So You're Making a Talk

Your book is finally in print. The next step: your platform. Social media, blogs, book signings, public talks.

Whoa. Public talks? Stand up before a crowd and speak? No way.

MicrophoneOK. Take a deep breath. You wrote the book, sweated over every page. No, over every word. And it came together. Seeing that cover art for the first time, you breathed that deep sigh of relief. That smug sigh of self-satisfaction. If you can put down coherent thoughts on paper, you can make a talk. But first, do your homework.

Know your crowd. Seniors, teens, school kids, professionals. Each will have different interests, different ideas on how a speaker should dress or talk. But here’s the good news: if they’re not interested in your book’s genre, they probably won’t come to hear you speak. So come up with something to say that reflects what you’ve written and they’ll love it.

Write down an outline. Have a catchy beginning, just like your book. You need a middle and an end, too. Keep them wanting more.

Talk about yourself, but don’t overdo it. How you started writing, what qualifies you to write your book, especially if it’s nonfiction. Oh, you write about zombies and haven’t offed any lately? Maybe why zombies interest you and why the reader should care, too. Also, it’s not a good idea to read directly from the book. Paraphrase and speak from the heart.

Practice your speech ahead of time. Do it in front of a mirror, or even better, a friend or family member who’ll give honest feedback. If all you hear are good comments, find someone else. This is not unlike a writing critique group.

Dress appropriately. Sure, everyone at the local library may show up wearing jeans and tees, but business casual is never too dressy when addressing a crowd. Speaking before business leaders? Coat and tie for men or appropriate business attire for women. Not sure? Always dress better than your expected audience rather than more casually.

And now, the day has arrived, the speech is at hand. Those butterflies are fluttering, your heart is pounding. The emcee announces your name and you head for the podium. When you get there, stop.

Arrange your notes, take a deep breath, and make eye contact with the audience. Now smile, because they’ll hear it in your voice. Only then do you speak, and when you do, talk to the people in the back row. If they can hear, so can everyone else.

Make a mistake? No prob. Laugh at yourself. Public speaking is an acquired skill and everyone in the audience knows it. They’ll understand.

Bring some books. It’s a great place to sell them.

And here’s the most important thing: have fun and make it show. Everyone else will, too.

-- George Goldthwaite, DFWWW Member since 2009, The Voice of the DFWCon Gong Show since 2011

photo credit: WilliamMarlow via photopin cc

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