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7 Steps to Improving Your Public Speaking Skills

16 Jul

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What do people claim to fear more than death? Every time? Public speaking. We’ve all had bad experiences with it. At my first “big” interview for the FFA officer team at my high school, I had one hand on my hip and one hand on the podium the whole interview. I stuttered through my responses, lost myself in the explanation, and lacked the skills to create a professional but enjoyable atmosphere. Throughout the rest of my freshman year, I found myself in more and more situations where public speaking was necessary whether it was in the classroom or through extracurricular responsibilities. I blushed when I was nervous, swayed like a birch-tree in a thunderstorm, and used my hands so much the judge’s review cards would flap in the breeze. Four years later, I find myself in love with speaking and excelling at it. So what happened?

Practice, patience, perseverance, sure. But more so, I had guidance and instruction. Public speaking isn’t something you’re just magically good at. Sure, some people have “a good voice” or “a way with words.” Without knowing what to do with those gifts, those people are just as lost as the rest of us.

These are some tips and tid-bits that I’ve found helpful throughout my public speaking career; this is by no means a complete list or a one-stop-shop to making you the next Martin Luther King, Jr., but it may be a good starting point if you aren’t sure where to begin on honing those fabulous talents you have tucked away behind your ear.

  1. Decide to have a conversation. We’ve all heard, at some point, to imagine the audience in their underwear, but that’s never really helped me. I mean, if everyone else is in their underwear, we’ve got a hot mess of an audience who are for sure not going to be listening to what you have to say. Now, that may seem like a good thing, but I can tell you from experience there is nothing better than an actively engaged audience. An engaged audience may nod along to what you say, murmur an “amen” or “preach it” or “yes, ma’am!” as you speak, laugh when you tell jokes, cry when you drop that fantastic story on them, clap at the conclusion of your speech. So how do you get that kind of audience? Decide to have a conversation. Just like you’re having a chat with your bestie, talk to the audience like you would talk to a group of friends–like you know each person individually. If you are nervous, they will be nervous for you. If you are cold, they will return your coldness. If you open yourself up to having a conversation with them (albeit, you’ll be doing most of the talking), they’ll respond with a conversation. Communication is a two-way street; in order for you to have an interactive audience, you have to invite them to the party. That way, when you mess up, it won’t be a big deal because it’s just a conversation with friends.
  2. Master that nonverbal communication. I cannot stress this enough. We all have our nervous ticks: rhythm master, reflex tester, swaying tree, rocking chair, the stanky leg where you do that awkward, twisty thing with your foot, practicing arithmetic on your hands, etc. . All of these things along with your poise and presentation make up what is called nonverbal communication. This is where all of your hand-motions, movements, and voice inflections play into your speech. Make a dramatic pause here. Get teary-eyed as you share a moving story. Curl your hand into a fist when you’re angry– all these things make up what you are communicating without words. All those nervous ticks that I mentioned before convey just that– nervousness, fear, worry. Master that nonverbal communication by executing purposeful movements, inflections, and pauses. Use your hands to illustrate an easily recognizable action or the size of something; lean forward if you say, “I’ll let you in on a little secret;” change the volume and pitch of your voice depending on which part of the speech you are at. All of these things communicate expertise and understanding of the topic at hand beyond the words that you are sharing. It’s okay to let the little actor inside of you out and put on a little show for your audience! Professional, yes. But also enjoyable. A great balance between those two things is the addition of positive nonverbal communication. And if you find that your nerves are getting to you, a cool trick you can also take advantage of is to bring a water bottle. When you feel that you’re becoming overwhelmed, lose your train of thought, or simply need to take a breath, take a sip of the water. It’s an understandable, purposed nonverbal communication that you needed a breather and some water, and no one can critique you for that! When you create a presentation such as a power point to go along with your speech, make it appealing and interesting to look at. If it’s a stock, plain-jane theme then you communicate disinterest in the topic or a rushed presentation. Remember, the way you present the information is just as important as what you say in the presentation. All of these things can make or break your speech, so pay attention to them. Mastering nonverbal communication is half the battle; if you can do that, the rest of public speaking will be a cinch.
