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.
As 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.