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How to Assess Your Public Speaking Comfort Level

October 19, 2011


 Angela DeFinis is an industry expert in professional public speaking. As an author, executive speech coach, and founder of DeFinis Communications, she has spent over twenty years helping business professionals communicate with greater poise, power, and passion. Using her signature Line by Line Coaching™ process, Angela and her talented staff have trained business leaders and other professionals to speak with increased skill and confidence in engaging any audience.


Nervousness and public speaking go hand-in-hand. And in all my years as a presentations skills coach, I’ve found that people’s anxiety tends to fall into one of four categories. These four levels reflect a speaker’s comfort level and confidence. Which one best describes you?

  • Level 1: Pressured and Petrified: People in this category tend to display the greatest signs of nervousness—visible blushing, perspiration, quivering voice, or shaking hands. They are extremely uncomfortable and deeply afraid, often to the point of paralysis. These individuals generally have little experience speaking to groups, but because of a recent promotion or increased job responsibilities, they are now expected to speak (i.e., the technician who has been moved into the team lead position or the customer service representative who now has to manage others and represent the department). These people have little desire to speak in public, but now are required to do so. With limited confidence they have a great opportunity for personal and professional growth.
  • Level 2: Hurried and Harried: These people deal with their fear and discomfort by racing through their material for one specific purpose—to get through it! They are usually familiar with their subject matter but rarely prepare or practice. They like to wing it. Many even believe that their “practice” happens while they are giving their presentation. As a result of their lack of preparation, they “hurry” through their presentation, talking too fast, shifting their weight, avoiding eye contact, and showing other physical signs of nervousness. The good news for this group is that with a few simple changes they can quickly increase their capacity and become more comfortable and effective.
  • Level 3: Surprised and Startled: These people have situational nervousness. They are fine in their regular day-to-day presentations, but if asked to perform out of their routine, they experience anxiety and discomfort. However, they typically don’t show their nervousness. In fact, their audience barely picks up on it, but the speaker still feels anxious. These speakers take the time to practice and are generally more prepared than most, but unusual situations cause them to revisit earlier bouts of nerves and agitation. They are often the managers who comfortably lead staff or division meetings, but when asked to speak at an all-hands meeting or at a conference, they become anxious. The good news for these speakers is that they already know how to be comfortable in front of one type of audience, so it’s just a matter of increasing their capacity so that they can be as comfortable in every new situation they encounter.
  • Level 4: Eager and Enthusiastic: These are the people who love to speak and do so with ease, taking advantage of every opportunity and stepping up at a moment’s notice. They enjoy the adrenalin rush that speaking provides and ride it to peak performance. These people may be great product evangelists, expert salespeople, senior leaders, marketing and public relations professionals, motivational speakers, and corporate trainers. They have already built a substantial capacity for comfort—and there is still room to grow.

What sets these four groups apart? It usually boils down to just two things: knowledge and experience. Level 4 speakers know what they’re talking about and give presentations frequently. These confident speakers know from experience that preparation and practice are the keys to high performance. They develop powerful content. They prepare, rehearse, and get out there over and over. They have taken the time to build confidence.


Whether you need to give a presentation at a low-key staff meeting for just a few or at a high profile conference for thousands, you can increase your capacity to adapt to the demands of the speaking situation and use your skills and experience to succeed. Every speaker—even you—has the potential to get there!

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The Big Bad Book Blog's Link Love

October 7, 2011

In true book nerd fashion, we’ve rounded up our favorite publishing-related links of the week for you! Read on to uncover the best in books this week. If you want to know about these links sooner than Friday afternoon, follow us on Twitter—@GreenleafBookGr.

  • No one likes a boring magician, right? Fast Company interviews “Millionaire Magician” Steve Cohen on his secrets of spellbinding pitches. (Read: His tips are not just for aspiring magicians).
  • Attention people who still use @yahoo and @aol email addresses: Your email’s days might be numbered, says CBS’s BNET. The two former giants were featured in their “10 Big Brands in Big Trouble” article this week.
  • Happy Friday everyone! In honor of the last day of the workweek, Publishers Weekly collected some fun word games. They also have a picture of a cat using a computer. Go.


