Introverted Authors in Public: 4 Tips For Overcoming Your Fear of Being Seen

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

With COVID-19 slowly becoming less of a pandemic, it looks like it might be safe to start gathering again in large groups. This means that it is time for introverted authors to start brushing off their people skills and get ready to meet readers at book fairs and public events.

After 18 months of mostly meeting people through a screen, putting yourself out there is going to be more stressful than ever. But at the same time, it is also crucially important. You need to step out of your comfort zone and go meet people where they are.

Because waiting for them to come to you will stifle your career.

Can Introverted Authors Have Successful Careers Staying Home?

My greatest mistake as a blogger was that I gave in to my fear of meeting people. I should have been actively pursuing every opportunity for publicity, but instead, I let my self-doubt stop me from getting on conference panels, I quietly ducked interviews, and I even let my dislike of noise keep me going to parties during conferences.

I did have a successful career as a blogger, but I also know I would have been bigger and much better well-known if I had overcome my fears (actually, gut-wrenching panic would be a more accurate description).

On the other hand, I have to admit that one of my best years as a web designer was during the lockdown, when I never met people in person and I didn’t even do that many webinars.

While it is possible to have a successful career while staying home, the truth is we need to go where our customers are. I for one plan to take advantage of every chance I have to meet new people and win them over., and authors should do the same.

Yes, you can have a career even though you are avoiding public events, but it would be a shame to pass up opportunities.

How Introverted Authors Can Overcome Their Fears

You will need to overcome your fears, and here are a few ways you can do that.

  1. Toastmasters

One of the easier ways to talk yourself out of promoting yourself in public is to focus on the fact you don’t know what to say or how to introduce yourself. Toastmasters will get you across that hurdle.

This is an organization dedicated to helping its members learn to become public speakers, and not only will they help you learn the basics, they will also help you overcome stage fright and teach you how to cope with unexpected situations.

There are Toastmaster chapters all over the world, including in your neck of the woods. Visit your local chapter, and see if it is right for you.

  1. Writing Clubs

Your local writing club presents an excellent opportunity for you to get used to meeting strangers and talking about your work. Join a club and commit to attending every meeting, and if you get a chance, stand up and talk about yourself.

The clubs I belong to still meet virtually, but they do give every attendee a chance to introduce themselves and talk briefly about what they are writing. This is your chance to practice what you will need to say when you go out in public again.

And once you are comfortable talking to members of the group, you can take things to the next level by either suggesting new activities or programs for the club or even by running for office.

For example, back in December 2020 I was elected president of the Riverside Writers Club in Fredericksburg. We’re still meeting virtually, but even so holding office has forced me to get used to being the center of attention. I run meetings, interface with other officers and the public, and generally have to talk to a lot more people than I was comfortable with.

If your writing club is like mine then it will always be in need of volunteers to help run things; based on my experiences, the clubs never fill all of the officer positions. Volunteer as a candidate, and you will be voted in easily (actually, I was drafted).

  1. Networking Groups

Another great opportunity for you to get used to meeting strangers would be a local networking group. (Some are meeting in person again, yes.)

Whether it’s Meetup or One Million Cups, these groups exist so business people can make new contacts with other business people, and while authors don’t quite fit the mold of the typical group member, a networking group can still be a great resource for authors.

Regularly attending a group’s meetings will get you comfortable talking to strangers, and it will also give you leads on local service providers including graphic designers, printers, computer techs, swag suppliers, and accountants.

If you want additional motivation, try this: These groups can also be a great place to conduct background research for your next book. For example, talking to local lawyers will help you work out the details of a courtroom drama, and there are a hundred other professions that you might want to use in your next book.

A local networking group will count as its members dozens of experts in diverse fields, and all you have to do is have the guts to introduce yourself and ask them questions.

You can find business networking groups through Meetup, Facebook, your local Chamber of Commerce, or through BNI (a networking group franchise organization).

. . . .

Good News and Bad News for Introverted Authors

I have good news and bad news for you about venturing out into public. The bad news is that you can’t stop promoting yourself because the growth of your career will start to slow down or even stall because you are no longer recruiting a new audience.

On the other hand, the good news is that this isn’t something you have to get right the first time around. Fumbling your intro at one meeting is not the end of the world because there is always another event where you can meet new people.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

PG had no idea that Toastmasters was still in existence, but Nate has always been a reliable guy so PG expects it must be.

