Posted by: selenafulton | April 11, 2012

Fear Factor

Okay, so my local chapter has asked me to speak. Ack! Don’t they know I’m a writer? I mean, yes, I like to talk, but not in front of everyone.That means they’ll all be: Looking. At. Me.

The first time I ever spoke in front of a large group was at my job. My boss, the VP of Human Resources, was responsible for the United Way rallies and I happily assisted him in the background. We’d worked together for years and one day he called me into his office to tell me he would be out of town the day of the rallies. Then he aske me if I’d take over for him.

After years of working with him, I knew his delivery style. He used the same message year after year, and I could nearly recite it verbatim. Introduce the speaker, then afterwards get up and tell our employees to give from the heart. So I wrote my speech. I practiced in front of the mirror, in front of my daughter.

Then the big day came. Employees filed into a room that held about fifty people at a time. My friends all sat in the front row, smiling and giving me a thumbs up. My insides quaked as I walked to the podium and scanned the sea of faces.

I felt ill. So I took in a deep, cleansing breath and exhaled…right into the microphone.

I felt my face heat and I had the sudden desire to tunnel under the carpet like a Bugs Bunny cartoon. The door was closed. There was no escape. I forgot my speech and winged it.

One of my friends told me it was the shortest United Way meeting he’d ever been to, but it was short, sweet and to the point. Interestingly also, the speaker for the first meeting was also the speaker for the third and last meeting. I asked her to give me feedback, telling her this was the first time I’d ever spoken in front of a crowd. She told me she could definitely see the improvement. So what if I was nervous?

So next month I will speak at my local chapter, First Coast Romance Writers. No, I haven’t begun writing about my topic. That is still forming in my head. Funny thing is, my mom asked me once what was I going to do when people asked me to speak? She said if you get published, it’ll happen. Her words rang in my ear while I stared at the email, asking me to speak for a mere 10-15 minutes. So I typed okay, then hit send. Already, my pulse stepped up a notch.

These people are my friends, fellow authors. They will understand my case of nerves. And because we meet in the library…I doubt they’ll throw rotten food at me.

Note to self: Just don’t breath deep into the microphone…


  1. Beth, You plus God can calm the jitters..just take one breathe at a time..LOL.. I have full confidence in your ability to do good!

    • Thank you Frances. Keep me in your prayers on May 12.

      • May 12th is a great day!! My daughter was born on May 12th on Mothers Day.. what a gift after two boys, so of course I shall think of you & pray for your peace & God’s strength.

  2. You’ll be GREAT! Remember that they’re there to learn from you. You know something they don’t, so they want to hear what you have to say. Get that down and you can’t lose.

    Don’t recite from a script. I saw someone do that at a writing conference once and it nearly put me to sleep.

    My all-time favorite author did all-day lectures with her former writing partner, and I don’t know how she did it but I think her success had a lot to do with planning. She knew what she was going to say and in what order, but overall she took her topic and ran with it. It didn’t hurt that she was once a school teacher, so she was used to talking in front of large groups on a daily basis.

    I gave a short speech in front of a few hundred strangers once. I’m looking forward to doing it again some time. Whatever happens, remember that if you made them laugh by making a mistake, you’ve entertained them, so you’re already ahead of the game. Just relax, have fun, and be your wonderful self! 🙂

    • I guess I’d better get busy on my material then. 🙂 Thank you for your encouragement, Carla.

      • I’ll be praying for you. Especially not to breath into the microphone. (smile) You’ll do very well because you have so much to share.

      • Thanks for the confidence booster, my friend.

  3. Note to self: Bring rotten food to the meeting next month. 🙂

    You’ll be fine. I know this because I have decreed it to be so.

  4. Great post! I have to speak this weekend, too; and this was a nice, timely blog! Good luck, you will do great!
    BTW…figure out what you’re going to speak on, yet? 😉

  5. Great post!
    I loved the blast of hot air to start out with —
    Pick a couple of your dearest friends to talk to, to start out — then gradually look other members of the group to look at directly. It’s less scary if you look at one person for a bit and then switch to another and so forth. That way you remember they’re people and not one great big ominous bunch.

    • This is what I do when I have to sing for a musical audition.

  6. I happen to know you are awesome and will know exactly what to say and how to sayit. 🙂 Go Beth!!

  7. Too funny – I always get nervous presenting. Then I go over the presentation wondering what people thought. Crazy, I know.

    Go get them… you’ll do great.

  8. You can do it!! And if that nervous gust hits the mic at a roar, just tell ’em you are testing the sound system 🙂 You’ll do fine, you know. The nerves will be gone as soon as you start talking–because you know your topic–writing. But I do sympathize. Even after years of teaching, I still get voice quakes when I have to ‘be myself’ in front of a group (usually of contemporaries.)

  9. I know how you feel, Selena. I used to talk and do classes in front of groups of people for my job all the time. It never bothered me. But I recently did the introduction for an author panel in front of about 10 people and I was so nervous! And I was reading the intro off a piece of paper. I guess I was rusty. 🙂 Some advice I can offer, though, based on my work experiences is try and turn it into a conversation. Maybe start out by asking the audience questions to help get the topic rolling. And then maybe ask questions every now and then throughout your talk. It will feel less formal that way. And remember, as Carla said above, they want to learn and they want to hear what you have to say.

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