Five Things I Learned About Public Speaking From Children’s Books

Most of you know, that I love visiting schools to get kids excited about books, writing and reading as well as illustration. It is such an important part of being a writer or illustrator yet many shy away from such presentations. Fear of public speaking and the anxiety associated with it can be paralyzing to some that they never endeavor to reach out to their audiences in such a way. This is why I’m excited to introduce you to Linda Carmichael who wrote this guest post for my blog. Linda is an expert in public speaking with years of experience in this arena. She is launching a course for authors and illustrators to help them overcome their public speaking anxiety. Read on and connect with Linda if you have any further questions about her course.

As a Master Alexander Technique Teacher* with over thirty years experience, Linda also teaches voice production and breathing skills. She is the Alexander teacher for the “Actors Shakespeare Company of Boston” and the voice and Alexander teacher for the “Voices Rising” women’s chorus. She maintains a private practice in Somerville, MA teaching the Alexander Technique and voice production.

It’s ok not to be perfect from – Patrick McDonnell’s, A PERFECTLY MESSED-UP STORY.

“Little Louie’s story keeps getting messed up, and he’s not happy about it! What’s the point of telling his tale if he can’t tell it perfectly? But when he stops and takes a deep breath, he realizes that everything is actually just fine, and his story is a good one–imperfections and all.”

Just like Louie you don’t have to be perfect to be a great public speaker.

Don’t listen to the inner bully that says you are not good enough. Do the best you can, that is good enough. First of all, most mistakes pass unnoticed, they just seem big to you. The audience is not watching for you to make a mistake. They are there to learn from you and to have fun. If you are having fun too, that’s all that matters. Don’t be perfect, be human! When you make a mistake, take a breath, recover and keep going. What does it mean about you? It means you are like everyone else on this planet, not perfect.

If you understand and face your fears they are not so bad from – Mercer Mayer’s, THERE’S A NIGHTMARE IN MY CLOSET

“This is a tale of how a small boy confronts the monster in his cupboard and finds him not to be as scary as he had thought.”

Facing the monster and getting to know it, is a sure way to reduce its size and its hold over you. Anxiety is a natural response designed to keep us safe. It is our friend, until it gets out of control. Let’s take the monster out of the cupboard and get to know it. By design, fear is necessarily extremely uncomfortable because its purpose is to get our attention so we take evasive action. That’s fine when there is a lion about to pounce but this little monster is easily confused and overreacts sometimes. You need to separate your self from it, and calm it with intelligent coaching. Try this:

Monster: I am no good at this. I’m a fraud, and the audience is going to find that out.

You: There you go again, trying to scare me. I am having the thought that I am not good at this. I am having the thought that I am a fraud and the audience is going to find that out.”

Giving the gift of love and losing your self in giving from – E. B. White’s, CHARLOTTE’S WEB.

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing…after all, what’s a life anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die…By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

The first rule to being a great public speaker is to love your audience. When you think of your presentation as a gift to the audience and you really care about giving them a great time, and something really valuable, it’s very hard to keep your attention on yourself and how bad you are feeling. When all your love and attention is on your audience they feel cared for and they love you for it. This is arguably the most powerful technique for substantially decreasing nerves and fear.

Be authentic – from Lois Lowry’s, THE GIVER.

“Jonas lives in a perfect community. Everything is in order and under control. When Jonas discovers a different way to live and realizes what has been missing, he discovers he is very different. Is freedom, the right to make your own choices, uniqueness, and individuality worth dying for?”

Nothing is more uncomfortable than watching someone trying to be someone they are not. For the person who is being unnatural it is extremely exhausting to keep up. It is just not sustainable. When you step on the stage you should be absolutely authentic. You should be yourself, just perhaps a little bigger version of yourself. Not everyone can be a slick confident rock star, nor should they be. How boring if all speakers had the same personality. Many of the best speakers are not people who stride confidently across the stage with perfect body language and no ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ littering their speech. They are simply genuine people who have a passion for what they are talking about and want to convey that passion to the audience. Children are extremely intuitive and they react very positively to authenticity.

Be prepared – from Roald Dahl’s, MATILDA.

“Living with her boorish parents, Matilda teaches herself to read from the various magazine and newspapers lying about the house. By age five and a half Matilda has read all the children’s books in the library and quite a few of the adult ones as well. After the headmistress of her school does some particularly horrid things to the students and Matilda’s favorite teacher, Miss Honey, Matilda uses all that preparation and her extraordinary brain to save the day.”

There is nothing like being prepared to ensure you are in control and feel secure. It is the one certain thing that you can do for yourself to ensure success. Long before a presentation, you should know every aspect of it like the proverbial back of your hand. The key elements are committed to your long-term memory; you have decided what to do if the technology lets you down. If you arrive at a school expecting one class of five-year olds, only to be told that there will be eighty children of mixed ages, you have a plan. With good preparation nothing can faze you, so do it!

And finally, remember…

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. — from A. A. Milne’s, THE HOUSE AT POOH CORNER.

Linda teaches Public Speaking to Children’s Book authors and Illustrators and is a member of SCBWI. Her pilot on line course is in January and you can find details here:

Linda’s email:

Course Details: