How an introvert manages speaking engagements – Varina Denman

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By Varina Denman

Six years ago, when I began drafting my first manuscript, I had misty daydreams of becoming a successful author. Translation: I thought I would sit in my comfy office, writing all day and leaving the house only to deposit my accumulating royalty payments. In other words, an introvert’s wonderland.♥

Needless to say, since then reality has hit me squarely between the eyes. I have three books up and running, and another one due to release any day now, but somehow my daydream hasn’t yet come to fruition. Not that I’m giving up. It could happen … eventually … I think, but I’m going to have to work my tail off in the meantime, and this introvert is going to have to step out of her comfort zone and tackle a few odd jobs. Since I am IN LOVE with the creative process, I will go to great lengths to support my writing habit, and for the time being, that includes the dreaded public speaking engagements.

I would rather eat bugs than talk in front of strangers, but even more than that, I would rather write than not write, therefore I’ve opted to take on the challenge of public speaking. My first few engagements made me a little nauseated, and after a particularly lively group at the public library, I honestly had dizzy spells for a week. However, I’m happy to report that things are getting easier.

A therapist friend of mine suggested I think of myself as another person. (Like … a person who enjoys talking to people) It was a stretch at first, but now I see the logic behind his suggestion. Lately, it’s been easier for me to “slip into” the role of public speaker, especially when the audience is made up of strangers. For all they know, I’m outgoing and lively. It’s more difficult in a group that knows exactly how soft-spoken I am.

Another trick I’ve discovered is to write every single word of my speech ahead of time. That just makes sense, you know, since I’m a writer. Before I started doing this, I would stutter over my thoughts, because, of course, I’m better at writing than speaking. Once I accepted that fact, I started to use my strengths to my advantage, and now each sentence is strategically crafted, right down to the subtle jokes to keep the audience’s attention. Not that I always stick to the script, which brings me to my last suggestion.

I practice, practice, practice the speech, not memorizing it word for word, but familiarizing myself with it enough that I don’t have to look down at the podium constantly. By doing this, the words more easily roll of my tongue. It’s as though my muscles already know the words, so when my brain doesn’t keep up, my mouth can fill in the gaps. I know that sounds silly, but seriously, people, I’m not a public speaker. This works for me. Never do I stick to the script, but all the practice gives me confidence so that I feel comfortable straying down a few rabbit trails, knowing I can come back to my pre-written lines whenever I need to.

These are definitely not foolproof, or introvert-proof, tips, but they have helped me to overcome my paralyzing fear of public speaking, and therefore to supplement my income enough that I can keep writing. And someday, eventually, I hope to sit in my cozy office all day, writing on my stories. But who knows? By then, I may be dreaming of speaking engagements. (But I doubt it.)

Varina Denman writes stories about women and the unique struggles they face. Her award-winning Mended Hearts series is a compelling blend of women’s fiction and inspirational romance. Her latest novel, Looking Glass Lies, tells the story of Cecily Ross, a recently divorced woman struggling with low self-image. A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations. Looking Glass Lies is out now, from Waterfall Press.


  1. Varina Denman

    May 16, 2017 at 2:44 am

    Thanks for inviting me to share a bit of my story on We Heart Writing. I’ve enjoyed being here with your readers!

  2. Phil Cobb

    July 21, 2017 at 1:10 am

    Varina, I’ve been there — not promoting a book but having had a boss who, without telling me, scheduled me to speak at a conference. Talk about anxiety! To deal with such future surprises, I decided that the only way to get rid of the tension was to join a local Toastmasters group, which I did not want to do, but I did it. Surprisingly, (I know, that’s an adverb), it turned out to be an enjoyable experience in which I made new friends and lost my fear of public speaking.

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