Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Decision Never to be Nervous . . . Again

I used to dread public speaking. Dread it like I’d lose my life if I had to stand in front of a group of people and say something coherent.

Like most teen-agers, my high school required any major research project be accompanied by an oral presentation. This many years later, I can’t remember the topic I had to speak on, but I remember the class: Modern European History. For two days before my presentation, I could neither eat nor sleep.

Then the morning of the presentation I woke up, and gave myself a stern talking to. What’s the worst that could happen, I asked myself. There was no answer I could muster that made all the nail biting, and near vomiting worth it. I couldn't think of a single thing that could cause humiliation or death in a high school classroom.

So in I went, full of confidence, and nailed it. It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I was freed from the shackles of fear. After that I've never been worried when I have to speak in public. I just go do it, and usually enjoy it.

But I recently learned all that bravado could be helped by the tiniest bit of preparation.

A few months ago at my local writer’s meeting, the president announced the sale of one of my novels. After each announcement, the author is invited to say a few words. I didn't have a few words to say. Hand to God, I walked to the podium and mumbled something about my son eating carrots. Why, you ask? Because my husband had just sent me a text about the aforementioned carrots.

Did I remember the title of my book? No. The elevator pitch I’d used to sell the book? Nope. The president actually had to pull the announcement from an e-mail and show it to me. I stumbled through that all the while knowing that words were tumbling from my brain. This in front of a group of people who think I make a living from writing lots and lots of words. I’m sure their faith in my writing was in doubt.

Many months later, you can bet when I got up to announce the publication of that book, I remembered every single thing. The title: The Good Enough Husband. The pitch: What would you do if you met your soul mate, but you were already married? Also, I shared the tidbit I’d wanted other writers to know—that you can write a book after having a baby. (I’d had some doubts about that).

I’m hardly the person to dole out advice . But if you were to ever ask what I had to say about public speaking, I give you this. First, vow not to be nervous. Second and last, go out there knowing what in the heck you’re going to say. It makes the first bit a lot easier.

Sylvie Fox Author
Sylvie Fox is the author of The Good Enough Husband. She’s also the author of Unlikely and Impasse, the first two books in the sexy, contemporary L.A. Nights series. Don’t Judge Me, the first book in the Judgment series, releases this summer. When she’s not battling traffic on the freeways of Los Angeles, she’s eating her way through Budapest.


  1. Sylvie
    First welcome to the GBC! Second--good advice. Bravado is one thing but being prepared with right words and preparation, at least for me, makes all the difference. I think an audience can sense whether you want to be talking to them and whether you know what you're talking about.

  2. Hey Sylvie,
    Welcome to GBC. Nice first post. Sometimes you just have to own it.
    Congrats on your book and realizing that yes you can write after babies.
    Can't wait to know you better.

  3. Dear Sylvie, welcome to our group! Yes, I too have choked when surprised by an unexpected ad hoc speech. I too suffered stage fright, and still do, even though I've had great experiences ONCE I did it. I look forward to checking out your books (and I don't mean from the library!)

  4. Welcome, Sylvie. Glad you're here! Since I taught 11th graders for 25 years, I'm fairly comfortable with public speaking. I just imagine the audience hormones on legs. But Modern European History--ouch--I'm impressed! Looking forward to more posts from you!

  5. Glad to have you on the GBC with us, Sylvie!
    I dread public speaking still...but I try to be prepared when I do it ;). Loved reading about your speaking experiences!

  6. Welcome to the GBC, Sylvie! And what a wonderful thoughtful post to start what I hope is a long and fun run with us! Glad to have you here!

  7. Thanks so much for the welcome! It was the ad hoc nature of the speech that caught me by surprise. I was thinking about it on the way over, then . . . carrots.

    One of my 2014 goals is to speak more. So my next project is tackling PowerPoint. I've never done it, but have seen it done well.