For some people, speaking to an audience comes very easily – it’s writing their book that is the hard part. For others, it’s the opposite – writing the book in the silence of their own space was fairly easy, especially when compared to the frightening stage. Many of the authors I’ve worked with have written their books in order to open more doors for speaking engagements. Other authors know they will want or need to speak once their book is complete, but haven’t done it yet and don’t know where to start.
This article helps all would-be speakers with a format for a speech of any length, as each section or point can be expanded or contracted as needed.
Step 1: Determine your topic
This may sound a little silly, but choosing a topic is one of the hardest steps. Many writers aren’t sure what they want to talk about as their expertise is quite robust. First and foremost: Know who your audience is and what they are there to learn from you. Do they want to know how you wrote a book? Do they want to ask about the content? Are you sharing a personal story for education, inspiration, or entertainment?
Everything starts with your audience, so consider them and determine your topic based on their interest. If you aren’t sure, ask. More than likely, you’ve either been asked to speak on a specific topic, or you have already pitched your talk and were selected, but in the case that neither is true, take time to determine your topic.
Step 2: Choose 2-4 points to make during your speech
If you are doing a standard speech, choose 2-4 points that will illustrate your topic. More than this can be overwhelming and lose the audience. If you are teaching a class or workshop, this advice doesn’t apply, as you will likely have handouts, a visual presentation, or other devices for retention. But if you are giving a speech that is under an hour, choose your points and limit them.
Step 3: Start with a hook
Just like you start your book with a hook – something that catches the audience’s attention and pulls them in, you should start your speech with one too. A quote, statistic, joke, or funny or otherwise engaging story is a great way to perk the attention of your listeners. Your speaker bio should introduce you and give some credentials, so don’t start your speech there. Instead, start with something of high interest to build rapport with your audience.
Step 4: Practice
Practice makes perfect. Practice and time your speech as you share it – in front of the mirror, to a small group (which could be your spouse and dog, if you want), or even into a voice recorder. We tend to remember the beginning and end of what we write, so practice from different starting points just to get the words into your head and memorized. Make sure your speech is falling into the allotted time frame you are given. Often new speakers will talk very quickly, so practice taking breaths and slowing down.
Step 5: Get into the right mindset
The right mindset may be reframing how you feel about public speaking, performing mantras or power poses, or giving yourself a pep talk. There are several ways to get ready to speak and you need to find the solutions that work best for you. This blog gives some specific suggestions for getting into the right mindset that have worked for me.
Step 6: Have a strong closing
Again, consider your audience and your purpose for being there and deliver a strong closing. For some people, this will be an impactful quote or final take-away thought. For others, it could be a call-to-action, such as asking them to come to the back at break and sign up for your newsletter, buy your book, or learn more about your newest program. When we are new or nervous, we will often forget to say this important piece and leave our audience feeling good, but with no way to connect further.
Step 7: Get feedback
The best way to learn and improve is to get feedback. Consider asking a few people ahead of time if they will watch for certain components and offer constructive criticism so you can implement improvements into your next speech. You can also video tape yourself to review later. We can be our own harshest critics, so I suggest viewing it with another person to help balance the feedback. You could also poll the audience to see if they received what they expected from the speech.
Is there anything you would add? What have you been doing, or not doing, from the list above? Need any guidance or support? If so, let’s schedule a free call to determine what needs you may have around writing your book, speaking about your book, or a plan to have them work together. I also have several connections I may be able to make for you and it all starts here: schedule now.