Jerry Seinfeld once said that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying. This means that at a funeral, you’d be better off in the coffin than giving the eulogy.
Speaking, like writing, is exposing yourself in public, so fear is natural. But readers want to connect with authors in person, so speaking can accelerate sales and the development of your career.
If speaking about writing, your work, your subject, or yourself makes sense for your book, consider these suggestions:
Giving talks will help you
* promote and build an audience for your book and other talks
* get feedback on your ideas, your humor, the impact of your stories, and the difference you make in listener’s lives
–sales of your books, products and services
–word of mouth
–relationships with your listeners
–your email list, if you ask for addresses
–a collection of videos for fans, agents, editors, the media, book buyers, and people who book talks
The challenge is making your listeners share your passion for your book. Look at a talk as having three parts: an introduction, the body of the talk and a conclusion. Or as someone once said: Tell’em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.
As with your book, don’t think about what you’re selling, think about what people are buying. What’s the best way to present the essence of your book so it serves and excites your listeners? Appealing to the head is easier than appealing to the heart. People understand the value of ideas. The heart part is harder.
The most effective talks inform, enlighten, entertain and inspire. They
* provide valuable information
* present a vision or perspective based on that information
* hold listeners spellbound
* inspire audiences to act, if only to buy what you offer
* continue to improve as speakers learn from responses to them and find ways to make them more effective
Unless you can read a section of your book that will have a strong affect on audiences, the impact of reading isn’t clear to me. Usually, the Q & A session that follows readings is more interesting. But reading is a standard part of book-signings for novelists and memoirists, and if it will help sell your book, do it.
Use handouts. They add lasting value to your talks and can include your contact information, events, products and services, and order information. The organization that invites you to speak may print them for you.
Want the best intro? Write it yourself. Also write your outro, what you’d like to have said after you speak about book sales, upcoming events, your blog and website.
Most of what you communicate isn’t the words; it’s you. It’s everything else that audiences experience: your clothes, movement, gestures, voice and passion.
To minimize the fear of speaking:
* Attend talks, watch them on YouTube and television, listen to them on iTunes and CDs. Use the best as models.
* Write and revise your talk until it’s as strong as you can make it. Use stories and humor. Credit the work of others.
* Practice your talk as often as you can.
* Audition your talk. Ask people to make suggestions, and grade the content and impact on a scale of one to ten.
* If you’re planning to read your talk, underline the syllables you will stress. Professionals memorize talks. They look at the parts of them as modules that they can shift and eliminate, depending on the length and subject of the talk.
* Attend a talk at places where you’ll speak, if you can.
The better you know your talk and the more often you give it, the more confidence and less fear you will experience. The kicker: the fear of speaking is a good thing if you use it to energize your talk.
Business, professional and nonprofit organizations need speakers. As soon as you feel ready to speak, begin doing it. You’re an amateur until someone asks you how much you charge.
At the end of your talk, ask your audience to tell you if they know of any organizations that would like you to speak. If you’re speaking before publication, they may welcome you back when your book comes out.
What are the joys of speaking?
* Audiences laughing at your jokes and being moved by your stories
* Listeners telling you how much they enjoyed your talk
* Changing people’s lives
* Getting paid to give voice to your passion
* Creating a community of fans and customers
* Being asked to come back
* Getting referrals for talks
If corporations, associations and nonprofit organizations will pay you to speak, you may be able to make more income from giving talks and selling books after them than you can in royalties.
To develop your speaking skills, join Toastmasters, www.toastmasters.org. If you want to become a professional speaker, join the National Speakers Association, www.nsaspeaker.org.
The pen is mightier than the sword, but the tongue may be more lucrative than either.
Comments, questions and humor welcome.