  3. Make a move. This point builds off nonverbal communication. Don’t stay in the same place the whole time you’re speaking; work the room to your advantage. Not only will this help you to translate and remember where those pesky paragraph breaks are in real life but it also helps your audience recognize the speech’s progression. Starting and ending standing in the same place is a great way to give closure to your speech. Give points one, two, and three each at different places across the front of the room. That way when you hit your audience with each new topic sentence, it’ll be easier to remember because you changed places. By associating a motor function with an idea or a piece of the speech, you’ll be better grounded in your memorization and your audience can process the information by placement. It almost works like Sherlock’s mind-palace; each different idea gets a different room or spot on the stage. Movement also allows you to involve everyone– not just front and center folks. If everyone feels included, then everyone is that much more willing to be engaged, and remember– an actively engaged audience is our goal.
  4. Look ’em in the eyes. Remind them you’re not a robot staring at that one fly on the wall in the back. Again, it’s all about connecting with the audience. The best way I’ve found to accomplish this is to work from side to side of the room. Mix it up; the more random your contact the better. But if you need a pattern, work in a figure eight through the room: left back, middle center, right front, right back, middle center, left front. If you look ’em in the eyes, you’re reminding them and yourself that these are real, normal people too and that you and they aren’t so different after all. They don’t feel like you’re standing on some untouchable pedestal, and you don’t feel like they’re all out to get you. More than likely everyone in the audience has had some experience– good, bad, or ugly– with public speaking, and really they’re rooting for you. But you won’t see all that silent encouragement if you don’t make eye contact, so do the thing!
  5. Establish mile-makers. We’ve all been there: stage fright with an iron wall in between us and that thing we would have sworn up and down the minute before we knew by heart. It works the same with playing an instrument. By establishing mile-markers, your autopilot not only has land marks to go by but also if you lose your place, you’ll have somewhere to either go back to or to jump forward to. The best mile-markers for me are usually those nice phrases you’re really proud of that just work or a big word that you just enjoying having in there. Just like land marks stick out to us on the road because they are different or easily spotted whilst in transit, mile-markers in your speech should be unique, easy to spot words, phrases, or sentences. That way, when you’re booking it through your speech because good lord there are a lot more people in the crowd than they said there would be, you have a well established road to follow even when your composure is running in a million different directions away from you.
  6. Harness the speech’s momentum. Get into it, ladies and gents. A lot of times this will stem off your style and voice. As your speech builds, allow yourself to go along with it. Don’t bust the mic, obviously, but as you approach the climax, get a little rowdy– get excited. Get loud. When you harness the momentum of the speech and use it to your advantage through your body language and presentation, it feels like you are approaching the climax of a good movie. Be passionate, be excited, be involved in what you’re saying and the audience will be too.
  7. Believe what you are saying. This one is pretty self explanatory. Be passionate about what you’re talking about, and those around you will be excited because of your passion. If you really want an engaged audience, be passionate, and they won’t be able to help themselves but to get swept up in it. Believe in yourself, believe in what you are saying, and they will too.
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Writing Prompt #1

15 Jul

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It’s summer time and you have spare time, so let’s do some writing, how ’bout it!?

– + – + –

Caffeine. Inspiration. Prompt. Let’s go. Here is today’s writing prompt challenge:

What you’ll need–

– 1 genuine sharpie marker (or equally awesome permanent marker)

– set of wheels

– a lil’ bit o’ cashola (I’d say about five bucks will suffice)

– the goods of writin’ (y’know, the pens, the paper, the laptop)

– one willing soul to assist you on your journey

How to Do the Thing–

1. Get in your car. Or on your bike. Or just walk. Walking is good too.

2. Drive to the nearest curb store, stylishly jamming out to whatever you like. If you are not in a car, use whatever portable music device you have and enjoy some good tunes. If you have no such device, sing at the top of your lungs. It’s all part of the process.

3. Purchase 2 bottles of sweet, Dixie campaign (that’s coca-cola, for you non-Southerners) at random. Note: these bottles must have names on them (e.g. John, Sally, Marsha, etc.) in order for the prompt to work. Keep this in mind during selection and purchasing procedures.

