How to Speak to a Crowd

Afraid of public speaking? Conquer your fears and promote your work! | writing | speaking | personal growth


Cole Smith

by Cole Smith



You’ve booked a public appearance to promote your work! But wait. That means you have to come out from behind your word processor and talk to people! If you’re thinking of faking an illness and calling off the whole thing, try these strategies instead:




Recently, I was listening to a popular lecturer. A fan stood up and asked he could become a better speaker. “How do I talk to a crowd?” he wondered.


“You don’t,” said the host. “You talk to the individual.”


Remember, your audience is made up of individuals.Think of your Ideal Reader and address her. What does she want to know? What problems can you solve for her? What motivated her to show up at your event? (For that matter, what do you hope to hear when you go to an author’s talk?)



“Hey, look at that nose ring!”

If you focus on yourself it will cause a spiral effect. You’ll notice your heart rate, quavering voice, and reddening face. That attention will only increase your nervousness until you lose your train of thought…which makes you more nervous!


Instead, focus on outward details: the refreshment table at the back of the room, the man with the wild eyebrows, or your best friend who came to support you but is sneaking a look at her phone because she’s already heard all your stories.


Don’t derail your own momentum, but study your surroundings.



The Plan

Someone once told me, “I never make a plan. Nothing ever went how I planned, so I gave up.”


To put it delicately, this is nuts. Go off script if the spirit moves you but make a script! Broad, or detailed–whatever makes you more comfortable. I write my must-tell points in large, bold font, then put supporting information in a smaller font. If I get stuck, a quick glance will guide me to the next idea. But smaller lines of filler keep me from relying on the outline too much. I have to pause to find my footing with the smaller print.


But that wont be a problem, my friend. Read on.



27 Times

My college professor used to tell us that twenty-seven was the ideal number of practice sessions to guarantee a successful presentation. I realized somewhere in the teens that he was being facetious and I’d just taken him literally… Trust me, if you aim for twenty-seven practice runs, your speech will be incredible. And it will happen long before you hit the twenty-seven mark… You know you’ve practiced enough when you can recite your speech under your breath during a grocery trip or morning yoga. And use a timer!



Most of all, this moment will pass just like all other moments. So choose to have fun!


How do you like to prepare for an author’s event?





Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for writers and creatives at


Let’s get social! Find me on Facebook and Pinterest 

Find my cozy mystery, Waiting for Jacob, here.





9 thoughts on “How to Speak to a Crowd

  1. All good advice! When I speak to a large or small gathering, I make eye contact with them, speak as if we are friends, and do think of each one singularly instead of as a group, which is easier as I make eye contact with as many as I can. It seems to work for me. But I love people and socializing so it’s probably easier for me.


  2. To prepare for an appearance,I select the material I plan to read and make sure it’s in an accessible format. For me, with my visual impairment, this means transcribing it into braille so I can more easily read it. Then, I practice reading it, determining what words I’ll emphasize and so on. If I’ll be reading for a longer period of time, say, to promote a book, I bring water with me to the podium and drink often to keep my mouth and throat moist.


      1. Yes, I use a slate and stylus. I insert paper into the slate, and use the stylus to write. I don’t think it’s any more difficult to keep my place than it would be if I were reading it in print. I always have at least one hand on the page while reading. If I practice reading ahead of time, that helps.


  3. I enjoy public speaking. I plan, make a general outline and maybe some notes of things I don’t want to forget to say, but I perform better when I don’t try to adhere to them closely. I don’t care so much for being on panels–there, I tend to ramble.


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