For many editors and proofreaders, the natural reaction to the words ‘public speaking’ can be summed up as follows: ‘Aaaaaaaaaargghhhh!’ (Or is that just me?)
Editing and proofreading tend to be rather solitary pursuits conducted behind closed doors, away from the public eye. For many freelancers, the need to speak in public doesn’t crop up regularly. In fact, sometimes there’s little need to speak at all in the course of a working day, especially now that online methods of communication are so widely used.
And if a public speaking opportunity does occasionally present itself – the invitation to give a talk or deliver a session at a conference – there’s usually the option for the freelancer to say ‘no’ without jeopardising their core editing and proofreading business.
So what on earth would possess a freelance editor to step outside their comfort zone and train in public speaking? At a recent meeting of our local Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) group, we heard from neuroscience editor Julia Slone-Murphy about ‘The life-changing magic of public speaking’.
Julia described situations in the past when she had been obliged to speak in public: the sleepless nights beforehand, the sweaty palms, the racing heartrate, the typewritten script delivered rapidly and without looking at the audience… She recently decided to tackle her fear by taking some training. Stepping several miles outside her comfort zone, Julia signed for up both a stand-up comedy course and some training with the Public Speaking Academy. Here’s a summary of what she gained, followed by three top tips for public speaking.
Key benefits of public speaking training
Three Top Tips
1.Make it personal
Your audience will be much more engaged in your speech if you remember to be yourself. Remember that we all have something different to say, and a unique way of saying it. Weave your own personal experiences and views into the message you’re conveying. Your audience is more likely to relate to your ‘story’, and your speech is more likely to be memorable and entertaining.
2.Focus on the message
Rather than worrying about being the centre of attention during your speech, focus on delivering a message your audience will find interesting. That will move the spotlight away from you and onto your audience: it will help you to give a useful, generous and helpful talk, without worrying about what people are thinking about you.
You need to find opportunities to carry on honing your skills and developing your techniques, otherwise you’ll be back to square one. Signing up for regular training is a good idea, as is saying ‘yes’ to as many speaking opportunities as possible!
Julia has gained so much from the training that she encourages everyone to improve their public speaking skills, whether or not they’re planning to give a presentation or make a speech. Goodbye, sweaty palms and racing heartrate; hello, logical thinking, eloquent delivery and sparkling social and business encounters!
Calling all SfEP members! There’s still time to nominate someone for this year’s Judith Butcher Award (JBA), presented annually to someone who has made a valuable contribution to the society or its members.
Most editors and proofreaders will be familiar with the name Judith Butcher, and many will own a copy of her reference book, Butcher’s Copy-editing. When Judith died in 2015, Tony Wilson, former chief executive of Cambridge University Press (1992–99) said of her: “Judith was far and away the best copy-editor 'on the block', and wrote the definitive handbook on the subject.”
Judith Butcher was the SfEP’s first honorary president, and in 2012 the society launched an award in her name. I was delighted to win this award in 2013, and I recently wrote a piece for the SfEP blog on why I’m a fan of the JBA: http://blog.sfep.org.uk/judith-butcher-award-sfep/
So don’t delay – nominate today!
See the full rules here, and email your nomination(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org by 12 noon on Friday 5 May 2017.