Many – not all, but many authors are afraid of speaking before groups. Some believe this is because they are introverted. Others believe it is because they spend most of their time sitting in a room alone typing away at their keyboard. Regardless of the reason, if you are such an author, you are not alone. And the good news is, you can go from author to speaker and expand your speaking comfort zone so that you can better promote your books to a larger audience.
First off, I want you to know that you’re capable of more than you think. You already have proof of this, but have you noticed? At some point in your life, you might even have surprised yourself by accomplishing something that seemed well beyond your abilities. Think back. Was that incident as much of a fluke as you thought it was?
Too often the very thing that’s limiting us is ourselves. We tend to play it safe, doing the same things over and over that we know we’re good at without trying to push beyond. I understand that trying new things is scary, but not doing the scary thing once in a while just keeps you stuck.
Today, though, is going to be different. Today you’re going to do something bold and daring. Today, you’re going to push past your limitations. How do I know this? You’ve read this far. Below are the steps you can go through to move from just being an author, alone at your computer, to a speaker who confidently lets readers know about your books!
Why would an author want to learn public speaking?
First, you need to understand why you want to learn and improve at speaking in public. Here are some common reasons authors speak to groups. Do any of them resonate with you?
- You can sell more books. There are plenty of speaking opportunities, both large and small, that get you in front of your potential readers. When that happens, many of those who hear you speak buy your book.
- You can make more money. If you sell more books, you make more money. But it doesn’t end there. You can get paid to speak about your book. And you can use speaking to create products and services related to your book that make you money as well.
- You can save money. If you get good at speaking, you can do the voice work for your own audiobooks. That can save a lot of money!
- Increase visibility and influence. Speaking is one of the best ways to increase your visibility and influence. Speakers are seen as leaders, experts, and celebrities. That can sell a lot of books!
Identifying the Parameters of Your Speaking Comfort Zone
Now that you’ve got your why, let’s move on to the how. Before you begin, gauge where your comfort speaking zone currently lies. Write down the current extent of your comfort zone around speaking in public. In what situations are you comfortable with public speaking? At what level are your speaking skills? Get them all down on paper. You also might want to assess your level of fear and then track how it goes down – because it will if you take action. Feel free to use the free fear tracking sheet I created for this purpose.
How to Break Out of Your Speaking Comfort Zone Step-by-Step
Now that you know where you’re going and where you currently are, it’s time to take action and start expanding your speaking comfort zone.
1. Commit to the Process of Expanding Speaking Comfort Zone
The moment you say those magic words, “I commit to doing this,” whatever you’re pushing yourself to do becomes possible in your mind. It’s when you tell yourself that you can’t do something that you’re doomed to failure. On the other hand, a strong can-do attitude will help you to act with boldness until you can start feeling it as well.
Take Action: Stand in front of a mirror and say, “I commit to expanding my speaking comfort zone.” As you say it, check in with your body. Do you feel the commitment? If not, say it again with more conviction. Repeat as often as you need to in order to get to a firm feeling of, “I’m making this happen.”
2. Find a Companion for Your Journey.
Who do you know that is also an author that is further down the road in relation to speaking in public. Ask them to be your accountability buddy. Tapping into someone else’s experience is one of the most powerful things you can do to help you realize your goals. If you don’t have someone like this in your network, perhaps you can find and hire a mentor. Look for someone whose boldness you admire. They will have the wisdom to help you get where you want to go. As a bonus, they also become that encourager who will give you a solid kick in the seat of your pants when you need it.
Take Action: Find your companion or mentor. Ideally, this will be someone who has the time to be your accountability buddy or mentor. Barring that, find someone you can follow from afar, gaining encouragement when you need it. This can be someone who has inspiring YouTube videos you can watch, quotes you can post around your home, or a book or two you can read when you need an extra boost.
3. Create a plan of action.
You’re never going to be able to push yourself to your highest limits without a solid list of mini-goals and milestones to get you there. Bold actions require a roadmap sometimes! Fill that roadmap with specific actions you’ll take to move you toward your goal.
