4 Tips for the Perfect 15-Minute Luncheon Talk

Let’s say a local service organization has asked you to speak at their luncheon.  You have 15 minutes in front of the group.  You might ask, “What should I talk about?” 

The better question is, “Who is in the audience and what do they want to know?” Think about what you can give to them that can help them with their dream.

Even if you’re talking to a room of high-paid bank executives, these folks are parents and grandparents who have spent many bedtimes reading books to their kids.  And probably more than a few of them are harboring a dream of writing their own children’s book (in their spare time) and having it picked up by a publisher.

Assistance_League_of_Fullerton_logoAs you prepare your 15-minute talk, consider these four really helpful tips that the Assistance League of Fullerton (California) gives to presenters for the “Day with Authors” fundraising event that features both children’s and adult authors. 

1) Authors who tend to sell the most books tell the best stories, be it about their current book, their body of work, themselves, or getting started in their writing careers.  They cover all of these things to one degree or another during their presentation. 

 2) A key point is that the authors talk to the audience rather than read passages from their books exclusively.  Unlike a book tour, our attendees may not be coming to hear you specifically; they are coming to participate in a full-day event featuring many authors.  If you choose to read a passage from one of your books, make it brief.  Attendees much prefer to hear you speak rather than read.   

3) Think of your presentation in the same way you approach a book:  plot, character, conflict, dialogue.  You do not have to be a standup comedian or even a polished public speaker.  It does help tremendously if you have a “story” to tell your audience that includes information about your latest work, your total body of work, your “themes”, the struggles you encountered on your way to becoming a published author.  The audience likes to know an appropriate amount about you as a person – past as well as present.    

 4) A good story, told in a human, genuine way, trumps a polished presentation with the audience.    If you make a mistake, point to it, laugh and move on.  You are already doing something braver than most people, and that is talking in front of an audience. You don’t have to be perfect.  You just have to be you.

6 Comments on “4 Tips for the Perfect 15-Minute Luncheon Talk”

  • I think that’s very good advice. I’m working with a coach now and she gave me a lot of the same tips–tell stories about how you did it–tell the good and the bad. If you have a funny story use it–make the people feel what you felt at the time. Laugh at your mistakes. She also said that a lot of people wish they could write a book–they want to know how you did, they want to believe they can too.

  • Mary Jo – The advice in these 4 tips is simple, isn’t it! Yet authors need to take it to heart and apply it. (Trust me — they don’t always!)

    Here’s another tip: if you’re in a group of luncheon speakers, make note of what techniques they use to engage the audience. Also, observe where a speaker loses you. Observing others is a terrific way to figure out the best do’s and don’ts for yourself.

  • Excellent advice! Thank you so much. I know this is all common sense, but I needed to hear it. I get more flustered with a 15 minute speech than a 1 hour one.
    I am using your advice for a teacher event at the end of this month. Very timely and appreciated, Alexis!!

  • This site couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I have just published my first middle grade novel, Saint Training (Zondervan) and though I’ve done considerable speaking, I am a newbie when it comes to school visits. What a wonderful resource! Thank you Alexis

  • Succinct and right on target, Alexis….telling stories, being loose, evoking laughter, these are the elements that get you asked back–and asked to speak by others. I would add a fifth tip, especially for short presentations, like the 15 min you describe. Lead with a funny and apt quote about what will follow; or lead with a one of your own foibles…whether it is the fact that you write while taking a bubble bath or that you are afraid of the letter “p”…

  • Vicki – A perfect example of a “foible” comment happened at a recent worskhop. The visiting speaker explained why her hair looked exceptionally greasy: instead of conditionor that morning at the hotel, she poured a bottle of body lotion on her head! She didn’t have time to do another complete shampoo and still get to the workshop in time. Everyone loved her story — and knew that it might easily have happened to them!