I hate public speaking to such an extent that it has become a handicap. Even at lovely events where I should be enjoying myself and my success, I'm busy spazzing out in my head about speaking in public to such an extent that I am for all practical purposes not there. It is shameful and ridiculous. I feel for my audience when I must read my writing in public. All I want is to be through. I can read at a rate that literally makes peoples' heads spin- I've seen it with my own eyes, and let me tell you if members of your audience are battling to keep their heads on straight, I can assure you it inspires little confidence and then it is just a horrible downward spiral from there.
Since I've realised this affliction has become a liability, I am trying to put myself in more and more places where I must speak in public. I do think some of the problem is just lack of practice. Just like anything, every time you have a bit of success it makes it easier the next time.
At a recent workshop I attended, we needed to read some of our writing out loud to the group. I realised a few things. One is that if you are reading and you think you are reading at a BBC Special English pace then you are at the right speed. It makes a difference. People take your writing more seriously if you read slower. You also sound calmer even if you're not. Speedy Gonzales does not give off an aura of a calm guy. Slow and steady is the key.
At the same workshop, I was advised to stop and look up and look around, connect with your audience. I think this also helps with the speedy reading. If you connect with someone in the audience, you will begin to feel that it's more of a conversation as compared to a speech. Conversations I can handle. Speeches are for Obama and Abraham Lincoln- not me.
To be a writer, means at some point if you have any success at all, you will be expected to read your work aloud. In a recent article in The Guardian, Stuart Walton wonders if this is always a good thing. Writers, as in my case, are not always the best readers. They can ruin the writing for the reader, and that's a bad thing. But sometimes a writer can read in such a way that the listener discovers another way to think of the writing. As Walton says, "There is one immense and tangible benefit to me from listening to literature, rather than reading it for yourself, which is that, just sometimes, the voice you are hearing is better at the job than the one inside you."
My goal one day is to be that sort of writer; a writer who can read my own writing and lead the listener to a more interesting place, a place they maybe would not have found on their own without me. Otherwise what's the point of reading our work aloud?
So more public speaking for me. It's a bit like that terrible bitter cough medicine your mother was always forcing down your throat. It's painful, but I know it's for my own good.