For example, if you are trying to overcome a fear of speaking, there is plenty of advice on this website to help you. If you have a copy of my book Public Speaking Super Powers, go to the back of the chapter on overcoming your fear. You’ll find three specific exercises you can do to move past your fear.
If you have other goals, look to the Table of Contents in the right sidebar – you’ll find all the broad categories covered in this blog, many of them match the chapters in my book, as well.
Take Action: Write down your plan. You can do this in a journal – as long as you’ll look at it frequently. Or you can get creative and design a tracking poster to hang on your wall. Below is an example of what this might look like. The important thing is that you have achievable goals that you assign a deadline to, and that you have a tool in place to keep you motivated.
4. Keep a record of your progress.
By journaling and writing down every day’s – or week’s – successes you have something tangible that you can go back and page through to see where you’ve been and how much you’ve accomplished. This record becomes inspiration and motivation both, as it reminds you of all those times where you acted with boldness in the past.
Take Action: Buy a journal for your Author to Speaker journey. It can be something fancy that you look forward to picking up and writing it, or it can be something practical like a composition notebook.
5. Dare yourself.
If you’re at all competitive by nature, then use that to your advantage. Set small challenges for yourself. Make a bet that you can do something by a specific date and then push yourself to do it. Show yourself what a winner you are.
Take Action: Select the first exercise you put into your plan. Set a date to have it completed a day or two earlier that you feel comfortable with. Then push yourself to step out of your speaking comfort zone using that exercise by that date.
More Tips for Expanding Your Speaking Comfort Zone
Need some more ideas of what you can do to expand your speaking comfort zone? Here are some techniques that you can add to your game plan.
- Consider partnering up with someone who is bolder than you are. Sometimes, two people with different sets of personalities can work well together towards a common goal.
- Find a mentor who can coach you out of your comfort zone. Qualified mentors can guide you to taking the necessary steps towards breaking your speaking barriers. They can help you identify where you are now and what it will take to get you where you want to go. If you’d like to speak with me about how I can help, schedule a no-cost Curious Conversation with Carma.
- Find a public speaking class. Many are offered online, especially right now during the Pandemic. You can also lookup a Toastmasters club. Many of them have moved to online meetings right now, so it could be a lower fear risk for you.
- Volunteer for events or committees you would not have previously considered. In addition to giving you opportunities to speak with small groups of people, this can help force you to learn new skills or place you in situations that require you to take actions you are unfamiliar with. Growth happens either way!
Make a Mindset Shift: Your Strengths Start Out as Weaknesses
Finally, I invite you to look at your “speaking weakness” as an area that you can build a strength. When I first started out on my speaking journey, I was terrified. If anyone had told me that I would grow to love speaking and even write a book about it, I would have told them they were crazy! But that’s what happened. Who knows where you’ll end up on your journey?
Think for a moment: Have you ever looked back on something you thought was difficult, only to now believe it’s easy? I’m willing to bet you have. None of us start out in life with strengths set in stone. We start with an empty slate. Many people have natural abilities to some degree, but they still need to improve their weaknesses. It just doesn’t take them as long as others. (By the way, I have a chapter about this idea in my book, as well.)
When you look at your strengths as something that were once weaknesses, you can take comfort in knowing your current weaknesses may someday be strengths. Need further evidence that this is true? Talk to fellow authors who using speaking to market their books. Ask them if they used to be afraid of speaking? Most likely they’ll say, “yes.” If so, follow up with questions about what they did to overcome their fear, and see if they have any resources for you to take advantage of. This can get you where you want to be much quicker than going it alone.
Take Action: Create Your Personalized Plan for Going from Author to Speaker
Expanding out of your speaking comfort zone can be scary. However, making the effort will not only help you sell more books, but it will also help you grow. Never be afraid to challenge yourself. Boldly press on, daring to cover new ground and challenging every limitation. Don’t stop until you get to where you want to be. You can do this!