Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Steps to Successful Public Speaking

Yesterday I started talking about public speaking – promoting your book through talks at book signings, leading workshops, speaking to groups, teaching classes, even talking one on one with an agent or editor or book buyer.

Here are the first two steps to having a successful speaking experience:

Prepare. Know what you're going to talk about. Now, you may say, I'm going to talk about my book -- what could be easier? That would work if all of your audience has read your book and asks questions about the characters, plot, etc. But, most likely, the majority of them are there, hopefully, to buy your book. And they'll be asking questions about how, where, and when you write, where your ideas come from, the title of your favorite book from childhood, the author who inspired you the most, the thread of feminism that runs through all your works, the political ramifications of the clash of cultures in the Middle East, the philosophical teachings of Socrates. Okay, maybe I exaggerated on those last two, but only a little. You've been to conferences and heard other authors speak. Think of all the questions you've heard asked. Now think how you would answer them. Of course, you have to know your book, but be prepared to answer other questions.

Don't memorize. That doesn't necessarily mean don't write out your speech ahead of time. You can if you want to, or you can do an outline of the major points you want to cover. You can practice your talk, time it, record and listen to it, and practice it some more. But, I recommend that you NOT memorize it word for word. Inevitably, you'll forget a word or sentence, or someone will interrupt with a question, and then you'll get flustered. Unless it's imperative you say something word for word, don't bring your speech to the podium -- you'll be tempted to read it. Most people, when they read something, sound like they're ... reading something. Take a sheet of paper or note cards with you that list the highlights or major points or key words of your talk. Refer to that if needed. You can even take a pencil and discreetly check off what you've covered.

So, before you actually talk or teach, do those two things: Prepare and Don’t Memorize.

Tomorrow, some hints on what to do during the speech and what to do afterwards.

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