PG has never had a problem with public speaking. Some might think that’s because he’s an attorney, but nothing about the standard law school curriculum in most places does much to teach students how to speak in public. And more than a handful of lawyers don’t do it at all in the course of their practices.

(For lawyers who are reading this, PG hasn’t forgotten moot court, but is not aware that participation is required in most (or any) law schools or that more than a small percentage of law students participate.)

PG will note that a lawyer friend of his once remarked that he could go into any first-grade class in the United States and pick out the kids who would grow up to become lawyers. They were the ones who were talking all the time and would never be quiet. (PG realizes he has shared this story more than once on TPV, but he has also shared it more than once in other venues, most often while speaking to groups of lawyers. It always gets a laugh with lawyers.)

PG does have a suggestion that Nate didn’t mention to overcome your fear of public speaking – Take a class on public speaking.

The first place you might check for a class is with a local community college.

PG did a quick search and found an online course in public speaking here

If PG didn’t know anything about public speaking and was nervous about doing so, he would probably try to get an in-person class where the audience for his speeches would typically be his fellow students.

He’s not sure if an online course would be quite the same without live people sitting and watching/listening to someone speak. Speculating, he wonders if the additional emotional and physical distance involved in making an online speech or presentation online would be as effective at overcoming insecurity as in-person speaking. But he’s happy to be persuaded otherwise.

For PG, who has appeared on local television a handful of times, the experience of appearing/speaking/performing in a TV studio is much different than facing a few faces or a lot of faces.

Videoconferences are not exactly the same as sitting in a TV studio, but there is still the lack of ability to really read faces in the audience and connect in (for PG) a more direct way.

(A very long time ago, Marshall McLuhan wrote, “The medium is the message.” The medium of speaking to a group of people in person is a different medium than speaking to a group of people via video.)

One of the advantages PG sees in taking a course in public speaking vs. trying to get speaking gigs at author’s conferences is that there is a teacher involved who can provide tips and suggestions for improving.

Also, in a classroom, students are seeing other students give speeches and, presumably, hearing the teacher give critiques and suggestions, which also contributes to learning by the audience.

4 thoughts on “Introverted Authors in Public: 4 Tips For Overcoming Your Fear of Being Seen”

  1. My parents helped me out with this from a very young age, athough I didn’t know it until much later. They put me in 4-H, most specifically, livestock. Part of the judging is standing in front of a group of adults (sometimes multiple if you have more than one animal) and explaining how you raised your critter. They ask you questions and you have to defend your answers. Later, when I worked on tour boats, I’d have to stand in front of 150 people a day and give a safety speech. Then help shuffle them on and off an island, talk them off railings (it’s just so much easier to see a glacier a mile away if you climb the rail), and make small talk with umpty million strangers a year. Then came a Communications class in college, one of the best and most useful (and fun!) classes I took there.

    I am a hardcore introvert to the degree of only going out twice a week. Most of my writing conversation these days happens over Discord, for the simple reason that I’m not driving an hour each way to get to the ‘local’ writing groups, but I am very grateful for learning how to be ‘on’ in a public setting.

  2. Toastmasters is indeed still around; my club met via Zoom for most of last year and we’re now back in person. Our members include two writers. It’s a good way to learn to be comfortable sharing your words, especially if you write nonfiction.

  3. My problem with public speaking stems from the same source that gives me problems with heights or deep water(so deep, so dark, so cold).

    – I model the people I am speaking to, in my mind.

    Each person requires so much model space in my head that I reach overload when it includes dozens of models. That’s why I dealt with “individuals” when helping people at work. I could tailor what I was teaching to each unique need of that person, where I would be overwhelmed if I tried to teach a class.

    – The only way I can address an audience is to see them as a single entity, “The Audience”.

    With height, I was trying to model, in high definition, everything that I was seeing, including the spacial dimensions. Only by deliberately limiting the resolution can I stop the overload, but I have to be prepared ahead of time to set the limits.

    My default is to model everything in high detail, all the way down to that odd scratch on the floor that the buffer missed, or the stray hair on your jacket.

    I can sit in a crowded restaurant as long as I can place limits on the model I am building, but that still lets me see the person with crumbs in their beard, six tables down.

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