4. Using your sharpie, write the number 1 on top of one of the bottles and number 2 on top of the other bottle.

5. Return home in the same fashion as you left, stylishly jamming.

6. Allow your friend to, without seeing the names, choose which of the bottles is to be the antagonist and which of the bottles is to be the protagonist.

For example,

You: *expertly spins cokes around so that friend can only see the bottle caps* Pick 1 or 2. 

le Friend: *ponders choices while stroking an imaginary (or real) chinbeard* 2.

You: *malicious cackling* JONATHAN, YE SHALL BE OUR VILLAIN! *brandishes coke bottle gently as to not upset the carbon dioxide* 

le Friend: *eyebrow arch of Spock* And that makes number 1?

You: *brandishes second coke bottle (gently) like a sword* MAXWELL, YE SHALL BE OUR HERO!

le Friend: *nervous laughter* You are insane.

You: *indignant Sicilian accent* Inconceivable!

le Friend: *exhausted yet amused Spanish accent* You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

7. Enjoy a coke with your friend.

8. While you are a-buzz with caffeine, use the two names and their predetermined destinies to write a 100 word flash fiction that begins with…

“I don’t share things.”

“Well, that explains a lot.”

Post your completed prompts in the comments as well as which song you jammed out to on the way to purchase the cokes!

Pantsing Vs. Plotting – A Collection of Opinions on Planning or Not Planning Your Novel

13 Jan

We recently participated in a questionnaire about pantsing or planning! What are your thoughts?

Koffee and Keyboards

A little while ago I asked various professional and aspiring authors their opinions on writing by the seat of their pants versus plotting their novel. They commented on the post their thoughts and why they preferred that method. These are them. You may use them for whatever purpose you’d like, but hopefully their original reasoning will guide you in your choices when writing. Enjoy!

Wayne Thomas Batson

The Door Within Trilogy, GHOST, The Bernifell Prophecies, and Many More

I don’t think there’s a right answer to the question. Each approach can work and work well for different authors. I am a staunch Outliner, and I’m very detailed. It works for me. Without it, the writing process takes ten times as long. The misunderstanding of outlining is that some feel outlining takes away the spontaneity of the scene. That doesn’t need to be true at all. My outlining process is full of just…

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Writing Is a Tough Career — Support One of Sarah’s Favorite Authors by Becoming a Patreon!

12 Oct

Mr. Batson has been an inspiration to Sarah since the beginning of her freshman year of high school (that’s like back in the stone-age, folks) and was one of the biggest influences on her early decisions to pursue writing Christian allegory. But now Mr. Batson is in need of our help!

Here’s what he has to say about becoming a Patreon:

Hi, this is Wayne Thomas Batson. I’m the author of The Door Within Trilogy, as well as, the other fantasy and adventure novels you see below:

In addition to being a writer, I’m an artist, a teacher, and above all else, a Christian.

Fifteen novels since 2005—all a huge blessing—and I hope my work has encouraged and entertained you. But now, I need your help.

You see, I have MORE story ideas waiting to be written. In fact, I have 30+ novel concepts ready and waiting to come to YOU, my readers. Here are just a few:

• Isle of Stars (3rd Pirate novel in the Isle of Swords Series)
• Isle of Blood (4th Pirate novel in the Isle of Swords Series)
• GHOST 2: Minister of Fire
• The Day Death Came to Town
• End of Forever
• A Christian’s Carol
• Genome
• Jack of all Trades
• Twist of Fate
• Wizard’s Gate
• Red Opening
• Ghostlight
• The Fateful Five
• Mirror of Souls (Book 3 of The Dark Sea Annals)
• The Wingborn (Book 4 of The Dark Sea Annals)
• Across the Dark Sea (Book 5 of The Dark Sea Annals)
• The Sevenfold Curse (Book 6 of The Dark Sea Annals)
• A Circle of Crowns (Book 7 of The Dark Sea Annals)
• The Price
• Bright Blue
• Mercury
• Wanderlust
• Catch Me

But the ONLY way I can bring you these new creations is with your support. I’m asking you to become a Patron of the Arts. Support me on Patreon.com with a pledge of any size to enable me to bring these stories to life. My goal is to become a full time author within five years, but without your support that will be impossible.

