by Melissa Kline
|Mingling with guests at the "Speaking Your Truth" book launch celebration.|
I was meant to speak...no, I was born to speak. Okay, NEVER thought I’d say that, but the more it keeps turning up in my life and the more I practice public speaking, the more I realize it is a huge piece that I have been missing. I have been denying myself this beautiful gift simply because of fear. I have been hiding.
I didn't realize how prominent public speaking was to an author's career. Okay, maybe I did, but I was in denial about it. I never thought I'd actually be the one doing the speaking. After all, you've got to be famous to do those kinds of things, right? Wrong!
More and more I'm learning that public speaking and speaking engagements in general are the meat and potatoes of authorship...for many reasons. One, it's great for promotion, marketing and putting yourself out there. Two, it's how a lot of authors make money. Three, and this is the most important piece of the puzzle for me, is that you get to connect with your audience and hopefully inspire at least one person.
I was lucky to experience what that feels like during my first school visit as an author in 2011 right after My Beginning was published. There is nothing like being on the other end of inspiration - to be the "inspirer." We all inspire each other in one form or another, but to really be in the spotlight and know that something you said could potentially change a person's life - that is pure magic.
|My first school visit as an author.|
So, how do you become a public speaker when you are scared to death - and yes, I mean death, of being seen, heard and/or dying during a speech? NEVER in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be able to speak...ever...in front of anyone for any reason.
Not only did I have those instinctual, uncontrollable, primal fears of public speaking that seem to plague 99% of human beings on earth, but I was painfully shy as a child, and experienced traumatizing accounts that still affect my ability to be seen and heard. To me, public speaking was equal to death - so naturally, I kind of flipped when I learned that being an author meant being a public speaker, too. I knew that one way or another I was going to have to face my fear.
Not long after my first publication, I looked into speaking workshops and organizations. There were two that I was immediately drawn to - Toastmasters and Speaking Circles. These organizations are very different, but each have wonderful resources, tactics and support to help you become a better speaker. I have made a commitment to attend at least one speaking workshop a month, and already it has changed my outlook on public speaking and who I am as a speaker.
The most profound thing about speaking for me is authenticity and being present. The more I show who I truly am with my words and presence, the more I get through to others. I've also learned to take one step at a time. I don't have to have it all and know it all this very second. If I start thinking ahead of myself or fretting over the future, i.e. what I'm going to say, what I'm going to do, what I'm going to screw up on, etc., (and there are lots of etc's!), it only feeds the fear. If I stay in the moment and do the next best thing, (like attending a speaking workshop), I feel much better.
|Capturing a crowd at the "Speaking Your Truth" book launch celebration.|
Over the past two years, I've attended many speaking workshops and I always find them to be the most incredible, life-changing experiences.They're incredible for many reasons, but never because I am comfortable – far from it. My heart always races, my palms sweat, I always feel strangely detached from my body and like I might pass out at any second. But somewhere, somehow, deep inside, I feel complete. Connecting, breathing, being. It is a beautiful thing when you put it all together - the standing, breathing, eye contact and speaking - so simple, yet so profound.
I still feel like an infant when it comes to speaking, but I find myself enjoying it more often than not. I take every speaking opportunity that arises and see it as an adventure. I get to share my experience, strength and hope with others - and there is nothing more rewarding than that!
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." ~John Quincy Adams
For more information about Toastmasters, visit their website.
Find out more about Speaking Circles go here.