“Writing is a business and a business needs to be promoted or it will fail.”
This year brings a busy schedule of talks for me, and I have been invited to talk at many different venues to a varied audience. Not so long ago, I would never have entertained this as part of my job. I was terrified of standing on a stage and public speaking, but, as an author, I knew my writing was my business, and a business needs to be promoted, or it will fail. I still don’t enjoy the nerves ahead of a talk, but knowing it has gone well, I feel a great sense of achievement once over. I hope that my comments below may prove helpful if you find yourself having to give a talk. Good luck!
A good talk should be entertaining. The audience will take for granted that you know your subject or you wouldn’t be there, so ensure that you entertain. Leave them with a smile and the knowledge that they go away with many memorable moments about your talk.
I structure a punchy opening to make the audience sit up and take notice, then lead them down a path that follows the subject matter. The tone is essential; keep them alert with anecdotes related to your talk. Enunciate clearly and express yourself with confidence.
I rarely read from my books. That’s just my choice. In the precious time that I have, I want the audience gripped by my talk, not trying to work out the precis of a novel. I’ve been to many author talks when authors have droned on for pages, and it just doesn’t work for me.
I use props in a talk because they help me and are a prompt if I’ve forgotten what I was going to say.
Stick rigidly to the time allowed and, if asked, will do Q&As at the end. The talk should be so stimulating that hands are flying up. Have a few prepped questions in case they’re not, e.g. ‘Someone asked me on social media how to…’ etc. and create participation or involve the audience by asking them a question, ‘How many of you…?’ etc.
The first big talk I did was to an audience of 300, and with half an hour to spare, I was about to take a comfort break and go over my talk. But the MC suddenly announced my slot and I had to race to the stage and get going. I was so nervous I shook, and it upset my flow so much that I struggled to get through and vowed I’d never do a talk again. But I forced myself to come out of my comfort zone and keep going and now make sure that I am entirely ‘talk ready’ from the moment I arrive at the venue.
It takes a lot of input to prepare the subject matter and compile the props that I need. I then practise several times over a few days, using a timer, until I am confident that I can deliver, without note reading, a good piece in the specified time. I record the talk, listen to it, and look for ways to improve my delivery and pace.
Compile a kit that has everything you might need and arrive early on the day. Large venues such as a cruise ship will have everything and you may only need your talk presentation on a USB stick. For smaller venues such as community centres or village halls with limited equipment, I have a mobile box on wheels that contains all my tools for a talk: a table cover, books, stands, pens suitable for signing (quick drying ink), flyers, cards, promotional boards/pop up banners as required, money box with plenty of change, fully charged card machine, promotional tools. I take everything that might be needed, including for power point talks a projector, stand, cables and health and safety coverings, laptop and screen and a copy of my public liability insurance. Don’t forget your invoice too!
Prepare well and leave nothing to chance. Practice your talk and time it. Keep within your allocated time. Research the audience demographic and alter your talk to match – each person listening to you is a potential new reader.
Eat sensibly during the day and make sure that you are bright, alert, and at your best. Wear a favourite outfit, feel good and forget about your appearance so you can focus on your talk and audience. Think positively, and get some good vibes going on!
DEALING WITH DIFFICULTIES
Occasionally, someone will butt in and give their opinion or ask a question when it’s not appropriate. This can throw you off if you allow it to continue. It is also annoying for the audience who have come to listen to you. Swiftly and with a smile, suggest that you come back to the question after the talk or at Q&As and get straight back to your subject matter before they can butt in again.
ENGAGE AND ENJOY
Get out there and market yourself. Engaging with the public is terrific. No matter how panicky you are, tell yourself that you can do this. I dislike public speaking and am always nervous, but it is a considerable boost when people queue to speak to you; you get complimentary emails and book sales increase in the days following the talk.
Caroline’s new novel The Spa Break will be publishing as an ebook on 15th April and as a paperback on 7th July. You can preorder at the promo price by clicking the link below: