I’m late posting this week because my husband and I had the pleasure of taking TusCon’s Guest of Honor Patricia Briggs and her husband Mike to the Desert Museum yesterday. (They were delightful guests and great fun to be with.) After several days of too little sleep and an afternoon walking around in the sun, I was a little too fried to write anything you’d want to read. But after getting up early to go to the dentist to replace a broken crown (fun!) I’m back.
As I wrote last time, TusCon is my local science-fiction convention. In many ways it resembles a family reunion with 400 cousins you only see once a year. It’s a smaller convention, which gives authors and fans an opportunity to mingle and make new friends like Patty and Mike Briggs, and Carol Berg. It’s also a safe place for me to practice promoting my books.
I was scheduled to be on three panels, a reading, and the mass autograph. During the convention I volunteered to be on another panel, and was asked to fill in on a fifth. Of course I was happy to help. I’ve been on panels before as a “pro” since I’ve had short stories out for several years, but this time it felt a little more like I deserved to be there and less like I was dressing up in my mother’s clothes. I had VEILED MIRROR and LIGHTBRINGER to prop up in front of me.
I’m okay with speaking in front of small groups, and TusCon is a very relaxed environment, but there’s always a little insecurity–and that’s a good thing. That caution will help you be professional. Here are some tips. Some of them may seem obvious, but there good to remember.
- Be clean in body and breath. Your fellow panelists will thank you, and you never know, this may be the only time someone in the audience ever sees you. Like they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
- Be sober and rested (if possible). Fatigue and alcohol can impair your judgement. After you say something in front of a crowd it can’t be unsaid.
- Know what you’re talking about. Have the facts. It’s embarrassing to be corrected in public.
- Accept correction graciously and with good humor.
- Don’t talk too much and don’t interrupt. Let your fellow panelists contribute.
- Don’t talk too little. You’re there because someone thought you had something to say. Contribute. It’s okay to mention your books. You should. But don’t use your books to illustrate every point you make.
- Smile (when appropriate). You’ll feel better and so will the audience.
- Listen. Don’t just be thinking of the next thing you’re going to say. (A strategy Patty Briggs uses: bring paper and pen to make notes of points you want to make later.)
- Compliment the other panelists when they make a good point and thank them afterward.
- Have fun. Even if you make a make a mistake, it will make a good story later. And it’s seldom as bad as you think it is.