Do you struggle to find your voice when it comes time to public speaking? Does fear grip you and keep you from sharing valuable information with those who need it? In this episode of Curves Welcome, my special guest, Alison R. Soloman, joins me to discuss how to improve at public speaking and share some easy tips on ways you can end the struggle.
3:55 Alison’s background in public speaking
6:41 Passionate about what you’re speaking about
7:41 Influencing people through public speaking
9:05 Staying authentic while public speaking
10:33 Why do people fear public speaking
15:46 What to do when you make a mistake while public speaking
18:33 Pacing while public speaking
19:20 Takeaway tips for public speaking
26:55 Believe in the value of your message
30:44 How to connect with Alison
About Alison R. Soloman
Alison Solomon is the author of four mystery novels, the most recent being Before She Left. She has recently released Timing Is Everything as an audiobook. In January 2019 she was very excited to re-release her re-edited debut novel, "Along Came the Rain" (originally published by Sapphire Books.) ACTR received fantastic reviews and was a Goldie finalist. In November 2018 her third novel "Timing Is Everything" was voted Best of the Bay for a novel by a Tampa Bay author. She has published numerous articles and chapters on feminism, mental health and diversity in academic textbooks, anthologies, journals and newspapers.
Connect with her here:
Hey thanks for joining me today for this episode of curves welcome a podcast about facing and embracing the curves of life if this is your first time tuning in this is Suzie Carr. Welcome to the curves welcome podcast i am here with a very special guest Alison Solomon. Alison is the author of four mystery novels the most recent being before she left she has published numerous articles and chapters on feminism mental health and diversity in academic textbooks anthologies journals and newspapers for several years she wrote a bi-weekly humorous lesbian feminist column that ran in the Philadelphia weekly and an advice column in the Sacramento jewish voice she's written several short stories in several anthologies. She is happily married to Carol and has been with her for 29 years and has one rescue dog who very kindly allows them to live with her and take care of her. Today Alison is here to talk with us about a favorite topic of mine and the bane of many people's existence public speaking can you imagine public speaking is one of the top fears in this country people fear public speaking more than they fear death so I’m here to welcome Alison to see if we can come up with some tips for you to help make this process and journey into public speaking easier less painful less fearful for you Alison welcome to curves welcome thank you Suzie it's so nice to have you here and i really cannot wait to dig into this topic i was really shocked when you said about how i mean i know a lot of people are scared of public speaking but i didn't realize they were quite that scared they are I’ve i heard that statistic many years ago when i was prepping a speech for work and i wanted to start out with that stat because i was really nervous to have to give a speech in front of all my colleagues now i majored in public speaking in undergrad but this was like 1997 i graduated many years ago and i didn't really have a lot of practice in the whole public speaking thing and I’ve done some at the gcls conferences and things of that sort but i was really out of practice and so it's something that i believe strongly in and it's something i wanted to learn how to do better because i feel it's really important as a professional as a woman to be able to speak up and have a voice and that's why i wanted to really talk about this topic today first of all though before we get started tell me how is life going for you life is going great i live part-time in florida and part-time in the mountains of north carolina those are the trees you can see behind you and uh yeah life is great i do some online psychotherapy and i am writing having published the four uh mystery novels I’m at work now on a literary fiction um novel that I’m really excited about it's sort of the book that i always wanted to write and I’ve just taken a long time to get here oh fantastic do you have a title for it uh it's called if i told you but i believe that will change i know I’ve done the same thing because as you get to know the story and the characters things evolve and then all of a sudden a magical title sort of comes into the life of it and actually the the it was published that i published a short story called if i told you on the jewish literary journal which is online so if anybody is interested in seeing what it's going to be about you can it's that short story developed in many different directions ah that's fantastic so Alison tell me a little about your background in when specifically when it involves public speaking well i was glad that you said you know as a woman and as a professional because i think public speaking is sort of what we do almost all the time um I’m not like some big public speaker that goes around giving lectures you know all over the place a motivational speaker or whatever but really i think it started for example when i lived in israel i used to run the rape crisis center and we used to give talks about sexual assault and those talks were to all kinds of audiences and we wanted to engage our audience it was a in those days in the 90s a very tough topic for people to listen to so uh that was where it started um when i lived in mexico i worked as a rabbi and that's definitely a form of public speaking when you give sermons when you um you know engage your community I’m a clinical social worker by profession and so even when you run group therapy you sort of have to know how to get people involved in where they're at so to speak I’m also a teacher and i i absolutely believe that you should be a good public speaker to teach because that's i know what i love when I’m in class and it's someone who's exciting to listen to not someone who's reading out of a book or stumbling over their words and then I’m an author and we do author readings and we talk about our books and it's so important to be able to do that in a way that you engage people i um a few years ago i founded the gulfport readout which is a festival of lesbian literature and you can really see the difference and of course at gcls too when