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The Big Bad Book Blog's Link Love

September 30, 2011

In true book nerd fashion, we’ve rounded up our favorite publishing-related links of the week for you! Read on to uncover the best in books this week. If you want to know about these links sooner than Friday afternoon, follow us on Twitter—@GreenleafBookGr.

  • Let’s all welcome yet another digital publishing platform into the marketplace this week. BookRiff, a system that allows consumers and publishers to mix and match content from various sources to create their own book, is set to launch on October 6. Have no fear published authors—all original content owners and contributors are ensured to be paid through BookRiff’s services.
  • Lo’ and behold, the Kindle Fire Android was introduced to the masses on Thursday by Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos. For your viewing pleasure, Mashable has embedded the entire 51-minute Amazon Kindle Fire announcement. Will the Kindle Fire give its Apple competitors a run for their money?
  • And just for fun (or not), TechCrunch imagined, "The Future of Books: A Dystopian Timeline," predicting that 2015 will mark "the death of the Mom and Pops. Smaller bookstores will use the real estate to sell coffee and Wi-Fi. Collectable bookstores will still exist in the margins."
  • A new partnership is born: Lulu.com announced on September 27 that it has partnered with the world’s dominating bookseller, Barnes & Noble. “This partnership is another step in our passionate efforts to help Lulu creators reach more readers and sell more books”, says Bob Young, Founder and CEO of Lulu.
  •  If you haven’t already checked it out, take a look this year’s shortlisted books for the Man Booker Prize. Winners of the prize will look forward to a life of worldwide recognition and a place in English literature’s history. Who will take the medal this year?
  •  “I’m listening to the band LCD Soundsystem on an Internet music service called Spotify. Because I’ve updated my Facebook page and because I’ve logged in to Spotify with my Facebook identity, every song I listen to is automatically shared to Facebook. Suddenly, my listening experience isn’t private. It’s public.” Sound scary? Facebook seems to have taken a mind of its own with ‘real-time’ apps. Users beware.
  • Does Autumn make you nostalgic for pencil bags, notebooks, and pep rallies? If so, find a hammock in the cool, fall breeze and get lost in one of NPR’s Autumn reads.
  •  The stakes are rising for LCD readers, and new competitors are quickly finding their way into the market. Keep up with the buzz regarding the next tablet to hit the streets, Kobo’s Vox Android.

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Podcasts: The Why, The How, The Who

September 27, 2011

The Why

Podcasts have grown so popular in the past few years that they now cover every topic under the sun, from technology to comedy, from family fun to business. And it’s no wonder so many people choose this medium to amplify their message—podcasts are a quick, portable, and oftentimes free way to reach an audience and spread your opinions and thoughts.

They’re also a valuable tool in growing your platform and diversifying your content, so if you have something to say, you should consider recording it in a podcast. A simple Google search reveals that several thousands of people have chosen to take that route.

Luckily for you, the hardest part of making a podcast isn’t in the technicalities. The difficulty comes in cutting through the clutter and reaching your intended audience. To do so, it is vital that you provide quality content and execute your podcast in a way that intrigues the public. Whether your intention is to put together a series or a one-time recording, a simple tool like an outline will help you gather your thoughts and keep you on-topic. Other things that you should keep in mind while brainstorming your podcast’s content include the following:

  •  Make sure your objective is clear and your content differentiated.
  • Let your personality show. If you want to grow your audience, your listeners have to feel like they’re getting to know you.
  • Keep a steady pace. Don’t rush through what you have to say. If you want to go longer than the typical thirty- to sixty-minute runtime of a podcast, split it into two podcasts.
  • Consider fielding questions through email or social media and then addressing them in future podcasts or in other content you produce. Use the podcast to familiarize yourself with the kinds of questions your audience wants answered and the kind of content they find helpful.

