Tag Archives: Public speaking

#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #22


by Lillian Csernica on May 22, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach.

Just get them to fly in formation.

 

And now, a little something from the True Story Archives.

Way back when I was a freshman in high school, my English teacher liked the way I gave my presentations. He had a talk with the coach of the speech and debate team. When my sophomore year started, I joined the team. This proved to be one of the smartest and most beneficial decisions of my life.

Public speaking is the number one phobia for three out of four people. Worse than spiders, worse that going to the dentist, people live in fear of getting up in front of an audience for the purpose of giving a speech. I understand this. When I first started putting together expository speeches and practicing in front of my coach and teammates, the absolute terror of doing a bad job and being laughed at for it was crippling. Knowing that everybody else who was in training shared my fear didn’t make it any easier.

If there’s one thing I can do well, it’s talk. Thanks to my coach training me and my mother, who listened to me practice over and over and over again as I memorized the ten minute speeches I gave, I got past the anxiety in my determination to remember how to use cross-focus, the precise gestures, and the right variations in tone and pitch. Giving a speech is a performance. Maybe I wasn’t doing Shakespeare, but that’s only because I didn’t spend much time in the Dramatic Interpretation event. (I did break Varsity there, but after that I concentrated on my stronger events.)

In my first year of competing at speech tournaments, I went down in flames a number of times. The competition was better, more polished, smoother in their delivery. OK. I just had to work harder. What I also had to do was find my best event. That’s when I discovered Impromptu speaking.

At the junior varsity level, we had five minutes to prepare, then five minutes total for our speech. At varsity level, we had only two minutes to prep. Talk about a strain on the nerves! What we had to base our speeches on varied widely. Most often we were given slips of paper with three famous quotations. We chose one and built our speech around it. At some tournaments, we were given fortune cookies, paper bags that held some random object such as a calculator, or even plastic Easter eggs with the Surprise Topic inside. The event required mental agility, flexibility, a vast pool of random knowledge, and a mastery of the different presentation structures one could use.

The first time I competed in Impromptu, I think I had a full blown anxiety attack. There I was, about to receive my slip of paper with the three subjects on it. With sweaty palms and my heart pounding, I almost had an asthma attack. And then I saw the two words that told me I was home free:

Horror movies.

As I’ve mentioned more than once, my grandfather helped build the set for the laboratory in the original Frankenstein movie with Boris Karloff. I’m a big fan of classic horror movies. The judge for this round was an older gentleman. When I started mentioning names such as Elsa Lanchester from Bride of Frankenstein and Lon Chaney from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, apparently I won the judge’s respect as well as his vote. His comments on the voting card I received after the tournament reflected his approval of someone my age (fifteen at the time), knowing those names.

Once I learned to get my butterflies flying in formation and overcame my fear of public speaking, I acquired a skill that has helped me in every aspect of my life.

 

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Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, classics, doctors, Fiction, Halloween, historical fiction, Horror, Lillian Csernica, nature, science fiction, steampunk, Writing

The Best Proof of Success


by  Lillian Csernica on June 10, 2015

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My mother lives in a retirement community.  There are lots of activities, from day trips to the monthly party for all the people who have a birthday in that particular month to a variety of classes and groups.  This coming Saturday, the organizer of the Writers’ Group has invited a special guest speaker.  Care to guess who that speaker might be?

That’s right.  I will show up with my Shameless Self-Promotion Kit, talk a bit about my work, and then explain how the techniques of fiction are quite useful when writing a memoir.

I got over being nervous in front of an audience a long time ago.  I joined my high school’s Speech and Debate Team as a sophomore, then competed on my college team.  Attending conventions such as RadCon, Clockwork Alchemy, and BayCon as a guest speaker has kept my public speaking skills polished.

Now here’s the weird part.  As I contemplate my presentation for this Writers’ Group, made up of people my mother knows and who all live in the same retirement community, I’m getting flashbacks to various moments in my childhood and teenage years when Mom wanted me to show off my latest accomplishment for neighbors or co-workers.  My mother has always been an avid photographer, probably because she grew up helping my grandfather in his professional photography studio.  This means Mom has a lot of blackmail material about me at age six dressed as a little gray mouse for a dance recital, or competing in swimming races during the summer when I was in grade school, or when I started working as a professional belly dancer.