we do author spotlights you can see the difference when people read and you immediately want to hear more it makes you want to run out and buy the book versus people who read and you just sort of feel a bit embarrassed for them absolutely I’ve been in the audience of both like you said and as a student now I’m a student in a graduate program right now but I’ve been a student as well in many courses many workshops online in person and when a facilitator or presenter is in front of you the most engaging kind are the ones that have that high energy or i don't want to say hi over the top energy but just that appropriate level of energy they have vocal variety and they care about what they're speaking about they they truly want the audience or the students to grasp what they have learned and they're trying to share that with you to me that's been the most moving and provocative type of speeches I’ve listened to are those that there's real there's really an emotional appeal behind the speaker wanting so badly to share that information you're exactly right because that's the most important aspect i think of public speaking is that you got to be passionate about what you're talking about and if you are passionate about it i absolutely think that's what makes it easier because you want to get your point across you want people to know whatever it is that you're telling them yeah absolutely tell me what is it that you love most about public speaking and how has that passion or that love for public speaking empowered you as a professional in all the all the roles that you just told us you're involved with first of all I’m not sure if i would say i love public speaking because i actually what happens for me is i don't get that nervous beforehand i give whatever talk I’m giving and then afterwards is when i have all these butterflies about but you know first of all i think of all the things i wish i'd said or how i'd said them better or i go through that whole process but what i do love about public speaking is being able to influence people being able to give them information that they never had before or if I’m reading from my book entertain them or engage them yeah absolutely i feel like when i i feel like you have to put a certain hat on when you're about to present and when i don't put that hat on when i just show up as myself and then i have i let the butterflies get the most of me that's when i i lose that connection with the audience because I’m so worried about myself but when i put that hat on of wanting to learn something and then share it then everything changes the dynamic of the room of the atmosphere whether virtual or in person changes all of a sudden it's not about me the presenter who cares what people think about me what i care about at that moment is am i giving them knowledge that they can use that's useful to them and i think it's really about knowing your audience in that situation it's knowing who it is that you're trying to reach and tailoring tailoring what you're about to teach them or present to them to them showing that you value their time and their desire to sit there and listen to you right and and i agree with you but the other thing i would caution people is i think sometimes when you say put on that hat they think oh I’ve suddenly got to sound like a professional and use big words and come across as an authority and that's the part where i would say we do have to be our authentic selves and we do that's one of the things I’ve often been told is oh it's easy to listen to you because i feel like you're just chatting with me so I’ve never tried to be that kind of speaker who you know is larger than life because that's not who i am that is really powerful and great advice and I’m glad that you made that distinction because i i do agree i do agree with you i think when i where i was coming from with the hat was more so realizing your reason your why for being up there presenting to people instead of not having that hat on and not knowing your why and just being a bundle of nerves think about that hat really is what is up what is the point and then being your true self authentic i am with you a million percent over that you have to be authentic or else people are gonna people are just gonna know it's not you up there it's not you're trying to act you're trying too much to trying too hard just show up be yourself and just do what you genuinely care about yeah what do you why do you feel people fear public speaking so much i think there's a lot of different reasons i think first of all um first of all people for example who are not entirely fluent in a language or have an accent feel like oh nobody wants to hear me or they're going to laugh at me or they're not going to understand what i have to say and that is so not true when i was at the rape crisis center we that's now I’m in states but anyway when i was at the one in sacramento one of my um counselors that who was responsible for giving talks about um sexual assault was vietnamese and she had a very strong accent and she said you know i feel as if people you know they they sort of can't hear what i have to say and i said just start out by telling them as you may have noticed I’m vietnamese and i have an accent if i if you don't understand something i say please ask me to repeat it i won't be offended and it was partly about her relaxing herself and it was partly about her relaxing her audience so that they knew if there was a word that they didn't catch they could ask her to repeat it um and i think that that's a lot of times what happens for people is they think they've got to be perfect and so they um they think if I’ve got any flaws you know and actually the thing about accents is that people love them you know i have this bizarre accent because i grew up in england and it doesn't come out that often but people will forgive a lot if they like your accent and when i lived in mexico for example my spanish was hopeless but i still did you know people enjoy listening to someone who speaks spanish badly and when i was in israel i had i did a radio show in hebrew for an hour and i know i made mistakes but it the topic i was talking about which was reproductive technologies and it was a very interesting topic i was so passionate about it i didn't care what mistakes i made and afterwards the um woman who hosted the show who was a very well known you know broadcast journalist said to me that was one of the most interesting topics