Public speaking is one of the best marketing tools available to writers.
Public speaking seems downright scary.
There are a token few authors/writers who can stand in front of an audience and wax eloquently about a given topic while engaging listeners for say thirty minutes without sweating. The rest of us prefer to hide in our caves or hover in introvert cliques.
BUT, public speaking still is one of the best marketing tools available to writers. Way better than posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., which entice readers for a only a brief moment.
Speaking to an audience:
1. Offers a setting where the listener can be fully engaged in your message.
2. Provides an avenue for people to meet you personally.
3. Give listeners a chance to ask you questions and hear your immediate feedback.
4. Helps listeners understand you are interested in them by use of eye contact, hand shakes, responding to their greetings and comments, and willingness to speak face to face.
5. You can sell your books afterwards or for those of us who are not published yet, we can have a flyer about our current WIP to hand out.
So how can we convince ourselves to peel off the scary and take advantage of these benefits? The key is total preparation and a bucketload of gumption.
1. Choose three topics you could talk about. The material does not need to be about writing. What do you really like to do?
*Is there a craft you enjoy? (scrapbooking, quilting, cooking, woodworking, gardening, etc.)
*What is the theme in your current WIP? (homeless, marriage, dating, abortion, traveling, genealogies, etc)
*What is something you would like to learn? (more about the writing craft, how to play an instrument, how to set up a neighborhood Bible study, how to host a book club, how to ski, how to hike safely, how to plan menus for special diets, time management, etc)
2. Write an outline of the main points you would like to share. Research, making sure to have a list of resources for the curious listeners. Write the exact words of your presentation, bolding key points (Did you know our pastors have their sermon printed out word for word? Of course they deviate when needed, but it is there for them if needed).
3. Read the script you just wrote out loud and time it. Does the script need to be longer? Shorter?
4. Practice in front of family members. Did you feel nervous? Good. Was your talk longer or shorter as a result? This is great information. Adjust the script to fit the thirty minute time.
5. Make a list of places you could present any of your three scripts. Some presentations are best for specific audiences, (for example a library, an elementary school, junior high, high school or college, ladies Bible study, church gathering, community gathering, girl/boy scouts, 4H, craft clubs, etc.)
Be open minded. With a little tweaking, the same presentation could be given to a ladies group or an elementary school group. Prepare the tweaked version ahead of time. You never know when someone might invite you to speak.
6. Design a simple advertisement. This can be a post card, flyer, etc. Include basic information about you as a writer. List all your available topics to present along with a brief summary for each. Include contact information. Send to the organizations. Post them in libraries, coffee shops, and other community bulletin boards.
Recommendation-do not charge until you have some experience. The purpose of these opportunities is to get your presence (not just name) out there.
7. Take every opportunity offered. Even if you think five-year olds won't listen to a presentation about quilting, or a teen group won't listen to a talk about writing, or a senior group won't be interested in dating, you might be really surprised. AND each listener has friends and family who could be interested in your next published book!
The last piece of advice: kick yourself out the door and go. Stand strong. Ask God to calm your jitters. Your listeners will not bring apples or shotguns. ;)
When you try - amazing things happen. I know! I spoke at the Great Lakes ACFW group meeting, June 2014. They gave me an honorarium and paid for my lunch. What meant more to me, though, was the tremendous feedback and the successful opportunity to get my presence out there.
"After fifteen years of writing and knocking on publishing house doors finally relying on self-publication to get my work out there, I found Mary’s insights about pre-publication work not only valuable but essential knowledge that I lacked. Her interactive presentation was not condescending, which produced incentives for further goal setting and hope for the future."
And guess what--you can do it, too!
I know there is so much more to say on this topic - like handouts, etc, maybe another time.
What concerns do you have about becoming a speaker?
I can't wait to read your comment!
Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes young adult mystery/adventure Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.