I don't know about you, but for me, one of the hardest things I do every year is attend writers' conferences. Reading posts that tout, "Can't wait for National," or "Our local conference is three weeks away," are enough to break me out in a cold sweat.
But the fact remains conferences exist to help writers, not send them into apoplectic fits. These events truly are the most efficient and economical way to connect with agents and editors to set you apart from the hundreds of anonymous queries they receive every week.
Does this knowledge help, however, when your tongue is less than golden? Probably not. While some people can practice their pitches, memorize their log lines and appear at ease, most cannot. Ever stood in a room full of writers waiting to pitch? I have. I'm here to tell you that public speaking for an introverted author ranks right up there with tightrope walking. What's more, given the choice to talk about their book to the agent or editor of their dreams, many would opt for the tightrope -- without the net!
So why do I bring this up when it's a foregone conclusion that in spite of this fear, we'll do it time and time again? Because last year I had such a fiasco at a conference, and after doing a marvelous impression of a deaf mute, I resolved to do something about it. I decided to step out of my solitary comfort zone and overcome my fear of public speaking. Ladies and gentlemen, Toastmasters is helping me do it.
What's so special about Toastmasters? In a word -- everything. Instead of preparing for a conference in the weeks beforehand, I now attend weekly meetings. This organization isn't only about giving speeches, it's about building leaders and creating confidence. It also teaches you to ad lib, to think on your feet, and while my tongue may never be golden, I no longer feel like it's wedged in cement.
My ability to write also has helped me with Toastmasters. While many members fret over giving speeches because they first have to compose them, that's the area in which I excel. I'm already on speech number five of the Competent Communicator, and recently I took third in a citywide humorous speech competition.
I tell you this not to gloat, but to let you know that if I can overcome shyness or speaking in public, anyone can. As a writer, I am by far the most comfortable at my keyboard and in my fictional world. But for those few times when I'm at a conference, I plan to make the most of the opportunity and treat it as a business. It is business, you know. Thanks to Toastmasters, I'll be ready.
Check out the Toastmasters in your locale or this link will take you to Toastmaster's International. http://www.toastmasters.org/