In the first part of this Public Speaking for Authors series, we covered Organizing Your Talk. Now that you’ve made your notes and have decided on the points you want to cover and have tied it all together, you’re ready to start practicing.
Remember, don’t write out your talk. Or, if you absolutely must write it out, then now’s the time to set it aside and work from your notes.
1. Sometimes, instead of giving a talk, you’re simply doing a reading. You probably won’t need notes for that, but practice what you’ll say about yourself (in case there’s no one there to introduce you) and what you might say about your book. Be sure you bring a copy of your book with you, with the pages marked that you’re going to read - the starting point to the ending point.
2. If you are giving a talk, you still need to know what you’ll say to introduce yourself and your book - even if someone is supposed to introduce you. You never know what might happen to delay that person. So be prepared.
3. Now that you know how you would open your talk and you have your notes about the talk, it’s time to Practice. Out loud. Scribble notes on your “outline” as you practice. Run through it several times. Once you think you have your talk down, put your main points or keywords on note cards or on one sheet of paper. (If using note cards, number them.) Then practice some more. Stand up and practice. Then record yourself. Play it back. Time the talk. There’s not much worse than thinking you’re talking for fifteen minutes, only to find people walking out of your talk because you’ve droned on for thirty minutes.
4. Type up your notes or put them on clean note cards. Do not use full sentences. Use keywords - just enough for you to glance down and remind yourself of what your next point is in the talk. Having one- or two-word notes is a crutch you can turn to if you need it. Writing full sentences or, worse, writing out the speech is a body cast that will end up making you stiff. If you’re reading your speech or searching sentences to find your place, you’re talking to your notes not to the audience.
5. If you’re not sure how to start and end the talk, remember the sage advice:
Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell them.
Then tell ‘em what you told them.
Next time in this series on Public Speaking for Authors, we’ll talk about Preparing for a Reading.
After graduating with a Master’s in Speech with a specialization in Oral Interpretation, Helen Ginger taught Public Speaking at San Antonio College. Now, she teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops - and blogs, tweets, edits and consults with other authors on their books.