Writers and Public Speaking

A couple of weeks ago, some RMFW author friends and I were discussing book promotion, and the topic of public speaking came up.  Public speaking. As in one of the most fearsome activities a person can do. These brave souls are willing to think about taking heart and book in hand to stand up in front of total strangers. They’ll speak with microphones or just more loudly than normal, they’ll gesture, they’ll change voices with each new character, all in hopes of selling more books. How cool is that!

Carol Berg speaks at RMFW
Public speaker Carol Berg.

I decided to look into what it would take to join or form a speakers’ bureau. To do so, I interviewed Karen Loucks Rinedollar of the Denver Speakers Bureau.  I also joined Toastmasters last May, and have found public speaking a fascinating subject.

JOINING/FORMING A SPEAKER’S BUREAU

Karen was generous with her time and she shared both some thoughts on speaking and on forming a bureau, or place where those looking for speakers can find talent to fill their needs.

“To sell more books?” asked Karen. “To sell more books, write more. Become a New York Times best-selling author before trying to join a speakers’ bureau.”  While kindly said, Karen left no doubt that people wanting to get involved with public speaking need to have credentials that make them more desirable as “draws” to a public speaking event.

But writing more doesn’t necessarily mean writing more books.  She suggested developing a great and actively read blog (I understand RMFW’s blog is always looking for contributors), or writing article in your area of expertise. If your main character is a mad scientist, is it possible to build credibility by writing scientific articles for Popular Science?

“Establish yourself as a professional,” said Karen. “That makes you more attractive as a speaker.” And more likely to be picked up by speakers’ bureaus.

Absolute speaker musts? According to Karen, there are two big items:

  • Have a good website. Event planners look for speakers on-line as much as anywhere else, and you should have a portion of your site dedicated to enticing them.
  • Post great samples of your work—Yes, you can use an iPhone recording as you get started, but be sure to show samples of how you interact with your audience and use your best video clips to do so.

As a parting thought, Karen expressed some caution. “When you work on public speaking part-time, you’ll get part-time success.”

TIPS FROM TOASTMASTERS

When I joined Toastmasters, I had visions of being coached and growing to be the next Steven Colbert. Now I spend a couple of hours each week with people who talk both extemporaneously and in prepared speeches. Colbert? Not so much, but as with a critique group, Toastmasters offers a great opportunity to test your speaking skills, as well as developing other leadership qualities. This organization is well worth the investment.  Here are some tips for public speaking from my time spent among my public speaking friends:

  • Choose a good topic to speak on. Yes, even in a book signing, you’ll want to have something interesting to talk about.  Do you write mysteries? Maybe you can research and talk about local cold cases or what it’s like to ride along with the police as a Citizen’s Academy member. There are four purposes to public speaking: entertain, educate, inform and persuade. Oh, and the persuading doesn’t include, “buy my book” talks.
  • Respect the clock. This one is a very difficult challenge, but I’ve seen speakers who go on five, ten, twenty minutes overtime, and their audiences become uncomfortable and antsy. Practice, practice, practice, with a timer!
  • Be prepared to speak extemporaneously. At many writers’ conferences I have heard speakers talk about how boring it is to be asked things like, “where do you get your ideas?” or “how long does it take to write a whole book?” But, as a librarian friend told me, “These are the questions that readers really want to hear answers to.” So be prepared. Write the story of writing a story. Buy into it, and I think you’ll find some good material for public speaking there.

Are you public speaking to promote your book?  Maybe you can share some tips with the rest of us. Would you like to see “Public Speaking for Authors” at Colorado Gold? Please let me know.

Liesa Malik
Liesa Malik is a freelance writer & marketing consultant living in Littleton, CO, with her husband and two pets. Liesa has built on her writing interest with a long-standing membership in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and recently joined the board of Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. She is the author of Faith on the Rocks: a Daisy Arthur Mystery. Most days you can find Liesa either at her desk or at a local ballroom dance studio. For more about Liesa, please visit her website: LiesaMalik.Wordpress.com. More about Liesa on her website.

3 thoughts on “Writers and Public Speaking

  1. This is a great topic, Liesa, and one that I think would be valuable for a workshop at a writing conference. I also joined Toastmasters and agree that it’s a great organization to learn the “how-to’s” of speech organization and to brush up on speaking skills. Seems like Public Speaking for Authors would be a good addition to Colorado Gold.

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