Saturday I’ll be talking to students in fifth through twelfth grades at the Young Writers Conference in Emporia, Kansas, and as the time draws nearer, I’m getting more and more excited (nervous, too, but mostly excited). This conference is a very big deal. In the last two days I’ve been interviewed by an Emporia newspaper and an Emporia radio station. Everyone down that way is really gearing up for a great time.
When I do presentations, I tell kids they can do whatever they set their minds to do. I’m usually referring to their pursuit of talents and dreams such as writing, dance, sports, music, acting, or other difficult and unconventional careers. But it applies to public speaking, too. Who among us is not terrified of speaking in front of an audience? Everyone. It’s universal. When I began writing, I never knew that a writer’s career would entail so much public speaking—school visits, conferences, workshops, book fairs, awards banquets, panel discussions. At first, I was terrified. And I still am to a certain extent. I don’t think the fear of public speaking ever completely goes away. But the more I do it, the more I enjoy it. And now I find speaking in public (dare I say it?). . . fun. Really.
So for kids out there whose knees knock together when they have to stand in front of their classmates and give an oral book report, or for writers whose knees knock together when they have to stand in front of other writers to speak at a conference, or for anyone whose knees knock together at the very thought of standing in front of an audience for any reason, I say: Do it anyway. It gets easier with practice, you’re probably a better speaker than you think you are, and if you do it enough, you might find you like it!