nascentnovelist

July 26, 2011

Practice Public Speaking

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 10:07 am
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Aaron Sorkin, writer of The West Wing and The Social Network, once claimed that he’d be perfectly happy to sit in his room and slip a script out and have someone slip a meal back. That way they’d all think he was as clever as his characters. Before today, I didn’t realize I agreed with that statement.

I got up at 6:20AM to get to CBC Radio Montreal and do a live broadcast about the terrorist attacks in Norway. I have to admit that I didn’t do the best I could. I walked out of the studio feeling like I didn’t get my point across as well as I would have liked, and that I didn’t sound as professional as I could have. That’s not a good feeling and I’m going to take the steps necessary to make sure the first interview for my book will be better.

As writers, we’re encouraged to participate in open mic nights, to read our stories to our friends and aloud to ourselves. Some people also tell you to practice your pitch in the same way. That’s sound advice, but I’d like to take it one step further and advice you to start practicing public speaking. Read the news and formulate your opinions on current events, pretending to be a reporter or an expert. Tape yourself speaking and listen back to it. Note what words you overuse and what words you forget. I, for instance, have a tendency to insert the words “thing,” “stuff” and “like” into every conversation. I also cuss a lot.

Don’t go crazy about it. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t say anything unless you prepared it beforehand, but I do want you to be confident. When you meet a agent or an editor, when your book is launched and the newspapers and local radio want to interview you on your bestseller (because we’ll all get there, I’m sure of it!), I want you to know that you can speak for yourself. Seriously, how bad would you feel if your pitch flew off your tongue, but was followed by mumbling interspersed with cusses?

Things I didn’t know about radio interviews:

1. Hearing how your voice sounds to other people while you speak is unsettling.
2. Having a timer in front of you takes away much needed focus.
3. Not inquiring about what kind of questions they plan to ask before you go in means you might end up saying things like “I don’t think he’s crazy. Well, I mean, he is crazy, but not, um, in Norwegian we’d call it “utilregnelig,” meaning…”
4. Having a glass of water will only make you notice how dry your mouth is whilst simultaneously make you freak out about making slurping noises on air.

I’m happy I went and I hope I adequately represented the Norwegians of Montreal, but next time I’ll come better prepared. Listen to the interview here:Daybreak clip

Do you practice public speaking? Do you have any tips on how to sound professional and intelligent on air?

3 Comments »

  1. I don’t practice public speaking, but I do seem to have an affinity for it. I hadn’t really considered the question until last weekend, when seeing Frank Miller and Joss Whedon back to back presented a startling contrast between writers and eloquent communicators, period. The girlfriend attending the Whedon panel with me was so bored by the preceding panel, she took to reading the news on her phone. It was startling to me to realize that even the most inventive, genius people have very real limitations and constraints on the realms in which they’re able to demonstrate that fully.

    You’ve definitely given me something to think about. I’d like to be more like Joss and less like Frank, if called on to speak.

    Hoping to listen to your clip tomorrow, especially now that I’ve read this! I wonder how my impressions will align with yours.

    Comment by Deborah the Closet Monster — July 26, 2011 @ 6:52 pm | Reply

    • Well, in fairness, I wrote the review before I heard the clip, so I might have been a bit hard on myself (but only a bit). Totally agree with what you say about Joss vs Frank: I’d much rather be the former.

      Comment by nascentnovelist — July 26, 2011 @ 9:37 pm | Reply

    • So, what did you think?

      I’m considering doing a monthly vlog/podcast version of this blog to practice my public speaking. What do you think? Probably talk about writing interspersed with interviews of my writer friends if I can convince them to join me.

      Comment by nascentnovelist — July 28, 2011 @ 12:49 pm | Reply


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