I’ve ever had on my show she didn't berate me for the fact that my grammar was hopeless so first of all i think that people have to get over this thing of if i don't can't do it perfectly i shouldn't do it at all and i think the other thing that people are really scared about is what we talked about earlier they don't believe that what they have to say is important enough and that people don't care about what they're going to talk about yeah well you just brought up some really amazing points first of all i have a funny accent and i get called out on it all the time at first i used to be very self-conscious that i have this accent and it's a blend it sounds like new york boston and rhode island it's rhode island but it's also part maryland because I’ve been here for 18 years now and I’ve always tried to get rid of it because people would always where are you from oh you must be from rhode island and i always took that as to be a bad thing so i was very self-conscious for a long time about that and then one day i realized wait a minute this is who i am and it's how i speak and I’ve had people then once I’ve embraced that I’ve had people say to me no i love your accent don't get rid of it why would you want to get rid of it and it's so true we all have accents because we're from all different places and that's what makes it so wonderful and rich and and just engaging and empowering so there's nothing to be ashamed of when you have an accent secondly you are so worldly in terms of your traveling and living in different places and that's really important i this let's see a year and a half ago i traveled to columbia south america i spent six weeks there and my spanish was atrocious too especially on day one but by the time i left week five week six i started speaking a lot more because i stopped fearing of what i sounding unintelligent because my grandma wasn't right nobody cares about that what they care about is that you're trying and they're so honored to have you speaking with them so you know if i waited to be perfect in my spanish i would have sat silent for six weeks and how fun would that be I’ve been that wouldn't have been very much fun so my i agree with you on that we can't wait for that perfect moment and there is no such thing as perfect anyway because that's a subjective the way we speak is very subjective in terms of our accents and i personally love listening to you speak you have you have such a beautiful just the way you articulate a beautiful accent so yes i agree with you on that and really good points and really great advice to just get out there and speak and embrace that i loved what you talked to what you said about the person who was a afraid that nobody was going to understand her state it right up front a lot of times when we state these fears that we have in our own heads and we get them out there on the surface they no longer affair anymore people appreciate that authenticity right or uh when you make a mistake when you're speaking i mean it's definitely happened to me that either you have a talk that you're reading but you lose your place or you have a talk that you're saying off top of your head and you totally blank out so i have definitely said to audiences oh I’m really sorry i completely blanked out give me a minute and I’ll get right back into it or sometimes I’ll ask the audience what was the last thing i said you know people don't mind that they don't i think they appreciate that it makes them feel relaxed like okay you know this person's not trying to preach at me or out show me they're just they're here with us and they're connecting so i think that's really important now let's talk about i always like to think about the greatest life lesson you learned if we could put it in the context of what's the greatest thing that you learned the biggest lesson you learned from public speaking that now it helps you to this day gosh that's a really interesting question um probably it's that I’m a very easily distracted person and when you do public speaking you have got to focus on your message and you've got to sort of put aside all the distractions um and that's probably absolutely true for me in life now that you mention it you know that is totally true for me in life as well I’m you know both in my public speaking and in life i am I’m interested in lots of things and so i get very easily distracted and i can go off topic and so yeah i guess it's uh stay on topic and it's so hard to do i do some live shows now on youtube I’m just starting to get into it and staying within that show flow they call it trying to be on topic it's really it can be really hard because i feel like it takes you out of that engagement sometimes because you'll see the comments come in and it's like a squirrel like oh so it can really be distracting but what a skill it is to be able to learn to figure that process out because it's true with anything in life the distractions can really right and i was going to say again you know if you're actually in the middle of a talk and people are asking questions well there is something that you suddenly think of you can always tell people by the way I’m going to keep a pen and paper here i want to write things down so i come back to them because there's definitely no way I’m going to remember um things otherwise yeah that whole thing of sharing with your audience what you're doing and not making out that you're anything more than you are i love that and i was going to say along with the distraction i know um I’ve often been told i talk too quickly and when i read out loud i read too quickly and that's probably another life lesson for me i think my wife would definitely agree that slow down would be not only a lesson i can take in public speaking but in life as well wow yeah that's so true I’ve learned i have learned that myself because mainly from listening and i do video production and i can hear myself i can hear myself when I’m just speaking and babbling and talking too much versus when i am articulate slow down try to really create my thoughts stop saying um and ah but just pause that really makes a big difference now let's talk about some takeaways that listeners can can carry with them after this conversation if somebody is out there and they're they know they have to present or do some public speaking and they're freaking out about it what are some tips that you can share with them so that they can be more relaxed and effective and you have