Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Successful Workshops

Today, I wanted to continue with the topic of public speaking for authors. Earlier, in the posts Public Speaking for Writers, Steps to Successful Public Speaking and More on Successful Public Speaking, we covered the topics of:
  • Prepare
  • Don't memorize
  • Relax
  • Dress comfortably
  • Keep track of your talks
I'd like to throw out two other tips for speaking to groups:

1. Prepare handouts.
If you're conducting a workshop or seminar, take and give handout(s). First of all, it gives you something to do; it breaks up the monotony of a long talk and provides variety. Secondly, it gives your audience something to take home. They’re more likely to remember you and your subject if they leave with something in their hands. And they feel like they got their money's worth (even if the talk was free, they paid with their time and attention).

Those of you who have attended my workshops at UMHB, Baylor and other places know that I practice what I preach. I gave a blizzard of handouts.

If you're doing a reading or on a book tour, handouts are not so important. You, of course, hope they leave with your book. Plus, it's not easy to carry around extra papers when you're living out of a suitcase and moving from city to city. Consider giving out lots of business cards with your website listed.

2. Leave time for Q & A.
Whenever possible, open the floor for questions. You can do this at the end of your talk, or let the audience know it's okay to interrupt. Audience participation livens the talk and lets you find out what your listeners want to know. Yes, it may get you off-track, but I find that that's not so bad. The questions are almost always interesting. If you get too far off-track and feel you really must get back to topic, then just bring it back around to your subject. You're the speaker; you're the one in charge. You can either go with the flow or dam the questions and re-direct the flow.

Sometimes, when you allow questions to be asked, you'll hear questions that you don't know how to answer. Just say so. Don't bluff. Not only can an audience usually tell that you're guessing, if you're wrong, it can come back to haunt you.

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