The How

While recording and broadcasting may seem like a daunting undertaking, there are several resources that provide software and instructions to record, broadcast, and market your podcast (quite a few of which are free). The easiest way to jump into the world of podcasting is to employ one of these resources and start recording.

Here’s a selection of services you can use to help you with your podcast:

Audacity is an open-source program that has many sound recording and editing capabilities. It allows you to record voice tracks, include music in your recording, and edit and manipulate what you have recorded. Audacity.sourceforge.net

Podbean is a one-stop shop for podcasting. You can use it to create and host your podcast, and it also offers special features like statistics, an iTunes preview, and opportunities to generate revenue from your podcast. Podbean.com

BlogTalkRadio is marketed toward users that want to create their own radio station. If you are looking to host a long-running series and are willing to buy into one of their packages, this may be a good option for your podcast. BlogTalkRadio offers features such as show scheduling, live interaction with your audience, and podcast hosting. BlogTalkRadio.com

All three of these services provide an easy-to-use interface and instructions that will walk you through the production of your podcast. You can also get a detailed how-to at Podcasting News.

The Who

After all the technicalities of the production of the podcast have been tied up, you will need to upload your file to a hosting site. The hosting site will be the place where people can go and listen to your podcast. The site will also provide you with a link that you can share on your website and through your social media channels. If the service you choose to produce your podcast includes hosting services, you shouldn’t have any problems following the instructions provided. If you choose to use software, like Audacity, that does not include hosting capabilities, you will need to choose a website that best fits your hosting needs.

There are several sites that can host your podcast. Most hosting sites will give you a small amount of bandwidth for free with a simple registration. If you’re aiming to produce a series, you may need a larger amount of space than is provided and need to pay a small fee. Figure out how much bandwidth each of your shows will take up and then gauge which site offers the best deal for you.

Here are some podcast-hosting services:

Easy Podcast takes you through three steps that get your podcast tagged, set up with a customizable RSS feed, and uploaded to your website.

Libsyn offers different amounts of monthly storage at different prices. If you’re looking for professional help in managing your podcast, they also offer a service called LibsynPro.

For maximum exposure, submit your podcast to search engines and podcast subscribing sites. The resources mentioned below are all great ways to market your podcast.

iTunes provides access to thousands upon thousands of podcasts and is one of the most popular destinations for podcast listeners. Because iTunes has established itself as a go-to destination for podcasting, there is an approval process and stipulations that need to be followed in order for your submission to be complete. For a complete rundown of how to get your podcast on iTunes, check out its FAQ for podcast makers.

Feed Shark operates by “pinging” services that target blogs, RSS feeds, and podcast promoters to spread the word about your podcast. It’s an efficient, easy way to reach out to a large number of sources.

Podcast Alley is a podcast directory as well as a wonderful resource for viewing tutorials and accessing information on podcasts. The site will index your podcast and make the link available to people searching for the particular topic or genre your podcast falls under.

Happy podcasting!

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The Big Bad Book Blog's Link Love

September 23, 2011

In true book nerd fashion, we’ve rounded up our favorite publishing-related links of the week for you! Read on to uncover the best in books this week. If you want to know about these links sooner than Friday afternoon, follow us on Twitter—@GreenleafBookGr.

  • “There’s a lot of video out there. And most of it sucks,” says Steve Stockman at the beginning of his tutorial on making great online videos. And it’s true—horrible lighting, boring shots of kids, muffled sound—we’ve all seen it. Luckily, Marketing Profs provided the world with some of Stockman’s best tips this week, including “Eyes tell the story,” “Know when to stop shooting,” and “Think in shots.”
  • Just in case the above infographic wasn’t enough visual learning for you today, we also have this very useful ebook flowchart. It’s a great guide for beginners, outlining the different ereaders, their software, retail outlets, and online help centers.
  • LeVar Burton, host of PBS’s Reading Rainbow and beloved by Gen-Yers everywhere, is gearing up to launch RRKidz, a line of digital interactive children’s titles, reported Publishers Weekly. RRKidz will offer a subscription-based online library of hundreds of books handpicked by Burton. It almost makes us wish iPads had existed when we were kids.
  • The 10 Best Amazon Reviews. Ever.,” posted by Fast Company this week proved to us, once again, how much wit and time Internet users have on their hands. Personally, we don’t see what’s so weird about a guy buying uranium ore for use in building an instant grilled-cheese maker.
  • Peg Fitzpatrick ruminated on what, exactly, a thought-leader is this week. Looking for a standard definition? She explains what it means to be considered a true visionary in your field and offers some great examples of influential entrepreneurs.

