Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Speaking of Speaking

Crystal Laine Miller at her first speaking engagement (Imitating Bub Pope.)
You're a writer. If you haven't been asked to speak yet,eventually you will. If you haven't been published yet,now is the time to consider how you will handle public events and publicity surrounding your book.

At the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis this year I met author Jim Rubart in person for the first time.We'd had some correspondence on email due to ACFW business. If you haven't checked out his site for promotion and speaking, then you simply must. His fiction book, Rooms, has garnered all sorts of honors and awards, appeared on bestseller lists, but he's also a speaker, marketing consultant and has a company called Barefoot Marketing. Also check out his list of topics on his web site--topics on which he'll speak. He's done some workshops with our own Tiffany Colter and with agent Chip MacGregor that you may wish to look into taking.

*Think about this for yourself: on what topics would you be willing to speak?

Now here's what's funny about meeting Jim. Somehow he was under the impression from my emails that I am an extrovert. A-living-out-loud kind of person. Someone like Colleen Coble. But I am an introvert. This doesn't mean I'm shy, but it does mean I need more preparation and I need recovery time after a speaking engagement.  I'm more likely to not say anything until I've thought it through. I may be somewhat on the line between extrovert and introvert as this was not true when I was teaching in school every day. I could sometimes teach off the top of my head because I was passionate about and knew my topics.If you are an introvert, then this is from where you can draw your topics--the ones you are passionate about and know well.

Here are some practical things from my speaking experiences:

1. Have water nearby. (Preferably with some lemon in it.) Don't drink
caffeine drinks prior. (For two reasons!*Ask me by email.)

2. Have your handouts stacked according to presentation and marked in your
outline (if you use one) when to distribute. It's best to enlist someone to
disperse these as you continue to speak, so if you do that, make sure you give
some time to get these to your audience because this will distract, anyway, from
what you are saying. Also, if you can, disperse prior to the speaking and
then indicate about when they will need this, if at all.

3. Prior to speaking, make sure people can hear you. If you have a
microphone, it would be good to do a test. Don't walk in front of the amp/speakers with the microphone, if you have one/them, because some systems squawk when you do that. Ouch!

4. Don't grip the podium if you have one. (ha) Relax. These are just people you are talking to about things you are passionate about, right?

5. Try to make eye contact with those in the audience. Don't just look in one spot. Try not to take it personally if someone is not looking at you. There are such people who are auditory learners and won't necessarily be looking at you, but will be paying attention.Kinesthetic learners may be fiddling with things, too.There might be someone who is asleep (I had this happen to me when I spoke to high school students.) Think positively and don't take credit for that person taking a nap....

6. Occasionally ask questions where the audience has to participate--like
"how many of you," "raise your hands," that sort of thing, because it engages
your audience.
But don't use it so often that it loses it effectiveness or
gets to be distracting (like, they are counting how many times you say it. )Also, watch repeated phrases like "as such" or "you know what I mean?" or any other phrase that gets distracting--unless it has a point,of course.If all of a sudden a bunch in the back row jumps up and yells "Yes! Score!" then they're probably either listening to a game on their iPhone or you just broke your own personal record for saying, "As such."

7.No matter how serious the topic, start off with a little humor (if
to set yourself and others at ease. Then, set the tone with some sort of anecdote.Choose carefully.If you are afraid it will be offensive, do reconsider.

8. Make your own notes about how a favorite speaker presents himself. You
can always learn from a speaker who holds YOU in the palm of his hand. I was struck during the elections here in the U.S. by the various candidates and how they spoke. I think the way two in particular presented their material certainly swayed their audiences, even if you don't agree with the message.

9. Always, always take into account your audience, their point of view and
what your purpose is.
Just like in writing!

10. Don't look down too much because your voice goes wherever you are
If you are constantly looking down as you speak, your voice goes down into your notes, not out to the audience. If you have a microphone, make sure you speak into it, but try not to "breathe" into it. If you have to cough, take your mouth away from the mike.

11. Wear something comfortable (if it cuts off your air, you will be sorry! ha)but also choose a color that enhances your appearance and personal coloring.People get focused on your appearance and can be distracted by the weirdest things, like your hair sticking up or that you're wearing orange. Color also influences what the audience will think of you and your message. I have written articles about this. Colors convey a message, too. If you have a friend there, have that friend make sure that you don't have underwear static-clinging to your skirt or that your slip is dangling around your ankles. (Men, you know what to check....)

I am by NO means an expert and I certainly could use more experience and tips on speaking. I like how fiction authors are offering topics to speak on to groups who ask them to speak. I think you will sell more books if you offer the audience more than just your fiction. Doc Hensley told us that you need to establish your expertise in order to garner attention to your work. (That probably gets into "branding.")

Also, I think it's nice to give "gifts" to your audience--plenty of bookmarks, or similar type things. Some speakers pass baskets of chocolate or candy.It's always nice to have a "door prize,"too. (Your book, for example.)

What kinds of advice do you have for us when it comes to speaking? What has worked for you?

Here's a story you can use if you want for that ice-breaking humor :  
A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree reading a book; the other was typing away on his laptop.

The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. 

Why? Because even the king of the jungle knows that readers digest and writers cramp.

~Crystal Laine Miller


Jan Cline said...

Jim is great isn't he? And this seems to be a hot topic lately...lucky for me as I have several speaking engagements coming up. Great post!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Crystal -

LOL! I'll have to remember that story about the lion.

Thanks for a great post. I haven't seen many on this subject.

Susan :)

Crystal Laine said...

Great, Jan! Where and on what do you speak? What are your tips?

Susan, on Hoosier Ink blog there were some comments that gave some tips (Tiffany Colter.) Some people take Toastmasters to get training.

I don't worry about speaking, but I sometimes worry more about how I look...LOL.

Christine Lindsay said...

I used to be able to speak in public with no problem. Then a few years ago I actually developed the phobia. But I joined Toastmasters Public Speaking forum and it helped a great deal.

Although I still get physically ill with nerves whenever I have to speak, the training from toastmasters worked so well, my audiences thought I was as cool as a cumcumber, and that I should go on the writing circuit.

Meanwhile I'm desperately praying---Please Lord, don't make me ever do this again.

Christine Lindsay said...

Sorry, Crystal, in my previous comment, I meant to say my audiences thought I should go on the SPEAKING circuit. But you know---I've got writing on the brain. Like a few other people I know.


Jan Cline said...

Im speaking at a fundraiser event for a non profit organization in November and I have a few MOPS group engagements in a few months. I will be giving a "get involved and give of yourself" talk for the event and I have several topics for MOPS. My favorite being "Keep the Bra, Burn The Cape". That talk is also in the works for a book. My tip is let yourself enjoy the time you speak. There is always someone who needs to hear what you have to say. They will be more likely to hear and believe you if you are relaxed and seem to enjoy your own message. It's not ego - it's sincerity and confidence. Thanks for asking!