon develop pet peeves, but you can also develop a thick skin in dealing, or ignoring, them.
1. Someone will walk in late.
Don’t worry about them. Life happens, and especially at a conference, audience members find themselves lost in conversations, caught on phone calls, and wrapped up in special talks with agents and editors. Don’t stare at them. Instead, turn your attention to another part of the room so the late entrant isn’t embarrassed. Your audience pays attention to where you are focused.
2. Someone will get up and leave early.
I’ve done it several times. When a conference has multiple speakers at once,
I’ve entered a room, started listening to a speaker, then realized this was not a subject I needed. Rather than waste the time of both the speaker and myself, I quietly slipped out and stealthfully slid into another session. Frankly, any seasoned speaker is calloused to the comings and goings of the audience and should never miss a beat as it happens. Never take it personally. Again, you can’t be all things to all people.
3. Someone will fall asleep.
I chuckle at this one, because in a sea of people, the one dozing often thinks
nobody notices. A speaker has a fantastic vantage point to see everything and anything. When I recognize more than one head nodding, I take that as a warning that I need to step up my game. My voice changes, or I skip to another topic that’s more captivating. Instead of being insulted by some sleepyhead, consider it a wakeup call for you. But if the room is thoroughly engaged with you, ignore the napper. He apparently needs his rest.
4. Someone will talk.
If friends sit together, they’ll inevitably chat. Most are polite enough to limit the back-and-forth, but if they aren’t, change something. Speak louder. Make a sudden shift in topic. Move across the room. Ask a question of the crowd. Speak with your attention on them. Chances are the friends aren’t trying to be rude. They might even be discussing what you just emphasized, sharing an example that pertains to your point. But with a little shift, you can draw their attention back to you so they don’t bother their neighbors with their talk.
Audiences don’t always behave. But you don’t have to let them ruin your presentation. Understanding that someone won’t go along with the norm empowers you to keep your momentum going so everyone has a better experience, including the ones breaking the rules.
C. Hope Clark travels the country speaking at writers conferences, promoting not only FundsforWriters.com, her award winning website for writers, but also her Carolina Slade Mystery Series. She just released a new book, The Shy Writer Reborn, that covers topics like speaking, enabling the introvert to develop a platform and remain true to herself. You can find where Hope will next speak by visiting www.chopeclark.com . Also consider visiting www.fundsforwriters.com , voted 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writers Digest Magazine for the past twelve years.