already shared some really great tips do you have any additional ones that you feel would be helpful well i think i think the most important thing is practice i think that you definitely if you're reading from your book or if you're going to be giving a talk you have to really practice it so that you're so familiar I’ve been amazed at like you know if you're an author for example you think well i wrote this thing obviously it's easy enough to read but then you start reading it and you discover actually it's not as easy as i thought and i forgot that i wanted to make the emphasis on this part not that part and so as an author it's very important to take your material and mark it up and tell yourself where you want to put your emphases and all that and as a speaker it's the same thing you want to give your talk enough times i know a lot of people say practice in front of a mirror i guess i don't think that part is important and maybe that's also because I’m not visually someone that uh i don't tend to notice a lot of visual stimuli anyway but i do think practicing saying the words i mean that was something i definitely had to do when I’m talking in foreign languages i definitely had to sort of say certain words over and over until i could really be comfortable with them in my mouth um so i think there's that that um and also record yourself if you record yourself and then listen back to it you can hear oh gosh i really am talking too quickly or you can hear where you don't understand you know what kind of what you wanted to say you know so that's that's one thing i do think that people you know need you that's the best way to get over any fear is to is to practice i agree so with toastmasters one of the things that i learned is i practice my speeches so i write them and then i take two weeks before i know i have to present it and i practice it i want to become so familiar with it and I’ll tell you in those two weeks in that process that's where the magic happens because you start reading it and you're like okay it sounds a little bogged down let me take this word out let me add this word and then all of a sudden by the time two weeks is up you're so familiar with it and you've heard the words that aren't working that you've taken those out you've added ones in its place and by the time you get to that point where you're going to present it's like second nature and you know where you want your voice to inflect and not to inflict right and so i think that that that familiarity that practice is so crucial and and you do something which i think is really important you sparkle and i think that sparkling in some form is is really important because people do want to hear something either that's funny or you know like it's very common for even in churches i think a lot of pastors will start this sermon with a joke you know it's very common for people to do something that just brings your audience in so it doesn't have to be that i or i think singing is a great thing i know most people are absolutely way too scared to sing in public but people love to hear even you burst into song for a minute but anything that just sort of shows that you know here i am and and I’m going to give you a good time that authenticity we were talking about right it's it's funny you say that I’ve done that I’ve broken into sing-song type of just here comes the sun before i give before i give a speech it's kind of one of those get the nerves out and then all of a sudden the audience is like whoa what is she doing and they're like oh right all right and then they're eased you know what i was thinking a couple of years ago at readout so for example you know when you're given um seven minutes to read an excerpt so many people will think okay how many words can i saw cram into seven minutes and we had a reader it was addison and I’m really sorry I’m blanking on addison's last name but she um she read an excerpt it was the shortest thing she may have only taken four minutes she read it so well people were lined up to buy her books because it was like we just had an actress in our presence or something someone who just did something so different and i thought it was such a good lesson for people who think well I’ve got to get that first paragraph in but i don't want to miss off that last paragraph yeah concise less is more a lot of times because in that in that in that time frame so like for toastmasters we're taught five to seven minutes don't go above that because that's the sweet spot for attention spans and same thing happens a lot of times you hear people cramming as much as they can into five to seven minutes and then they can't really deliver it whereas if you cut the word count down and you just focus really on that content that's really vital that's really important and get rid of the get rid of the stuff that doesn't belong there and just focus on that deliver have those pauses look at the audience all that that non-verbal stuff is just as important as what you're saying yes well when you said look at the audience i think that's absolutely it your whole goal is to engage people and really what you want to be thinking about is not what do i want to say but what do they want to hear or what do they need to hear or what will they get from this what will they learn from this and when you ask yourself that you realize that there's a lot of extraneous stuff that you would love to say but it's not going to stick with them and so why say it yeah it's all about them as it should be it takes a lot of pressure off yourself when it's about someone else yeah is there anything else that you'd like to share before we close out today's show no i really appreciate that you're doing these podcasts and i think you are such an ideal example of someone who public speaks i noticed that from the moment you you said your first sentence and i think if anybody wanted to learn how to do it they should just watch you you you pause when you should pause you smile you um you put expression to everything you say i think that you're an ideal example of oh sorry of someone who uh who does great public speaking and and that's sort of what i meant at the beginning when i said that i think we are actually doing public speaking much more than we realize in a way you're you're doing it all the time absolutely thank you so much for what you said that means a lot it really does i have always been somewhat self-conscious of presenting of speaking in public and I’ve