Professional Speaking for Authors: How to Choose Topics for Your PresentationsSpeaking to groups is one of my favorite ways to sell books. When you deliver a compelling presentation, you end up with a captive audience of people who want to take a piece of you home with them—a copy of your autographed book!

Compare this to participating in book signing events at bookstores. When you sign books at a store, you are typically seated at a table, waiting for shoppers to engage with you and directing many of them to the restroom. The whole experience can feel awkward and usually leads to few sales. But when you’re a featured event speaker, you can dazzle the audience, which naturally entices them to want to buy your book.

Here are steps to choosing topics that will engage an audience and get you booked to deliver presentations.

1) Get clear about who makes up your audience. Developing presentations for a specific audience is essential. Answer these questions:

  • Who are they?
  • What groups do they belong to?
  • What events do they attend?
  • What challenges can you solve for them?
  • How can you improve their lives in some way?

2) Understand the purpose of speaking professionally. Your speech should not be about your book, but about topics related to your book that serve the audience in some way. For example, if you wrote a memoir about your divorce, your speaking topics might include how to thrive during a divorce, how to support kids while going through a divorce, or how to manage finances after divorce.

3) Identify the challenges you can help your audience overcome. Most speaking engagements focus on teaching the audience something useful. Topics can be easy to choose for those who write prescriptive nonfiction. For example, if you authored a book on how to get wealthy, you could create presentations around the subjects covered in your book like investing in stocks or real estate, strategies for saving, etc.

For memoir and narrative nonfiction authors, identifying topics may be tricky. For example, if you wrote a book about your time serving in Vietnam, your topics might include lessons learned from the front lines, little-known military history facts, or how serving in the military can be a good career choice for challenged youth.

Your presentation topics must align with the interests of your ideal audience, so keep the audience in mind as you explore ideas.

4) Make note of any questions your audience asks you. If you currently engage with your audience on a regular basis, you probably answer questions periodically. Perhaps you even answer the same questions over and over again. Audience questions can provide valuable insight. Make note of these questions and consider how you can turn the answers into presentation topics.

5) Test your topics with your audience. If you’re feeling unsure about your topic choices, try sharing them with your audience. You could send out a list of potential topics to your email subscribers and ask them to rank the topics and provide feedback. Or you could share them on social media (these users love to provide feedback). If you don’t yet have a community to reach out to, find some peers or trusted friends who can give you honest feedback.

6) Write a captivating presentation title. The title of your presentation is what entices event hosts to invite you to speak. The title is also shared with an audience and helps them get excited to attend your event. Consider including a promise in your title—something that tells the audience how your presentation will improve their lives. Here are some examples:

  • Mental Health Matters: Five Easy Steps to Help You Feel Lighter, Brighter, and Happier
  • Social Media Mastery: Simple Ways to Embrace and Leverage Social Media Marketing to Grow Your Consulting Business
  • Lessons on Love: How to Improve Your Personal Relationships with Family and Friends

7) Craft an interesting description. When you pitch yourself as a speaker, you will need to provide the title and description of your presentation. And when you’re booked to speak at an event, the description you provided is often copied and pasted into the event program. This means your description MUST appeal to your audience.

Presentation descriptions are typically two paragraphs or less, including three to five bulleted takeaways for the audience. Here is an example:

Mental Health Matters: Five Easy Steps to Help You Feel Lighter, Brighter, and Happier

You may not spend much time thinking about your mental health, but it plays a substantial role in your quality of life. From mood swings to rough days, and everything in between, learning to improve your mental health can lead to a happier and more satisfying life. In this engaging presentation, you will learn how to:

  • Leverage humor to bring joy to your life and those around you.
  • Improve your diet by avoiding mood-busting foods.
  • Incorporate mood-elevating foods into your daily diet.
  • Use simple methods to overcome any setback in life, even the biggest ones.

By the end of this session, you will have the tools to live a more joyful life, which can improve your relationships and your performance at work.

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Once you have speaking topics prepared, your next steps are to add them to a speaker page on your website and begin reaching out to groups and organizations where you would like to speak.

Wishing you much success as you proceed forward!


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