Speaking gigs are a key ingredient in book publicity and building an author platform. An author’s interaction with an audience often generates book sales. Likewise, strong demand for a book creates more opportunities for speaking. The relationship is symbiotic.
Yet many authors—having poured their expertise into a robust written work—find the task of crafting speeches from their books daunting. Three common challenges include:
- Deciding what to put into the speech—because it requires leaving something from the book out.
- A lack of understanding of how the spoken word differs from the written word—and how to best serve a live audience with the right sentence and talk structure.
- Discomfort with being “on stage” as a speaker due to a preference for the more solitary work of writing.
To leverage speaking as part of your author platform and book publicity efforts, use these steps to craft and refine a talk based on your book:
- Know your audience. Ideally, you’ll initiate the process of crafting a talk with a particular audience in mind. If you haven’t yet been invited to speak, think about an event where you’d like to speak. Sketch out what you know about the audience: some general demographics, the purpose of the event, why your subject matter is of interest to them—and their underlying need. Don’t assume the audience is identical to the target audience of your book; identify ways they might be different as well as similar.
- Review (or create) your annotated table of contents. In light of the audience you’ll be addressing, which chapters would most effectively address their needs? It might only be one chapter and probably won’t be more than three. How does your content need to be adapted in light of any differences between the event audience and your book’s target audience? Don’t be afraid to tailor your content to the group; it shows care and fosters connection, through which your message is best conveyed. If you’re not sure, find someone in your network who is similar to the event’s audience and ask them which chapters would be most helpful. Aim to address a felt need with valuable, actionable information.
- Distill the selected chapters into their key points. Bulletize the key points instead of excerpting sentences or crafting new ones. Trust that you know your content and can speak to it without a full script. Writers rightly care a great deal about the turn of phrase and often want to write out their talks in full sentences. Yet this approach usually results in the speaker reading their talk instead of engaging the audience in a more conversational way; the latter is a profoundly more effective means of conveying the content. If you opt for a full script, take care to use simple sentence structure and common language: industry jargon and complex sentences are impediments to the audience’s ease of understanding.
- Structure the content to engage—and re-engage—the audience. They will assume your book is interesting if you and your talk are interesting. Hook them quickly; leverage your skills as a writer build and release tension multiple times during your speech. Leave them will a clear, concrete call to action—a step they can take immediately even if they don’t purchase the book. Aim to provide value and maintain a posture of service.
- Give the audience a gift. Share with them something you’ve learned since the book was published or give them a glimpse from behind the scenes of your book. Reward them for being part of the event by imparting some “insider information” they can’t get from the book. Consider addressing common questions that arise from the book content or sharing reactions from readers.
- Be human. You’re the subject-matter expert and the audience needs your knowledge. But they also want you to be human. Establish common ground; show them—within the first few minutes—that you understand their needs because you have similar needs. Be willing to share some relevant faults or failings for the sake of conveying empathy for the shared human experience as it relates to your content.
- Visualize your content. Audiences today are accustomed to visual accompaniment, most often in the form of slides. And slides really should be visual, not merely a list of words to prompt the speaker what to say. As wordsmiths, creating slides may not be a natural strength. Spend the time and energy to craft quality slides; involve friends with complementary skill sets or hire a designer if you lack the skills to do it well. Just as in writing, take care to avoid visual clichés. Check out com for symbols and images. Leverage pictures or graphics from your book where appropriate.
- Refine the delivery. Your book represents you: your expertise, your thoughts, your story. But when you’re on stage, you represent your book. Merely knowing your subject matter isn’t sufficient for giving a great talk; you need to deliver it in a fashion that is clear, confident, and compelling. Audiences will determine whether they find you (and your book) credible in large part based on how well you present yourself. Plan to practice your speech daily, videotaping yourself several times and taking the time to review and evaluate the footage to identify areas needing improvement (this free rubric is a helpful guide for doing so).
Speaking is an essential component of a successful author platform, driving book sales and increasing visibility in the publishing world.
You’ve written the book you know the world needs; now use your voice to share that message in a spoken format.
About Kirsten Holmberg
Kirsten Holmberg is a public speaking coach and trainer who has worked with TEDx speakers and clients from Fortune 50 companies, including Google, HP, and Oracle. Leveraging two decades of experience in keynote speaking, she equips both new and skilled speakers to achieve maximum impact with their presentations to customers, stakeholders, and audiences of all sizes. Learn more about Kirsten at www.kirstenholmberg.com.
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