On Saturday I had the honor of speaking at WANACon, the online writers’ conference sponsored by Kristen Lamb’s WANA International.
I’ve spoken at many conferences, to authors’ groups, in libraries, and on the radio. I spent five years as a law school professor and almost twice that many in adjunct teaching roles. I long ago passed the point where fear was a factor in public speaking.
Until this weekend.
As the hour of my talks approached, I found myself increasingly nervous – sick-to-the-stomach nervous, something I haven’t felt in over a decade. I told my husband about it, and (as usual) he found the solution almost at once: technology.
When I’ve spoken before, I’ve spoken either in person or (on the radio) with an interviewer guiding the talk. I’d never lectured via web-conferencing software, and the new experience took me out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t worried about the talks. I know my subjects and know them well. I was worried about interfacing with a computer instead of a human, and about goofing up because I had to lecture out of sight of my audience.
Those who know me probably find this funny. I’ve adapted to blogging, to Twitter and Facebook and Skype. I use FaceTime to talk with relatives on a regular basis, and I’m a huge fan of tech that lets me connect with family, friends and readers.
Yet WANACon scared my boots off. (Literally … I did the sessions barefoot.)
As it turned out, I didn’t have to worry. The technology worked exactly as planned and from what I could tell, the attendees enjoyed the sessions. After a nervous minute or two, I loosened up, established my bearings, and had a fantastic time. (Big thanks to Jami Gold for moderating, too – her confidence helped me re-establish my own.)
The experience taught me a valuable lesson about flexibility and preparation. My willingness to take a chance allowed me to reach an audience that I never could have reached in another way. Even so, if I hadn’t been well prepared, it wouldn’t have been as easy to conquer my fear. Having conquered it, however, I find myself looking forward to the next time I have the chance to reach an audience this way.
The lesson in this applies across the board: as authors and as people, we need to be willing to step outside our comfort zones, and to be as prepared as possible when we do. Facing fears is never easy, but the positive payoffs – for ourselves and for those we can help and reach – is more than worth the risk.