In return for your pledge, you’ll receive digital content, sneak previews, custom artwork, and of course…more of the kind of books you love.

In addition, if you make a pledge, you will be mentioned by name in the Acknowledgments Section of every book I write from here on out.

I’m calling on all Knights and Swordmaidens: please consider being my Patron of the Arts on Patreon.com.”

Please consider helping out one of Sarah’s biggest inspirations, Mr. Wayne Thomas Batson, keep following the King’s Way! Even if you can’t donate, check out some of his fantastic books. Some of Sarah’s favorites are The Bernifell PropheciesThe Door Within series, and GHOST!

Writing Buddies Are For Life

12 Aug

So this is pretty much co-authoring in a few pictures. In case you were wondering, along with writing, we also do weird, stupid things in public, but what were the librarians going to say?

The One About Co-Writing (Part Two)

7 Aug

And then they… no, they didn’t dance. They finished the one about co-writing.

 

6. Discuss the Book and All Future Plans for the Book Frequently. This may seem like a weird thing to do at first, but I promise it’s worthwhile. No one will be more supportive of you and your future (obviously awesome) fandom than your co-author. So talk about it. Where do you want this book to go? What are your dreams? If your dreams are as bad as Flynn Riders, then come up with some better ones. While it may seem like you’ll never get anywhere, laughing about who you think your readers will ship in the future and drooling over certain publishing companies will help not only to set your standards of achievement high, but it will also make you and your co-author closer. Along those same lines, you’ll establish similar aspirations for the book. This is very important. If you’re envisioning yourself as the next New York Times Best Seller and your buddy is really just wanting to write a story to share with the family, then he or she might not be so inclined to slave over the manuscript like you are. Talking about where you want to go with the book will also help you tackle the big discussions in chunks instead of all at once. Do you want to have more than one main character? How long of a book are we talking? Do we want to make this into a trilogy? A saga? A series? Multiple series? When should we draw the line and maybe move on to other things? Brooke and I went through this a lot with our “cycle” WilderQuest. A lot of times, we let all of our gushing ideas accumulate for months before we addressed them, and because of that, our ideas would often clash and clash hard. Again, communication is the key.

 

7. Keep the Book Consistent. What tense? What point of view? Formatting. It is a big deal. Let no one tell you otherwise. Ever. Because it is a big deal. Especially if one of the people involved is OCD. That was me, Sarah, if you were wondering. This is probably one of the most important things to keep in mind while you are co-writing. A lot of times, you and whoever you choose to write with will have very different ideas of how things should look. In fact, your styles will likely be very different as well. And although it can become a really big road-block if you let it, there are a lot of ways to avoid locking up over inconsistencies. This may end up requiring you teach a few Microsoft Word short cuts to your authoring compatriot or sacrifice your own ideal title headings for ones that your buddy likes more. Again, be ready to compromise and work through the problem with God’s grace and serenity. Agree on and then set up a chapter template, make character description sheets up, and share what you think about each others’ writing. Brooke and I often talked through inconsistencies that arose, making notes of some character’s preference for certain things and also how to properly indent paragraphs. And more often than not, all that was needed was brief clarification. Here’s what happens when you don’t do this:

“Evangeline huffed in irritation, glaring at Liz with her cold, dark brown eyes.” — Chapter 2, written by Sarah

“Evangeline’s bright blue eyes flashed; fear was evident in her face despite the chaos of battle.” — Chapter 11, written by Brooke

See the dilemma? While these sentences didn’t actually come straight from WilderQuest, this very thing actually did happen. You’ll find that you and your friend will likely have characters that the both of you created almost entirely by yourself, or you’ll come up on a part in your book where one of you planned out the battle scene to the gory details. These aren’t bad things, but always keep in mind that the other person working with you is probably not telepathic. If you have things planned out to the very last dotted i on the page, be sure to share this and be willing to compromise if your better (writing) half has an idea. Plot bunnies multiply exponentially where inconsistencies are, and no one wants to have to chase all those fluffy mongrels off.

