Pro Tips to Dazzle During Your Next Speaking EngagementAs an author, if you want to increase your book sales and reach more potential readers, get yourself out on the speaking circuit. There are countless opportunities to speak at events in your own backyard including service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis, chambers of commerce, schools, hospitals and trade association meetings and events.

Following are some top strategies to ensure your presentations are a big success.

Greet Attendees – When possible, arrive early and greet your audience. This can be a great opportunity to build a sense of community and also learn about their issues and challenges by asking lots of questions. You may even be able to mention some of their stories during your presentation, which can impress the whole room.

Make it Visual – PowerPoint can be a great tool when used properly, but it can also kill a great presentation. Avoid the mistake of making your slides heavy on text. Forcing your audience to read is not only redundant, it’s distracting. If you plan to use slides, fill them with images instead of text—or skip slides altogether and engage with your stories.

Honor Copyright Laws – You cannot use photos or images found on Google or other sites for commercial use. If you plan to use images in a slide deck, be sure to acquire royalty-free images or purchase them from a site like iStockPhoto or

Have a Backup Plan – Technology can fail and if you’re relying on slides to deliver your presentation, and those slides are unavailable due to power or connection issues, you need to be ready to perform without them. You may want to have an outline printed out, or a print-out of the slides handy just in case.

Provide an Introduction – The host will introduce you before you take the stage and if you don’t provide a formal introduction, he or she may pull old information from your website or an article or just from memory. Have a written introduction ready, up to two paragraphs in 18-point font (in case they don’t have glasses handy), that includes the title of your book and your related experience. Ideally you should email this to the host prior to the event AND bring a printed copy that you can hand over when you arrive.

Practice, Practice, Practice – If speaking is new to you, ideally you should get as much practice as possible prior to the event. Run through your presentation several times in advance and monitor the timing. You can also video tape yourself and watch it back, which will quickly show you any bad habits you may have like jingling change in your pocket or swaying back and forth. Speakers get better with practice, whether in an empty room or in front of an audience.

Memorize Your Opening – When giving a presentation of 30 minutes or more, it’s not likely you will—or should—memorize your entire presentation word-for-word, but memorizing some strong opening lines can help you start off powerfully. This is also a great strategy if you get nervous before speaking since it allows you to go into auto-pilot mode. Once you get a few minutes into your presentation, your nerves should calm down and you’ll be able to proceed comfortably.

Avoid Reading from Notes – In school we were taught to use notes on index cards when delivering a presentation, but in a professional setting, note cards can be distracting and look amateurish. This is all the more reason to practice and know your material well. If notes are needed, you may be better off to have a printed handout or outline that you hold onto and briefly look to for quick prompts.

Bring Energy – The audience responds to the speaker and if you want them to be engaged, then you need to be engaging. You don’t need to tap dance across the stage or perform a circus act, but do show that you are excited to be there by amplifying your energy and your voice.

Provide a Handout – Giving your audience something they can keep after your session is a great way for them to remember you and have your contact information handy in case they want to reach out or hire you later.

Tell Stories – The audience wants to relate to what you have to say, so instead of sticking purely to facts, weave in stories that illustrate your key points. These can include case studies, lessons from your personal experience or stories from clients/readers/peers. Good storytelling engages listeners and helps them remember your content later.

Include Your Social Media Handles – If you’re an active social media user, list your Twitter or Instagram handles in your slides so the audience can share details about you. You can include these on the opening slide or even at the bottom of all slides.

Build Your Mailing List – Halfway through your presentation, when the audience is engaged and enjoying your session, announce that you are going to pass around a small gift bag and collect business cards that you will draw from at the end of your presentation. You could give away a couple of copies of your book or another bonus item you have available. Note that this strategy is only suggested when you’re speaking for free at an event. If you’re being paid to be there as a speaker, it’s not appropriate to collect email addresses without getting permission first.

Mention Your Book – It’s best to avoid the hard sell when it comes to your book or related products and services that you offer, but you can certainly weave in casual mentions. For example, you might discuss a key topic in your presentation and then let the audience know that you go into greater detail in your book.

Pay Attention to Time – Ending your presentation late can cause conflict for the host who is trying to stay on schedule, and it can also cause the audience to get frustrated. Do your best to stick to the allotted time schedule. It’s usually better to end early than late since you can always take questions to fill extra time.

Designate a Time Keeper – Talk to your host about having someone motion to you when time is running out. You can decide what works best for you. Do you want a warning halfway through or when you have just ten minutes left—or both? Let them know what you need, or designate a friend or audience member to help if needed.

End with a Powerful Close – Just as you memorized your opening, you should also memorize a strong closing statement. Powerful ways to end are with a brief story that summarizes your entire presentation or a metaphor you want your audience to remember.

Repeat Questions – If you take questions and the audience doesn’t have access to a microphone, some audience members may not hear the questions asked. Simply repeat back each question before answering.

Make Your Slides Available for Download – If you use slides, the audience will likely appreciate having access to them. You can make them available through a free site like Slideshare, or add them to a page on your website and provide a link to that page. This can be a great way to get the audience to visit your site.

Autograph Books – The fact is that speakers sell books, so talk with your event host about arranging for a table at the back of the room where you can sell and autograph books after your session. Be sure to come prepared with a credit card swiper like Square and a nice fountain pen for signing.


Like this blog post? You’ll love our Ultimate Author Toolkit on Professional Speaking.