August 9, 2011

Speaking Engagements

This week I want to visit with you about speaking engagements. Do you tremble at the thought of having to speak to a group of people? If so, you're not alone. But if you can overcome your fear of doing so, speaking engagements are a wonderful way to win new readers and spread the word about your books. *Taken from a series of articles on the CAN Marketing Blog.

When I began marketing my first book in the Seasons of the Tallgrass, I dreaded the thought of having to speak to a group of people, yet I knew if I could master this task, it would be helpful for my career. So, when I faced that first phone call asking if I could speak to a group of women at a church, I accepted the invitation. Before the event, I prepared my presentation, wrote my notecards, and practiced my speech over and over again in front of a mirror in my bedroom. When the day finally arrived, I walked in with my handful of notecards and a smile, prepared to speak about my journey to publication. With a queezy stomach and damp palms, I stumbled through my introduction, and then my worst fears were realized--
My notecards dropped to the floor.

Oh little engine, I don't know if I can do this. Speaking to people may be too great of a mountain to climb . . .
Yikes! My face blushed ten shades of crimson and a little girl came rushing to my side, offering to pick up the cards strewn all over the carpet. In an effort to shrug it off, and knowing there would be no way to put the cards in order, I laughed (mostly from nerves) and pulled out the typed speech I'd prepared--just in case the unthinkable should happen. LOL
Much like the little engine that could, I somehow made it through that thirty minute presentation and lived to tell about it later. And being the brave soul that I am, I scheduled another speaking event--this time to a library. Fortunately, the more I stood in front of a crowd, the less my nerves bothered me. By the third event, I could speak without my cards. Yay!
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One handy tool I've found to help with presentations, is PowerPoint. It is an amazing invention that helps me stay on track with my speech as well as provide visuals for my audience--something that is always appreciated. A lot of times, however, the facilities do not have a projector or screen, and in those instances, I force myself to muddle through. Sometimes I will take posters that I've made to provide a visual and that helps, but it is not my preferred method.
Okay, so how do you go about setting up a speaking schedule? Like other events, you first need to decide how many author engagements you want to do in a month or season, figure out what you'll talk about, and whether you'll charge a fee or sell books. (What I do at this time, is request compensation for mileage and ask that I may sell my own books. This always provides me with more than enough to keep me happy.) 
Then start letting people know you're available. Believe me, committee chairmen are hungry for speakers. Put a notice on your Website, offer the information at book signings or when you visit a bookstore or library. I've found my greatest response comes from librarians. They are always looking for interesting sessions to do for their patrons. Other ideas are to speak to women's groups, churches, clubs, or schools. Another option is to speak at writer's conferences.
When I prepare for a speaking engagement, I like to have a nice table presentation--and this goes for my book signings as well.
Usually, I'll carry my own table, or at least have it in the truck if it's needed. I also carry a tablecloth, some artificial flowers, book display racks, and my promotional items (bookmarks, pens, flyers, etc.) And candy. If I'm going to be inside (with air conditioning), I'll often have chocolate on the table. Another item you might consider is a poster of your book. Last year, I had one made at my local printer. An 11X17 foamboard poster can be purchased for around $10 and is very effective for a table display. Bigger, if you can afford it or your publisher is willing to help with the expense. This year,
37349_444355533938_548613938_5844123_1335653_nZondervan provided me with a retractable banner, which I love. It's easy to carry and very effective as a visual. Sometimes, I'll also offer a special giveaway, which is a nice way to build my newsletter subscription. But even if you don't do a giveaway, be sure to have a sign-up sheet for those interested in being on your mailing list.
As always, when you schedule an author event, remember to ask about promotion. Will the library or club provide a notice in the newspaper or a newsletter? Will they make and send out flyers about the event? Even if they offer to do these things, take the time to double-check a week or two before the event to make sure it has been done. Then send out your own media announcement to the local papers and radio as an extra prompt. Some of my best promotional efforts have come from speaking engagements.
So what about you? Do you have a special plan of attack when it comes to speaking? Share with us in the comments below. Next Tuesday, I'll write about scheduling a blog tour. Until then, keep chugging up those hills . .
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