just said to myself get over this fear by doing it and so i put myself in that position a lot everything i do i it's public speaking and and i think that you're pointing to probably the most important thing of all which is believe in yourself because i think that the people and i do get it that people who are very introverted and very shy they have a hard time even speaking up you know in front of a group of friends so i get that doing a talk to strangers feels absolutely terrifying but it is that sense of underneath it all if you believe you have something valuable to say if you believe in yourself then of course you want to say what it is that you're there to say and that's where it's got to start really it's knowing that you have that value because you've learned it from somebody you've learned it from a book you've learned it from something some experience and now you want to share that with people and that's very valuable it's very worthy and we all have that within us to to teach somebody something from what we've experienced already and just believing in yourself yes because actually we can we can learn as much from shy people from quiet people from people who are timid they're just as valuable as as the people who can just sort of fling their arms up and talk loudly and go on forever I’ll tell you one of the biggest lessons i learned in life was from somebody i met a long time ago i was probably in my early 20s i was a hairdresser as a fellow hairdresser and she always had this knack of making me feel like i was the most important thing in the world to her at that moment in time and i said to her one day i don't know what you do i don't know how you do that but it seems like everybody that you speak with you do that they light up what is your secret and she said to me i learned one day when i went to a baby shower for somebody i didn't for a friend and i didn't know anybody else in the room i walked into that baby shower and everybody was in their their little clicks and nobody was really paying any attention to me so i sat there in the corner of the room and felt very uncomfortable and then i spotted somebody else who looked just as uncomfortable as i did and i said I’m gonna go up to her and make small talk and she pushed herself to do that and so she went to the most uncomfortable person in the room and they had a conversation about whatever i don't know maybe it was the brownies they were eating or whatnot and how pretty everything was and all of a sudden she said that person opened up we had a wonderful conversation and then another person gravitated because we were laughing about something they joined in then another person and before you know it that's how you network your way around a room is take it one person at a time and make it your goal to make that person feel comfortable that was the best advice i ever got because now when i find myself in a situation like that where i am entering a room and i don't know anybody that is my goal find somebody who looks uncomfortable and make them feel valued and comfortable and that really works for big crowds small crowds one-on-one it's just it's a way to break out of that introverted shell because I’m a shy i believe it or not i used to be a very shy person and this is what helped me to kind of get break out of that shyness and start to embrace the world and the people in it and the that's how you make a difference in this world is to make people feel valued right yeah Alison how can people connect with you best um i have a website my middle initial is r and my website is Alison r solomon and Alison is spelled with one l um so that's probably the easiest way because i have a contact form on there but they're also very welcome to email me at Alison Alisonrsoloman.com i am on facebook also Alison r solomon is that you may recognize a theme here i am on twitter and instagram although i am one of those people that I’m not terribly comfortable with either of those platforms and i don't use them nearly as much as i should very good what I’m going to do is I’ll link to all of that information in the show notes so if you're interested in connecting further with Alison about this topic or about just checking out her books some of the some of the things that she's out there doing go ahead and connect with her that way in addition to the public speaking um i during the pandemic when we had so much time at the beginning and i didn't know what to do with myself i decided to teach myself how to make an audio book i'd always wanted to put my books and have my books in audiobook form but it was way too expensive for me and so i learned how to edit and tape and do all that stuff and it took hours and hours and hours but uh the finished products are available as well and the reason i mention that is because I’m not a narrator narrator as americans would say and um so so again it was that leap of you know people who um enjoy my books hopefully will enjoy listening to me read my own books even though I’m not a professional narrator and i think that's the same thing about public speaking when you're being authentic people enjoy it oh that's great to know i actually went through a similar circumstance i narrated one of my novels it was so much work but the learning curve once you get over that it's powerful because that's actually what led me to video production because i really enjoyed the editing process of the audio and the wavelengths and all that and then all of a sudden i just started getting into video and it's it's a great thing coming out of your comfort zone to do that learning something new and applying that whole public speaking aspect to what you're doing fabulous Alison this has been so wonderful I’ve enjoyed this conversation so much thank you so much for coming on me too thank you so much for having me it's been such a pleasure and just keep doing what you're doing Suzie because it's fabulous thank you hey friends thanks for spending time with me today i hope you enjoyed today's topic if there is something you'd enjoy exploring in a future podcast please reach out to me via my website at curveswelcome.com and I’ll work it in while you're there grab a free story too it's my way of thanking you for your support of my podcast and romance novels also be sure to follow the curves welcome podcast channel to keep up on the latest episodes so thanks for tuning in until next time go out there and continue to learn grow and embrace life's curves.