How Writers Can Accelerate Speaking Opportunities
Blogger: Mary Keeley
One of the first realities you are confronted with as you tiptoe into the business of writing books is the need for a growing platform. Much attention and cutting-edge advice has been given on building up your social media network. Today, I’m going to suggest practical ways to initiate and increase your speaking opportunities.
Your platform involves all your undertakings to market your name and your brand. Agents and editors pay close attention to vigorous social media numbers, your speaking history in the last year, and the number of scheduled engagements in the year ahead.
Novelists have an advantage in that superb writing and a compelling story may overcome a tepid speaking calendar. But that isn’t so for nonfiction writers. A robust history of speaking to large audiences is a make-it-or-break-it issue for them. It is what confirms to agents and editors you are an in-demand authority on your topic with proven potential for selling lots of your books. (Although a vigorous blog can make any editor forget about concerns over speaking engagements.)
Speaking offers the opportunity for in-person connection with those potential book buyers that social media does not. For those of you who hold back because speaking is out of your comfort zone or who don’t know where to begin to obtain speaking engagements, here are a few suggestions:
- Include a speaker page on your author website. Create several presentations that have something to do with your brand. List them on your speaker page with a brief description and the interesting stories and information attendees will learn from each of them.
- Offer to speak for free and ask permission to mention your book. But don’t turn your talk into a sales pitch for your book. Make your talk engaging, informative, and entertaining with the right amount of humor for your topic. Tell stories, give examples, and get attendees involved in your talk. The enjoyable interaction will sprout a positive relationship. Attendees will feel rewarded for their time and will want to purchase your book because they know you.
- Practice your presentations. Do this even before you have engagements scheduled. Refine the content, polish your delivery, and practice each presentation regularly until you can give them in your sleep. When the time comes, you will be confident you are well prepared and can present yourself naturally and professionally.
- Contact area businesses and offer to speak in one of their regularly scheduled meetings. This is a largely untapped opportunity. Writers are typically advised to target speaking engagements at community groups, churches, schools, and libraries, all of which are good prospects. But don’t stop there. Businesses are always looking for speakers in their meetings. Approach those whose products and services have some connection with your brand. In this kind of speaking opportunity, relate their products and services to your book in some way. For example, an author of historical fiction might make a connection as simple as, “Back when this story takes place, towns didn’t have the services you provide. Imagine where we would be today without the work you do.” It links your book with what they do, and you affirm them in the process. Send a thank-you note after the first such speaking engagement and follow up with other businesses about the successful response you had. Offer your speaking services to them as well. Some of these companies have branch offices in other cities, potentially multiplying your opportunities. All these steps get your name and your brand in front of people.
- Offer to teach at local adult learning centers and community education programs. These groups have catalogs and televise special events on local TV channels. Engage them, inform them, and entertain them, and your name will be spread.
- At the end of your speaking engagements mention your other speaking topics. You never know when someone in attendance knows of another group that would be interested in one of your themes. Leave one-page handouts or bookmarks for attendees that list your speaking presentations, your contact information, and your website. Who knows where that networking will lead, but the busyness of everyday life causes people to quickly forget things they meant to do. Follow up with interested attendees in several weeks if they haven’t contacted you.
- When you have several speaking engagements scheduled, add a calendar to your speaker page. Those speaking dates communicate that you are in demand and will garner interest from other groups.
Now it’s your turn. What has worked for you in getting speaking engagements? What is holding you back from pursuing speaking venues? I’m traveling today and won’t be able to respond quickly, but share tips with each other.