We spend hour after hour, day after day, month after month, in front of a computer, writing. For the most part, that’s what authors do. We write.
Then we get published. And realize we also have to speak … alone, in front of the room. With people looking at us … waiting to be entertained … hoping we’ll tell them the secret to finding an agent or getting published … or expecting us to enthrall them with a plot that will make them happily open their wallets.
When what we most want to do is hide in our offices and write. But we have to sell the book - and to sell the book, we have to speak. The good news is: To speak we have to write. We can do that. We’re writers.
Preparing for a speech or talk is not the same as writing a book or story, though.
1. You’re not going to write the speech out. If you do, then you’re likely to try to take the written speech to the podium and read it. Reading is for excerpts from your book.
2. If you’re doing a book tour that takes you from city to city, you can prepare talks on one or two subjects and you’re probably covered. If you’re giving multiple talks within a limited distance, then you’ll need multiple prepared talks so that readers coming to more than one event don’t hear the same thing over and over.
3. Come up with 3 or 4 topics or themes you can talk about related to your book. A topic may be geared to fit a specific group or organization. It may be a theme from your book. It might be fitted to the audience you know will be attending. But you should always be able to tie it to your book. Make a list of your 3 or 4 ideas.
4. Work on each topic or theme speech at a time (don’t try to organize four talks at a time - it’ll get too confusing). Put your topic or idea at the top of a blank page (one idea per page). Let’s say you’re going to talk about the theme of finding love at any age. Now, take that idea and come up with three points or things you want to say about finding love at any age. (Three points is manageable. Five points is doable, but no more than that.) List those points under the appropriate heading. Under each point, list about three things you could say, one of which is a direct reference to your book. There’s no need to make this a sell-sell-sell talk, but you can use your book as an example that shows what you’re talking about. The book references you make might be about the plot or about what you discovered doing research or people you talked to or places you visited.
5. Plan to wrap up your talk by tying all the points together. If you weren’t planning on taking questions as you talked, allow time for Q&A at the end.
Next time, we’ll cover Practicing Your Talk.
Helen Ginger, a freelance editor, book consultant, blogger, and writer, teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. She has a Bachelor’s in English and Speech Communication and a Master’s in Speech with a specialization in Oral Interpretation. Before taking up writing, she taught Public Speaking at San Antonio College.