Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Public Speaking and the Introvert by Guest Blogger: Shannon Taylor Vannatter

I'm so excited to have Shannon Taylor Vannatter as a guest today. If you ever have the chance to meet Shannon, don't miss it. She's a sweetheart and a blast to be around.

Shannon kindly offered to give away a copy of her new release, White Roses. I'll draw a name from the comments on this post and an upcoming interview with Shannon! So, don't forget to comment and stay tuned!

Public Speaking and the Introvert

At my first writers’ conference in 2001, I listened intently to the speaker and realized I wanted to do that someday. Which made no sense. I’m the kid who dreaded the thought of reading a book report in front of my 4th grade class so badly, it almost made me sick. I’m the adult who still stands quietly in the corner if I’m in a crowd of people I don’t know. I’m the mom who sits on the bleachers in silence to watch my son play baseball because we had to change schools and I don’t know any of the other moms.

Once I finally signed a book contract, I jumped into the public speaking circuit, starting with free workshops for writers’ groups. I didn’t take any classes, I just did it. As my name circulated, I worked up to paid workshops and conferences. After speaking half a dozen times to groups and several paid presentations, I don’t get nervous anymore. It amazes me, my husband, and my parents, but put me in my element—attendee or speaker at a writers’ conference—and I’m outgoing, talkative, and having the time of my life.

Once home, it takes me anywhere from a day up to a week, depending how long the workshop or conference was and how far away, to decompress and get back to my normal productivity.

Recently, at a very large conference, the master of ceremonies admitted she’s an introvert and by the third day of the conference and forcing herself to be outgoing, she’s running on empty. I never would have dreamed she could be an introvert. She’s always so funny and fun.

At a smaller conference, I met the funniest mystery writer. She was so animated, acted out conversations, and kept me laughing. Before her presentation, she told me she loves conferences and speaking, but she has to put her game face on to conquer the nerves and is exhausted afterward to the point of throwing up.

Then it hit me, conferences drain me because I’ve got my game face on, climbing out of my introverted box and forcing myself to network and mingle. When I get home, I crash. Book signing events take their toll in the same way. For an hour or two, I’m trying to engage with readers—people I don’t know—and interest them in my book. I have fun, meeting new people, sharing a love for books, and making sales. Afterward, I’m toast.

But public speaking benefits the writer. At each of my events, I’ve publicized my name and books and sold several copies. If the thought of public speaking makes you squirm, here are a few tips:

1. If you can’t imagine ever speaking in front of a group, seek out classes on public speaking.

2. Browse writing books or magazines to come up with topics. Put together a program on a topic you know well that others can learn from.

3. List your topics on your website.

4. Start out free. Contact writers’ groups you’re familiar with and offer your services. If your book has released, ask if you can bring copies to sell.

5. Arrive early enough to talk with a few people, which can ease nerves, since you won’t feel like a stranger.

6. Have a water bottle handy. Your throat might get dry. If nerves overtake you and your voice begins to quiver, pause to get a drink.

7. Let your audience know you have books for sale with humor. “My suitcase is really heavy, so I hope you’ll help me lighten it up.”

8. If you’re a techie, use Power Point. It takes the focus off of you and makes you more comfortable.

9. As you work with editors and learn new things, expand your topic base.

10. Until you get comfortable with speaking in front of groups, use handouts with fill in the blanks. This holds the audiences’ attention and keeps the focus off of you and on the paper.

11. Once you’ve spoken to several groups and don’t get as nervous, contact conferences and send them a one sheet with your topics.

12. Once you work your way up to conferences and paid presentations, don’t do a lot of reading. Work from notes and keep your focus on the audience.

13. Remember that your audience wants to be where you are—published. This can ease nerves and keep you focused on sharing your knowledge.

14. Be accessible, approachable, and friendly. Don’t intimidate by lording your published status above your audience.

15. Don’t limit your presentations to writers. Expand your group base to include church, ladie’s, community, library, school, college, and civic organizations.

16. Don’t forget book clubs. Contact your local library for information.

17. Save your best presentations for paid events.

18. Once you put presentations together, back them up, so you always have them to teach or present over and over.

About Shannon: Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. Her three book series is set in Romance and Rose Bud, AR and published by Heartsong Presents, a division of Barbour Publishing. Each book releases to a ten thousand member book club and then to stores six months later. White Roses her debut novel will hit store shelves in November. Two more books in the series will follow: White Doves releases to the book club in October and stores in April and White Pearls releases to the book club in January and stores in July.

Learn more about her and her books at http://shannonvannatter.com. Her blog, The Inkslinger, celebrates true love stories, inspirational author’s real-life romances, insight into the love lives of their fictional characters, book excerpts, romantic destinations, and book giveaways at http://www.shannonvannatter.com/blog.


  1. Great information on public speaking! I too feel like I have my game face on at certain events, but it's important to keep my energy up for that time period. What great advice! Can't wait to read your work!

  2. This was great. I was surprised too when the MC said she was an introvert and was exhausted by the end of a conference.

    Thanks for the tips on public speaking. You nailed that 'after the game face time' feeling and the need to recharge.

  3. Hi Julie,

    Thanks for inviting me. I hope my ramblings help writers step out of the box.

    T. Anne,

    I should have mentioned eating well to keep your energy up during events. Maybe that's why conferences feed everyone so very well.


    We were definitely at the same conference. It's still weird how something so fun can be so draining. Especially book signings. That's like my favorite thing to do ever. Talking with readers. What could be better?

  4. Excellent tips, Shannon. We introverts can use all the help we can find.

  5. I happen to love speaking, but these points are great! You have done well and you should be proud.

  6. Thanks for your great tips on public speaking! And best of luck with your November release of White Roses!

  7. Shannon,

    Those are great tips - ones I hope to never need as it would take a miracle to get me to speak in front of anyone! But as someone who has been to a lot of meetings and workshops, they are very good ideas.

    I totally understand that draining of energy. I get that way whenever I'm with a group of people. Even if I'm having fun. I come home and want to crawl under the blankets!

    I love the cover and the title of your book. Best of luck with sales! I'd love to win a copy.

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  8. Hey Brenda,
    You'll need my tips one day. Brenda is my critique partner and a better writer than I am.

    Hi Jan,
    It must be nice to come by it naturally. Wish I did.

    Hi Lauren,
    Thanks for stopping by and I hope my ramblings helped.

    Hi Sue,
    I have crawled under the covers. The times, that I've tried to get straight to work after an event, I can't get anything done and can't focus. Once, I give in and slow down, even take a nap, I recover faster. Thanks for the compliment on the cover. My cover artist has been great.

  9. Thanks for sharing the tips, Shannon. It's hard to get in front of people and speak, and doing it more and more helps make it a little easier. It is draining though to be an introvert and expending the great effort to be a speaker. Your book looks very inviting!

  10. Hi Connie,
    I'm toast today because I had a booksigning Saturday. I thoroughly enjoyed it at the time. I hope my tips help in your career and thanks for the compliment on the book.