Talk About Your Book: 7 Tips For Successful Public Speaking

Authors are a little like rockstars, setting up tour dates when a new album is released. Readers are hungry to know the writer behind inspiring words, (Check out: Before they buy your book, buyers need to know, like and trust you: How to reach them) and speaking to groups both satisfies the end users’ desire to “touch the merchandise” while also serving to increase awareness of your book, thereby generating sales.

I’m a fan of author Joanna Penn, and if I lived in Brisbane I would definitely check out her speaking engagement, “How to Write, Publish, Sell and Promote Your Own Book.” However, from here in California I’m pleased to present Penn’s seven tips for successful public speaking:

  • Prepare extremely well, but then relax and go with it. My seminar was based on my 3 books and the last 18 months of experience, so you could say I have been preparing for a long time! I know my material and I am confident with it, but I still spent 3 whole weekends preparing for this 1 day seminar. I prepared the slide packs, organised the materials and venue as well as marketing it online and through various contacts. I had nightmares the two nights before and was anxious it would go well, but on the day itself, I just let it happen. I had done everything I could to make it perfect, so I relaxed. Once the people arrived, I was good to go.
  • Use Zen Presentation, not death by Powerpoint. Visual slides are almost mandatory on a full day/weekend workshop and I had prepared a fantastic slide pack for each session. If you are someone who does seminars or work presentations, then you must read Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery This book can revolutionize your Powerpoint and entrance your audience, and I used it as the basis for my sessions. Basically, it is about using strong images and keywords to convey your message, instead of packing slides full of detailed notes. Leave those for handouts. I get the majority of my images from Flickr Creative Commons, and the rest from iStockPhoto.
  • It’s not nerves, it’s Shakti. I learnt this from a friend and mentor, Robert Rabbin who I highly recommend as a public speaking coach. At one of Robert’s weekend courses, he taught us about Shakti, which is a creative, dynamic life energy flowing throughout us and the universe. If you are about to give your energy to others in speaking, you need to be filled with energy. Think of those “nerves” as the shakti flowing – you need that energy to give to other people, to perform and to speak from your heart. Think of those feelings as positive, and reinterpret the ‘nerves’ as Shakti. It really helps!
  • Be the expert people see you as, even if you don’t feel like that. This is something my business coach, Lisa Murray told me. Public speaking is about putting yourself out there as an expert, and if people want to hear you speak and enjoy it, then you are that expert. I feel like I am just one step ahead in the class on many topics. I am just keen to share so people don’t make the mistakes I did. You may feel that you are not an expert either, but I bet you are one step ahead in the class on your topic too! That’s enough to make you an expert in the eyes of your audience, so embrace that.
  • Be real and tell your story. People want authenticity and they want to see the real you. You can share your learnings and your problems without being less of an expert or compromising your position. I find sharing my lessons learnt to be the way I personally move forward as well as helping others.
  • Respond to the audience, rather than enforcing your schedule. I found that at the dreaded 3.30pm slot, people were fading fast and I was talking about technical things like blogging. So we took an extra break and that helped to carry us through to the end. I had to cut some content but people were tired. I also took questions on the fly throughout the session and responded to people’s expressions like “what on earth are you talking about?!” when I got onto ebooks. Also, I would recommend taking feedback and using it to improve the seminar and your performance. I did little forms that I gave out at the end of the session for people to write their comments on. I keep these and add them to my database of testimonials and things to improve.
  • Have products to sell. If people are interested in what you are saying, they will naturally want more of what you have to say. They will want your books, your programs and more of your time. So let them have it. Make sure you have more products for them to buy.
Joanna Penn speaking at a Brisbane public seminarJoanna Penn speaking at a Brisbane public seminar

If you’re interested in having Penn speak live, or by teleconference, email