Writers will eventually find themselves asked to speak, especially if you’re a member of a church, civic group, professional club or organization. If you’re forewarned and forearmed, you can happily accept an invitation or opportunity to be a keynote speaker.
Many writers are famous and don’t even know it. Everybody at your church, gym, local library, and homeowners’ association knows you’ve published a book. If they don’t know it, you’re not effectively marketing your skills. People realize how hard it is to tell a good story. That’s why friends and family always ask you to tell it. You can treat your fame irreverently, or you can be proactive and prepare for your day.
Whether you’re asked to speak to a small group in your building complex, a church group, a local school group, or a citywide event, there are some things you need to consider. Certainly, the occasion and the audience are important. However, consider so much more, and don’t be limited to discussing your book and encouraging people to buy it. Use this opportunity to show who you are as a person.
Choose Current Events
Is there something going on in the world that is like a situation in your book? Was your story idea taken from a true event? Talk about the event that encouraged the book but not the book itself. Provide information about that event and the facts that inspired the subject.
Don’t bore your audience.
It doesn’t matter that they are a small church group of less than twenty. Have an interesting presentation. Make posters, a PowerPoint, or other visual aids. I’d just returned from New Orleans, and I brought pictures and told stories of my travels there. I didn’t know how influential my audience was.
At the end of my talk, a woman in the crowd said she was going to refer me to her Women’s Day Chairperson. Others agreed, and I spoke not only for that woman’s Women’s Day, but other church groups reached out to me. They encouraged me to arrive early and bring copies of my book. (I didn’t have copies, which is probably another blog).
Memorize as much of your presentation as you can
Memorize as much as you can, and know when to arrive at a logical conclusion so that you appear extemporaneous. Make eye contact with your new fans. Overlook the blank stare, the unfriendly audience member. Yes, they show up everywhere. Speak above their heads if you’re not comfortable looking them in the eye. Know your topic so that you can take questions.
Once again, have signed copies of your book to give away to lucky audience members.
If the meeting is scheduled to last for an hour or more, and you run out of material, fill the time with anecdotes to provide personal appeal. Ask questions of your audience. Nothing is worse than an hour presentation ending in 25 minutes.
Ask the event coordinator to provide coffee and rolls, even if you have to help pay. These are potential book buyers, and you want them to stick around to get their names, email, and anything that can help you keep up with potential readers.
Consider the occasion and dress accordingly. You wouldn’t wear 4-inch heels to an outdoor festival, or your fine costume jewelry to a senior building. Save your dressier wardrobe for a graduation or anniversary bash.
I know that many of you have been there and done that. Drop a tip in the comments. Tell us how you aced that talk.