  • The Guardian dove into the strange and—at least to us book nerds—fascinating world of ARC collectors. Uncorrected proofs of a book can be worth a lot more because of their limited availability—one ARC of Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief recently sold on eBay for 275 euros despite the actual book being available on Amazon for 7.99.

  •  Do you feel like you’d be happier and more fulfilled if you were a firefighter? A physical therapist? What about a financial services sales agent? Forbes listed the ten happiest jobs; “authors” was fourth on the list.

  • Mediabistro gave its readers a lesson in social media etiquette, posting about a little Twitter fight that went on this week. It seems that Mark Davidson, a self-proclaimed social media professional, hired a band of people to handle his Twitter account. But when he fired one of them, he forgot to change his password and what ensued was a very public (his account has over 56,000 followers) ringing out of Mark Davidson.

  • After more than a decade in the publishing and marketing worlds, we’ve realized that ideas are the foundation of your platform. Blogging Tips posted a few pre-writing exercises to help writers come up with fresh content. (If you want more tips on how to brainstorm great ideas that will help you build influence and generate income, make sure to visit The Big Bad Book Blog next week. We’ll be posting a series on platform development—what it is, what it can do for you, and how to do it.)

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Banned Books Week 2011

September 21, 2011

It’s almost Banned Books Week—time to defiantly whip open a scandalous book and flip through its pages in public. Banned Books Week has been celebrated annually since 1982, when it was created by renowned library activist Judith Krug; the organization brings awareness to banned and challenged books and fights for the freedom to read. This year’s event begins Saturday and continues through October 1. Since its founding, over 11,000 books have been officially challenged, including classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, and The Grapes of Wrath.


It’s easy to think that the days of book-banning and literary witch-hunting are in the past. But, according to the American Library Association, 348 challenges were reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2010.  (The good news? That’s down from 513 in 2008.) The most-challenged books last year included Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson’s And Tango Makes Three, the perennially banned Brave New World, and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, a Greenleaf staff favorite. Read the full list here.


A “Virtual Read-Out” is the cornerstone of the Banned Books Week events this year; the organization is encouraging fans to “proclaim the virtues of their favorite banned books by posting videos of themselves reading excerpts.” Plenty of authors are getting in on the celebration, including frequently banned authors like Judy Blume and Lauren Myracle. You can keep up with the Read-Out on Banned Books Week’s YouTube channel.


Even if most books aren’t exactly under daily, widespread persecution in our public schools and libraries, it’s still important to recognize that many writers around the world are threatened because of their work. Amnesty International maintains a list of imprisoned, disappeared, and at-risk writers to raise awareness during Banned Books Week. Check it out and take a stand for free speech and open reading.

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The Big Bad Book Blog's Link Love

September 16, 2011

In true book nerd fashion, we’ve rounded up our favorite publishing-related links of the week for you! Read on to uncover the best in books this week. If you want to know about these links sooner than Friday afternoon, follow us on Twitter—@GreenleafBookGr.


  • Do your tweets disappear into the chaos of the Internet after you send them off, never to be seen again? Check out Michael Todd’s five tips for getting re-tweeted and Twitter fame shall be yours!
  • Social media sites were busy innovating this week, as usual. GoodReads launched a book recommendation feature and Facebook announced their new Subscribe button. Both functions allow greater control and user options—always a good thing in our book.
  • We truly can’t stress this enough: Success doesn’t simply materialize, you need to make it happen through your brand and platform. Ron Knight has a great primer on personal branding for authors, including tips on what to look for when you’re hiring someone to fine tune your brand.
  • Social media superstar Chris Brogan unfollowed 131,000 people on Twitter last week. He wrote about what the experiment unveiled about our perceptions of social media and our Twitter emotions.