So on Saturday I will stand up in front of my mother’s friends and tell them about my career as a professional writer.  I’ll have copies of Ship of Dreams and some of the anthologies where my stories have appeared.  My credentials are solid.

So why am I starting to feel nervous?  Why do I have that old familiar feeling of wanting to make Mom proud of me?  There’s nothing strange about that, of course.  There is, however, a big difference between having that feeling when you’re six or sixteen, and feeling it when you’re pushing fifty.  I know my mother is proud of me.  That’s why the people where she lives know what I do for a living.  And yet, part of me still wants to look out across the audience and see her sitting there, smiling and nodding.

Seeing my byline in print is great.  Getting paid real money for it is even better.  Still, there’s nothing like knowing I’ve made my mother proud of me.

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Filed under Conventions, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, memoirs

Why Writers Need Public Speaking Skills


by Lillian Csernica on November 14, 2013

The smartest thing I ever did in high school was joining the Speech and Debate Team.  I talk a lot anyway, always have, so it made sense to harness a natural skill and train it so I could apply my speaking skills in the most useful ways possible.  Besides, I like trophies.  Wave one of those in front of me and it’s a powerful motivator.

Writers use their verbal skills on paper.  Sure, we talk to each other, brainstorming and talking shop in the coffeehouse or via Skype or on our cells.  Many of us prefer the wonders of technology as a buffer between us and other people, even our friends.  Face to face encounters can be a real strain.  Why?  Speaking for myself, I can’t handle more than a certain level of noise pollution.  There are restaurants I avoid not because the food isn’t good but because the interior design makes the acoustics painful.  Also, there are some people I know whom I enjoy a great deal, but I can be in their physical presence for only a limited time.  Some people just wear me out.  As extroverted as I am, when I’ve hit my limit, I go into my office and shut the door and hole up in my private sanctuary.  I’m sure you can relate.

In our brave new world of e-books and G+ hangouts and podcasts and other means of transmitting interviews, writers don’t have to stand up in front of live audiences to do their self-promotion.  That’s fine, but it’s also very limiting.  If you’re successful and you build a following, sooner or later you’re going to have to leave your sanctuary, get out there and do a local author reading at the library, a book signing, maybe even a book tour.  Since I work mainly in fantasy and romance, I have the advantage of attending SF/F cons.  I haven’t been to any Romance Writers of America gatherings yet, but that’s been a problem with logistics, not motivation.

When you meet your public, you will be doing public speaking.  Even if you’re just sitting in the conference room at the library, or behind a table in a bookstore, you’re still “onstage,” so to speak.  Being on panel discussions at conventions calls for public speaking skills in the truest sense.  Yes, I know this terrifies some people.  Studies have shown that many people fear public speaking more than they fear going to the dentist or even death itself.  When I started out on the Speech Team as a sophomore in high school, I was quite nervous.  I had a good coach, I knew my topics, and believe me, I practiced for hours.  Still, the fight or flight response pumped me full of adrenalin.  So I do understand.

Now I’m going to indulge in some naked bragging here.  During my senior year on the Speech Team, I won fifteen trophies, ten of which were First Place.  I went on to participate on the Speech and Debate Team at my local junior college.  By the end of my second year there, I’d won three gold medals at the state level, and two gold, one silver, and one bronze at the national level.  I retired Number One in California and Number Five in the entire U.S.

Why am I telling you this?  Because public speaking is your friend.  Once you get over the initial anxiety and learn the secrets, you can actually have a good time at it.  Don’t take my word for it.  I happened across an article that inspired me to write this post:

Six Psychological Secrets To Public Speaking

I have a good time at conventions for several reasons, but one of the most important is that I really enjoy being on panel discussions and swapping ideas with other writers.  The audiences are made up of highly intelligent, widely read, and often opinionated fans who are a pleasure to meet and who have a lot to contribute.  I’m often the moderator on panels because I’m comfortable with the role and I can direct the discussion so every panelist gets his or her share of speaking time.  More than once this has taken the load off the assigned moderator who really did not want the job.  That person might have been more of an expert on the panel topic, but the fear of public speaking made that person want to hang back. Understandable, but self-defeating.  For writers, conventions and other public appearances are all about self-promotion.  You want to project confidence in yourself and your work.

One really good way to get some experience with public speaking is to join your local chapter of Toastmasters.  They have an excellent training program and they’re all about being supportive of the people who want to learn what they have to teach.

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Filed under Awards, Conventions, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Horror, Humor, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Writing