Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
You’ll never be called upon to speak in public unless you have something to say or you need to present yourself (for example, if you’re in politics or a beauty pageant). Placing the emphasis on you as a speaker who needs to be perfect, making you self-conscious, is counter-productive. Who’s at her best with knocking knees and a quaking voice? Forget being perfect! Nervous speakers make listeners uncomfortable. (“Someone help that poor soul!”)
If you have something important to say to a group of people, then there’s some reason you need to say it. Are you doing training? Sales? Self-promotion? Entertainment? Championing an idea? Whatever your reason might be, the fact that you have a reason to speak makes your material and your audience more important than you are. What do you want to accomplish (aside from surviving the speech)? You want to engage the minds (and sometimes hearts) of your listeners.
For example, I do public readings of excerpts from my novel for both entertainment (I hope the audience enjoys my reading!) and book promotion (I need to pay my bills). Of course, the audience doesn’t care that I need to pay my bills, so for them I need to pay attention to the entertainment part. What in your book would entertain an audience? Information they want? Humor? Drama? Answer that question, and you know what you need to emphasize.
If your book provides information, then you need to come across to your listeners as someone who’s believable (friendly and knowledgeable), someone they wouldn’t be afraid to approach with a question. You need to read a piece that’s interesting but not too technical (in case there are beginners in your audience). Read a section that provides material people will see as special or different from what they already know. Be your most charming self. Make sure you know your material and the resources behind it. Don’t read too long or in a monotone. Put your enthusiasm and personality into your words. Remember that adults need to be enticed into listening just as children do. You listen best to people you like and trust.
If your book is fiction, then you need to create pictures in the minds of your listeners. Think about the emotions your characters are feeling and the emotions in the scene. What kind of pacing or volume do you need to give those feelings to the audience? Can you suggest different people talking by altering your voice the tiniest bit from character to character? You don’t need to act, but you do need to share your story as you saw it when you wrote it. Choose a scene that you would want to see in a movie trailer. Try to feel your scene again as you read. Practice so you don’t stumble over the words.
Leave your audience wanting more. If they ask questions that would take away their need to read the rest of the book, be coy. Don’t tell them everything. After all, you need to pay your bills!