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The Big Bad Book Blog's Link Love

September 9, 2011

 In true book nerd fashion, we’ve rounded up our favorite publishing-related links of the week for you! Read on to uncover the best in books this week. If you want to know about these links sooner than Friday afternoon, follow us on Twitter—@GreenleafBookGr.


  • Got a Kindle? Got questions about the book you’re reading? Amazon’s new @author feature was covered by Media Bistro. Announced this week, @author connects readers with their favorite writers, allowing them to pose questions straight off of their Kindle or on Amazon’s page. Tim Ferriss and Susan Orlean are among the first authors to take the feature for a test-drive.
  • The current and future state of business books was discussed at Power to the Small Business. In the podcast, Jay Ehret chats with Todd Sattersten, co-author of 100 Best Business Books of All Time, about his predictions.
  • How can you ensure book launch success? Platform, zeitgeist and exposure, according to Indie Author. We would add great content and "mindshare" to the list.
  • Finally, in tribute to the 10th anniversary of September 11th this weekend, The Browser has an interview with Amy Waldman, author of The Submission, a new book being heralded as the most sincere account of that day. Waldman shared her list for the most effecting literature dedicated to the tragic event.

Have you followed our own Tanya Hall on Twitter yet? If not, do so—you can find her at @tanyahall. You’ll have access to her wealth of knowledge and some wonderful platform and marketing-related links like the ones we featured in this post.

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Utilizing Amazon Author Central

June 7, 2011

Are you using Amazon Author Central? If not, why? It’s an excellent author-friendly tool that can be used to promote your book and your platform that only takes minutes to setup. If you have more than one book, it’s a central location where an Amazon shopper can find your entire bibliography in one place. How’s that for an easy way to cross-promote your work?


Amazon Author Central allows authors to create a custom profile that customers then use to learn about the author and make purchases. The content you can place on your Author Central page includes:

  • A bio—Tell readers a little bit about yourself so they'll connect with you as a person.
  • Photos—Include your author photo and any other images your readers may like to see, perhaps your workspace or things that inspired your writing.
  • Video—Want to get that trailer up on Amazon? Uploading it here only takes a few minutes!
  • Events—Want to drive traffic to your speaking engagements and readings?  Advert them here.
  • Blog feed—Linking your blog to your Author Central page is just another way to grow your list of blog followers and give readers more of what they want: a connection to you as an author!
  • Twitter feed—Extend your social media outreach even further by displaying your tweets on your author page.

Recently, Author Central began providing weekly sales data from Nielsen BookScan (a service that tracks sales of print books in stores across the country) for free to authors who sell their books on Amazon. You can view your sales data in a variety of ways.  Amazon gives you a basic total from BookScan and shows how many units more or less you sold compared with the previous week. They also visually display your most recent four to eight weeks of sales data on a map of the United States. Alongside that display you will find a list of geographic areas from New York to Los Angeles and the number of books you sold in each. 


Access to BookScan data can help you determine whether your publicity efforts are paying off, and tells you what markets you have the most demand in so you can amp up your promotion accordingly.


Finally, for those who like to keep tabs on their Amazon sales rank, the sales data tab displays a line graph of your book’s sales rank history on Amazon and tells you what your current rank is. As with all sales rankings on Amazon, the data is updated hourly. 


You can also use Author Central to modify the description of your book listing on Amazon or write a message directly to your readers. 


We encourage all of our authors to create an Amazon Author Central page. Even William Shakespeare has an Author Central page. It has to be cool.

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Publishing Options Series: What's the Deal with Self-Publishing?

