If you’re thinking about writing a book or are already published, speaking is a surefire way to grow your readership. It establishes you as an expert and it’s a solid strategy to become connected with diverse groups of people who you might not reach otherwise.
From the earliest days of working with authors, we learned two things early: Authors should be speakers. And speakers should be authors.
I (Dara) just completed a six-month Speak and Get Results Boot Camp and I have to say, I’ll never be the same again. Before this class (and I’m not too ashamed to admit it) I wasn’t as good a speaker as I thought I was. In fact, I was a weak speaker.
How Bad Was My Speaking?
Blank stares, compulsive glances at the clock, frequent fidgeting–all hints that I was losing my audience. I’m even sure I busted a person playing Angry Birds once!
Fact: most speakers don’t know how weak they really are. It takes such guts to get in front of a crowd and convince them that your talk is worthwhile, that most novice speakers consider not sweating through their clothes a success.
Most speakers aren’t terrible, they’re just not as interesting, effective, and memorable as they could be. Who was the last speaker you heard whose speech you still remember?
I was easily a forgettable speaker. I know this because nothing came from the speaking events I participated in. No coffee dates, no Facebook likes, no new Twitter followers, and IF I would have had a book to sell, I’m guessing only a few books (if any) would have sold.
Digging Myself Out of the Rut
I found help. Well, I should say, help found me. While at a conference, I was introduced to Deirdre Van Nest, a speaking coach. As they say, the rest is history…
What I Learned
After six of the most challenging, thought-provoking, and powerful months of my career, I say with confidence, I will never be a weak speaker again. As an effective speaker, you’ll increase your book sales, raise your profile, and become a contender among other iconic presenters. Start by identifying these five signs in your presentation:
1. There’s Not Enough “You” In Your Speech
“You” is the most powerful word in your speech. If you refer to yourself more than your audience, they will quickly lose focus. Ask reflective questions to engage your audience. Make eye contact as much as possible. Speak to members of your audience BEFORE your speech and bring them into your talk if possible. Create a speech that would convince an audience member you’re only talking to them. Don’t focus too much or too long on yourself.
Tip: Never open your speech with formalities, an introduction, or the typical, “I’m so glad to be here.” Draw your audience in right from the start with a “you” statement, question, quote, or story.
2. You Just Wing It
Maybe you’re so comfortable in front of crowds or with your topic that you just go with it. You don’t prepare before your presentation and rarely do you know what you’ll say until you’re at the podium. If this is you, it’s time to change course.
Choose a speaking topic thoughtfully. Craft it around what your audience wants. What do they need? Then outline the points you want to cover. Rehearse it several times. Be prepared with answers to questions your audience will likely ask.
3. You NEED PowerPoint to Feel Comfortable
I was queen of PowerPoint. I spent years proud of my endless text-heavy bullet points that overwhelmed each slide. I spent more time adding animation and searching for images then I did coming up with actual content. To add insult to injury, I relied so heavily on my PowerPoint slides, I didn’t connect with my audience and read each slide verbatim. If this sounds like you, I strongly advise stepping away from your PowerPoint.
Tip: Can’t fathom your presentation without PowerPoint? Ok. Write your speech first. Then commit to using one or two sentences max per slide. Even better, use PowerPoint for images, video, and resources only.
4. You Don’t Offer Any Tools
Sounds like a no-brainer, but if your presentation isn’t chocked full of spreadable goodness, you’ve missed an opportunity. Offer as much value as you would want if you were sitting in the audience. Include facts, lessons, additional resources, and most important a strategy. Ask yourself what gems would be shared, tweeted, and posted on Facebook.
If you’re a fiction author, your tools are going to be different. Your tools might be why you wrote your book. The challenges you faced. The resources you used. Offering writing and publishing tips are also an effective tool that your audience will be interested in.
5. There’s No Call to Action
A mistake I made that my mentor Deirdre Van Nest brought to my attention was that my keynote speech lacked a next step for my audience. I simply ended and hoped for the best. You can have the most enthralling speech an audience has ever seen, but you’re speaking to them for a reason. Tell your audience what you want them to do.
Tip: Mention your book and have it available for sale! If your audience members have your book, commit them in other ways. Have a sign-up sheet available for your e-newsletter and email updates. If they showed up to hear you speak, they’re likely interested in maintaining a relationship with you.
Out with the Old…
It’s worth mentioning that as the numero uno offender of all of the above, I’m completely on my way to being a world-class speaker. In the first speech after my new tools I couldn’t believe the feedback and results.
- I’ve had several meaningful interactions AFTER my speech with people who saw me and then followed up (they’ll easily become buyers of my book when it comes it out later this year)
- I received invitations to speak at other venues
- More than one person told me that I was the “best” speaker they heard that day
- My Twitter followers and blog subscribers increased immediately
What are your suggestions for how speakers can improve and become better speakers? I’m also curious how speaking has helped your journey as an author?
For more tools and tips on speaking, pick up the book World Class Speaking by Mitch Meyerson and Craig Valentine. Also watch out for dates for her next Speak and Get Result Boot Camp.