One of the most effective book marketing strategies you can employ is speaking professionally to groups of all sizes.speaking microphone This is especially true when you compare it with your typical book signing event at a bookstore where you sit at a table and hope shoppers will express interest. (Sadly, most won’t.) But as a featured speaker at an event, you can engage and captivate the audience, which in turn leads them to want to take a piece of you home with them (your book!).

There are endless options to speak locally and beyond. Venues include service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis, trade association meetings and conferences, chambers of commerce, retirement communities, spiritual centers, corporations, and more. You can speak in person and conduct webinars. Webinars are one of my favorite options because they allow you to reach people around the globe without the hassle and time involved in traveling.

To land these opportunities, you need to create speaking topics that appeal to the organizations where your potential readers spend time. The following are steps to help you create sizzling speaking topics that get you booked for speaking gigs and attract buyers for your books.

Know Your Audience

Before you begin choosing speaking topics, it’s essential to get clear about who makes up your audience. Answer these questions:

  • What are their demographics?
  • Where do they spend their time?
  • What organizations do they belong to?
  • What events do they attend?

For example, if you’ve authored a book about how to help high school students launch to college and beyond, your audience demographics would likely include 40- to 50-year-old moms. And you could access this audience through parent-teacher groups, parenting groups, and spiritual organizations. This gives you a good idea about where you will begin your search for speaking opportunities.

For memoir and narrative nonfiction writers, you may need to find the hooks in your book to get clear about your audience. For example, a memoir about leaving an abusive relationship would likely appeal to women who are married or in relationships, ages 25- to 55 years old. Many could also be identified as mothers. You could reach this audience by speaking to women’s groups, women’s shelters and related nonprofits, and spiritual organizations.

Put Yourself in the Shoes of Your Audience Members

Once you have some idea about who makes up your audience, next you should determine how your speaking engagements can serve them. It’s essential that your presentation provides value to the audience and educates them in some way. Answer these questions:

  • What challenges do members of your audience face and how can you help them overcome these challenges?
  • What topics are they interested in learning more about?
  • What topics from your book address the needs, interests, and challenges of your audience?
  • What are common questions you hear from your audience members that you could answer in a presentation?

Using the example of a book about how to launch kids to college and beyond, some issues that may be top of mind for these readers could include the college admissions process, helping kids to be independent adults, showing kids how to set and reach goals, and locating scholarships and funding opportunities. There are many potential topics here so you will need to prioritize the ones you believe your audience will be most interested in.

Create Speaking Topics Related to Your Book

Now that you better understand your audience, look to your book for presentation inspiration. Perhaps you could transform an entire chapter from your book into a compelling speaking topic for your target audience. Or expand upon smaller sections from your book. For prescriptive nonfiction, the topics are often in the book already. And don’t worry about giving away your best advice. This leads attendees to want your book even more so they can reinforce what they have learned.

For memoir and narrative nonfiction writers, leverage the hook in your book to identify the interests of your audience. For example, the author of a collection of romantic essays could speak about how to bring more romance to relationships, how to write and sell essays, or how to attract a mate.

When William E. Cole started researching genealogy for his family, he found so many interesting stories and facts, he turned his work into a book: Puritans, Plagues, and Promises: Cole, Clarke, and Collier in England to America.

While Cole’s book clearly appeals to those with the surnames listed in the title, the author has also found success speaking to historical societies and genealogy groups, sharing the fascinating true stories he discovered. Cole also serves and audience of genealogy enthusiasts, sharing the many research practices he used.

Keep in mind that speaking specifically about your book will not likely attract many speaking opportunities. The goal is to educate and entertain the audience, not blatant self-promotion. Your topics should deliver value, based on content related to your book in some way. Self-promotion happens automatically through your bio that is shared with the audience prior to your engagement, by mentioning your book during the presentation, and offering to sign copies after the event.

Create Speaking Topics Not Directly Related to Your Book

While it is ideal to speak about topics directly related to your book in some way, sometimes authors need to get creative. This can be especially true for essayists, narrative nonfiction that doesn’t have an obvious how-to element, and fiction writers. If this is the case for you, create speaking topics that appeal to your demographics.

For example, the author of a humorous essay collection with a target audience of college students might speak about job hunting after college, financial management skills, or tips for living life as a functioning adult! Though these topics don’t directly relate to the book, they do appeal to the challenges and interests of the target audience. And when you engage an audience with valuable content, they will want to learn more about your book and take a copy home with them.

Craft a Compelling Title for Each Presentation

When you’re starting as a speaker, I recommend creating three initial speaking topics. This gives you some alternative choices to provide to organizations. It will also improve your chances of getting selected as a speaker because if topic number one doesn’t resonate, topic number two or three might be the perfect fit.

Once you know what your topics will be, write a title that captivates and offers a promise to the audience. This means that the title indicates how the lives of attendees will be improved in some way.

For example, for the author of the book about helping high school students launch to college and beyond, these could be potential titles:

  • Create a College Success Plan – Even if You Don’t Yet Know What You Want to Be When You Grow Up!
  • Career Options for Kids Heading into Adulthood: How to Find Your Path When You Have No Idea Where to Begin
  • What Nobody Tells You About Adulthood: How to Successfully Navigate Adult Life and Avoid Common Mistakes

Write a Captivating Description

Following a promise-driven title, write a description that could be copied and pasted into the event invitation by whatever organization brings you in to speak. This is how most presentations are promoted—based on the speaker’s provided session description.

A good session description should be around 150 words and include at least three takeaways for the audience. Here’s an example:

Career Options for Kids Heading into Adulthood: How to Find Your Path When You Have No Idea Where to Begin

Graduating high school can be daunting, especially if you are among the 75% of students who don’t yet know what career options you want to pursue. In this enlightening (and sometimes funny) presentation, you will learn how to:

  • Identify your interests and talents so you can uncover potential career ideas.
  • Understand options for post-high school education (two-year and four-year schools, advanced degrees, trade schools, and military) and how to decide which path aligns best with your goals.
  • Research career options based on the tools you gained during this session.

Students find more success in adulthood when they clarify their interests, set goals, and craft a plan to succeed. This powerful session will set you up for a successful future and a life that you enjoy!

Next Steps for Speaking

Once you have your topics identified and written, add a speaker page to your website and publish them there. You can also begin reaching out to organizations and pitching your topics.

Be sure to also draft the actual presentations. Some speakers find it easier to write the description after they have designed the presentation, so that may be helpful for you as well.

Best wishes on your speaking adventures!

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