 

8. Make Achievable Goals. The word “achievable” here is very important. Goals will be the things that help propel you through the tough times of novel writing and also push you to the breaking point, and goals will also often be a test of your teamwork finesse levels. Whether it’s a goal to reach a certain word count, write a certain number of chapters in a week, or a setting and meeting a certain dead line, you will find that it is very important one, that these goals that you set can actually be achieved, and two– without butting too much into the next point, that you encourage your friend to meet the goals that you do set. Seriously, just knowing that someone else who you know is human (because who can be sure about these big time author people) tacking a crack at reaching that really hard goal will help you to do better, even if you don’t achieve that goal in the end. Granted that nothing is quite as satisfying as knowing that you and your writing compadre have reached a goal on time. So strive to meet those goals. Or make a point to laugh about them later. Both are pretty enjoyable, although one of them is decidedly more productive.

 

9. Encourage One Another in Writing and in Life. This is definitely the biggest benefit of writing with another person. Although, undoubtedly, you will have your ups and downs, good days and days that main characters end up in dark pits being tortured to death, you will also have days that you finally pull out of your writer’s block and the first person to throw you a party and send you cake is your co-author. Days that you’ll disparagingly decide that your novel will never go anywhere and you might as well stop now and take up some profitable career now like your mom has been telling you to for the past sixteen years and the one to dispel all that is your wonderful, high-spirited writing buddy. In fact, you’ll find that the friends who write together, often stay together. Like, seriously, Brooke and I have been life-buddies since the tender age of two. There is something about spinning a tale with another uniquely amazing individual that is really pretty awesome in-and-of itself, and you will likely discover that the people who “get you” the best are the people that you write with. So, with this pretty awesome relationship in mind, don’t overlook the importance of daily making an effort to build each other up and encouraging one another to strive for each of your “bests” — whatever that best looks like. And if you’re pen pal is just having a rough go of it in general, be there for them– pray for them. Trust me, riding through the storms of life with someone is one sure way to ensure that when you write together– it’s just that: together.

 

10. Co-Writing Can Be Lots of Fun. So Enjoy It. One of the best feelings you’ll have while co-writing is the moment when you and your friend finish a book, and you read back through it and realize that you’ve shared a very unique part of yourself with another person who feels the same way. I have learned so much from co-writing and continue to learn about not only my own style and abilities, but also about other people and how to best interact with others. Truly, nothing will improve your writing as quickly as working together with other talented individuals because you will find yourself wanting to put forth your best so that they will do the same. Instead of standing on the precipice of a new novel alone, you will be standing with a friend and fellow warrior. Some of the best memories I have are from late-night role-playing sessions, really, freakishly long book planning discussions, and the intermittent moments of shared insider jokes and character impersonations. So have fun with it. Co-writing is probably one of the most fun things you’ll do. And while it does take a lot of work on the outset, the rewards that you reap in the long run will far exceed the little troubles that you go through at the start.

 

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Well, there’s our take on co-writing. Did you think of something that we missed now that we’ve reached the end? Think that you could explain one of the points better? Have a story to tell that fits one of our ten points? Tell us about it in the comments below!

New Contact Form

7 Aug

Hi, guys!

We just want to let you know that we have a new feature of EEB! You can now find our contact form in a drop-down menu from the “About” page at the top of the webpage. We are super excited about this, because, although we had a contact form before, we really would like to encourage y’all to submit questions about writing, faith, and life in general! You now can have a significant impact on what kind of posts we put up there.

You're going to have to sharpen your pencil for this one, guys.

You’re going to have to sharpen your pencil for this one, guys.

Now, we are, of course, going to continue with our usual posts and writing updates (and probably come up with some fun, random posts too — *spoilers* Sarah’s been thinking about starting a serial on idioms in the English language), but we are also super excited about building a community of writers who are for the kingdom of God! This is why your input is super important. You are all what makes this blog so much fun to write, and as a team we want to keep building up our relationships with you guys!

So don’t be afraid to drop us a line– even if it’s just to say hi. You guys are awesome, and we are excited about this new opportunity for us to all grow closer together.

 

-the EEB Writing Team