Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Writers write ... AND speak

“Writers don’t speak; they write.” I’ve actually said that, and I’m embarrassed to admit it. The context in which I said it had to do with voice activated software. When people have suggested that I talk a book instead of writing one I’ll admit I’ve gotten a bit testy. But in the broader sense, writers must speak, and if you don’t, you are missing a great marketing strategy.

Talking about your book in public forums is effective, personal, and persuasive. It also sells books. If you are one of the many people who fear public speaking or have no idea how to do it, I have eight suggestions. The first is to join a Toastmasters’ group. The other seven follow.

1. It’s all about the audience.
Do your homework. Find out all you can about the group. Every audience is different; there is no one size fits all. Ask yourself what this audience needs and how you can provide it. Even if you have given this presentation before, you can still tailor it to the needs of this particular group.

2. Think it through before you write a single word.
What is your message, the essential idea you want to get across? Write it down in a single sentence. Then, think about the three main points that will support that message. People can usually grasp and remember three ideas, but more than that tends to be confusing. Finally, jot down ideas for stories that will illustrate those points.

3. The opening grabs their attention; the closing gives them something to take away with them.
These are the two most important parts of any presentation. Think of a hot pink thread that begins at the opening, runs through the content, and ends up in a knot at the end. That thread ties your speech together. Write the opening and closing carefully, edit them until they are perfect, and then memorize them until they are as familiar as the Pledge of Allegiance.

4. Content is king.
You know before you begin what your message is going to be. Now, you have to become an expert on that topic. Research it, anticipate questions, and be prepared to answer them in your presentation and in the Q&A, if there is one. If you have thought about the stories you want to tell, this is the time to flesh them out. Look up what others have said, and sprinkle authoritative quotes throughout your talk. With today’s powerful search engines that is easier than it has ever been.

5. Delivery counts.
Your content may be great, but if it is badly presented, no one will ever know. Good delivery is built on self-confidence, comfort with your topic, and contagious energy. These things build on each other and are the result of practice, practice, practice. Do not think you can “wing it.” You can’t.

6. Organization matters.
The key to compelling content and confident delivery is how well organized your material is. Complicated organization may work in print, but it doesn’t in a speech. Keep it simple and straightforward—so simple, in fact, that the audience can almost see your outline as you speak. You don’t have to actually say, “Here is what the speech is about, point one, point two, point three, and here’s how it all ties together” for the audience to know where those headings would be.

7. Be real.
There are two kinds of presentations: performances and conversations. Performances are scripted, stylized, and acted. Conversations engage the audience. Performances make an impression; conversations create a connection. Here are two important questions: What is the purpose of your presentation, and what is your natural style? Do what comes naturally. Any audience can spot a phony, someone who is trying too hard, or a speaker who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Don’t be any of the above.

If these suggestions seem somewhat familiar, it’s probably because the same rules apply to good writing.


Kim said...

Well said. I particularly like point number 3 "The opening grabs their attention; the closing gives them something to take away with them."
That is definitely what your book should do as well!

Bobbi Linkemer said...

Thanks for the comment. Your book will, I know. My favorite is #7: Be real—when you speak, when you write, when you just ARE.

Eric said...

Researching the audience is good. Here's a way that works on certain occassions....

Ian, the main character in my book, had big time fears of public speaking. But in order to become a manager in Santa's workshop he had to undergo some training which, of course, included a speech class. What to do? He asked Google and one of the suggestions was to mingle with the audience before an event whenever possible. In his case he helped Elise, a good friend and classmate, with some administrative duties before class. Going around the room and interfacing with other students made him feel like a host. It was a great confidence builder!

All the best!

Eric Dana Hansen
Author of "IAN, CEO, North Pole"