March 16, 2011

In this series we will address one of the biggest questions facing authors today: how will I publish my book? As little as ten or fifteen years ago, this answer would have been simple: get an agent, who will then pitch the book to major publishers on your behalf. Now, with the wide variety of options available, it can be hard to decide what route to take. This is why, one post at a time, we’ll dissect each of the options in an effort to help authors better answer that question.

In our last post, we talked about how traditional publishers work. Today we will discuss the burgeoning business of self-publishing. Self-publishing (not to be confused with vanity publishing, which we’ll discuss next time) is basically the process of contracting with a variety of professionals to create a book. That might include editors, graphic designers, book compositors, printers, and distributors. So, for example, if you have a complete manuscript, you’ll have to find and pay an editor to work on the content; then a compositor to do the interior layout; then a cover designer to create the cover, back cover, spine, and flaps; and so on. You can also hire book shepherds or packagers, who have a stable of contractors and who will coordinate the work on your book.

Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Well, there are some good reasons to do it yourself, and we’ll share some of the downsides as well.


Ownership. Since you created the book, you own the publication rights to all versions of the book (ebooks, foreign editions, film adaptations, etc.)—unless you sell them to a traditional publisher. Retaining your rights is especially useful if your brand or business is tied to the book and if you’ll want to incorporate parts of the content from the book into your website, seminars, materials, and the like. When you self-publish, you pay the upfront cost, but you also keep a much larger percentage of the profits (to the tune of 35 to 45 percent of the retail price versus 2 to 10 percent with traditional publishers).

Creative control. Since you’re calling the shots, you get to decide exactly how you want your book to look. You have final say on everything—from how the editor approaches the content, to what colors the designer uses in the cover, to the printing specifications and technology.

Speed to market. Having control of the project also gives you the ability to get your content to the market faster than a traditional publisher would be able to. If you have something timely you want out in six to twelve months rather than two or three years, self-publishing is the way to go.


Quality. Even when working with purported “experts” you should always be wary of the experience an editor or designer brings to your project. There are plenty of contractors out there with little experience creating a commercially viable book, and it can be a hard pill to swallow if you get stuck paying for low-quality work. Additionally, a self-published book can lack the unity of having one team working on it, as well as the polish a seasoned publisher can provide. Even if you’re working with highly skilled professionals, unless they are receiving the kind of feedback from national retail buyers that major publishers are getting, they will never have the same insight and therefore won’t be able to provide the same level of quality. Many self-published books unfortunately possess a few major missteps that keep them off the shelves of major retailer.

Distribution. Since anyone can self-publish a book, there is no guarantee of quality and self-published books are often viewed poorly by the media and retailers. And because self-publishers generally do not receive feedback from retail, they lack the ability to adapt to the market the same way publishers can. Since retailers can be squeamish about self-published books, getting into retail channels, even with the help of a distributor, can be difficult.

Distinction. For the reasons we’ve discussed (quality control, lack of retail feedback) self-published books can sometimes carry a stigma. Since they generally lack solid retail distribution, their sales histories are usually weak, which makes them a riskier bet for retail buyers. For buyers, it’s a question of choosing something untested with no track record (a self-published book) over a product that has a record of excellence (a traditionally published book).

So what now? There is a wide variety of resources and articles out there for self-publishers (like this one from Nathan Bransford on self-published millionaires). Here are a few websites and books to check out:

  • Dan Poynter’s website on publishing, complete with everything from writing and editing advice to information on how to typeset your book and find a printer. Poynter also has quite a few books out on self-publishing.
  • John Kremer’s site focuses on book marketing and also offers all kinds of resources for self-publishers.
  • Self-Publishing for Dummies by Jason Rich: This book is a simple introduction to the business of self-publishing, complete with the traditional For Dummies graphics.
  • The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross: This book surveys the entire process from writing to printing to promoting.

If your goals as an author are aligned with the pros above and the cons are something you can stomach, it’s probably a good idea to dig a little deeper into self-publishing as an option for your book. Once you’ve done your research, the next step is identifying vendors. The resources above should point you in the right direction and help you find qualified professionals who can provide the services you need to create your book.

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