Know What You’re Getting Into
Double check what is expected of you. It’s one thing to show up and take part in a panel, it’s quite another if the event host is expecting you to deliver a sixty-minute key note speech.
How to Get Rid of Nerves
It is a good thing to be nervous – that is your body preparing for action. But there are plenty of tips and tricks that can help make the whole experience feel better.
In her viral Ted talk, Harvard body language specialist Amy Cuddy suggests standing in a Wonder Woman Power Pose for two minutes before a presentation to boost confidence. This really works. Try it. (In the privacy of a toilet cubicle!).
Breathe deeply, and into your ribs. In for a count of four, out for a count of five. Imagine you are breathing through your feet (go with me). Imagine you are inhaling air up through your feet, filling your body, before exhaling through your feet. Your feet are grounded into the floor.
Tell yourself – out loud – that you are excited to be giving this talk/be on this panel/be doing this interview. Repeat it. Again, this really works. Both anxiety and excitement involve the same chemical process in your brain. You simply need to signal to your brain that this occasion is one to be excited about. And, get this: you will automatically perform better because of the positive benefits of that same chemical process. Repeat after me: ‘I’m excited to give this talk! I’m excited to give this talk!’
Warm up. Plough that nervous energy into something beneficial. Roll your shoulders back and down. Shake it out. And do some vocal warm ups, like tongue twisters. This will loosen your muscles off, and make you far less likely to trip over your words, practically guaranteeing you’ll talk well.
How to Be a Great Panel Guest
It’s professional courtesy, and also makes you look like you know your industry, to familiarise yourself with your other panel members. Ideally, read the books the other participants will be promoting (most publishers will send you comp copies for this purpose). If that’s not possible with your schedule right now, discreetly (e.g. not publically on Twitter) reach out to the other authors and ask if they could send over a synopsis of their book. Offer to send a copy of your book, and a synopsis to them. At the very least, spend five minutes googling your other panel members. Remember (and correctly pronounce) their names.
Do not talk over others, or dominate the conversation. Trust that the panel host will ensure each author gets a fair amount of air time.
Conversely, do talk and contribute! What if the other panellists are JK Rowling, Stephen King, and Michelle Obama? Even if there’s only one reader in the whole audience who loves your books and came to see you, you can’t disappoint them by being too intimidated to speak. You have been selected for a reason. A great panel is a fine balance of authors, ideas, and personalities. If you don’t participate you upset that balance. Give your fellow panellists something to bounce off. Give the audience your best.
Look at the panel host, your other panellists, and the audience when you answer questions. Remember, it’s a conversation with the whole room. When your fellow panellists are talking, look at them. You should be interested in what they are saying. Don’t stare down at the back of your own book like you’re bored, and never look at your phone when the host or another panellist is talking. You will look like a massive dick.
Help your fellow panellists. People dry up for many reasons – shyness, panic, being unwell. Or they’re simply over-powered by more confident participants. If you know the discussion topic links to another panellist’s work, then say so. Draw them into the conversation. If they nailed a particular issue in their book, tell the audience how, and why you loved it. We’re stronger together, peops.
How to Give a Great Reading
Even if you’ve been blessed with the reading voice of Stephen Fry, a room full of adults will get fidgety during an excerpt, in a way they won’t when you are directly talking to them. (I blame smartphones). Keep it short. About a page and a half. This is not the time to showcase that beautifully descriptive passage you’re really proud of. Pick something that creates an emotional impact. You want a reaction – aim for a laugh, or an audible gasp. What will act as a hook to make your audience want to hear more? (And buy the book). A cliffhanger is spot on.
Practice reading your excerpt out loud. Record it (most smartphones have a built-in voice app, or you can video yourself). Stand up, breathe deeply. Read slower than you think. Project. Pause. Look up at your audience (your partner/child/cat/mirror work well for practice). Do different voices or accents for character dialogue. Remember to keep breathing. Listen back to yourself. Cringe, because who doesn’t hate the sound of their own voice? Then think about how you can make it better. Read it again.
I’ve been to terrible readings by authors I love, and felt frustration at that author wringing all the pleasure from their words. Words I loved. Don’t be that author. People have come to see you. They want to hear you. Don’t short change them. Stand tall, stand proud, and give a good show. Pretend you are acting the part of an amazing author who gives amazing readings. Be that author. Your readers deserve it.
How to Be a Great Radio Guest
Most radio interviews are short, and will pass quickly. Practice explaining the main hook of your book in one or two short sentences. If the interview is themed on a particular topic, have a couple of soundbites for that ready too. You can take these in written on paper if you wish – but resist the urge to read from notes. Most people can tell the difference between someone reading, and someone’s natural chatty demeanour. And radio wants the latter.
The producer will ensure you are positioned correctly in front of the microphone (you may be asked what you had for breakfast while they test the levels!) Make sure you are hydrated, it makes you less likely to trip over your words, and the mic picks up dry mouth clicks. Speak slower than you think. Smile – people can hear it in your voice. And remember to take a photo so you can share it, and the link to the show, on social media.
Last, but not least, no matter what the event: remember to have fun and enjoy it. You got this!
(c) Angela Clarke
About On My Life:
Jenna knows she didn’t do it. But she is running out of time to prove it…
A heartbreaking, compulsive thriller with a killer twist!
Framed. Imprisoned. Pregnant.
Jenna thought she had the perfect life: a loving fiancé, a great job, a beautiful home. Then she finds her stepdaughter murdered; her partner missing.
And the police think she did it…
Locked up to await trial, surrounded by prisoners who’d hurt her if they knew what she’s accused of, certain someone close to her has framed her, Jenna knows what she needs to do:
Clear her name.
Save her baby.
Find the killer.
But can she do it in time
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