Editors and agents tell us we need a large and growing platform in order to be competitive in today’s saturated market. Though the pressure is less acute for fiction writers, we all feel it none-the-less. Because of this, many in this highly introverted group have turned to speaking as a way to increase their audience and their sales.
A great idea, right? Minus the fact that many of you have begun hyperventilating at the thought. Relax. Breathe, and grab a large supply of chocolate, and keep reading. You might discover it’s easier than you think to become a competent speaker.
But first, let’s talk briefly about where and how to gain speaking engagements. Begin by brainstorming various venues, such as libraries, church and Bible study groups, and civil organizations. Many libraries host book clubs who love having local or traveling authors visit.
For most venues, you’ll want to pitch a topic to the group leader. This will require more brainstorming. Does you story touch on forgiveness? Did that thread come from something you yourself struggled with? If so, make a talk out of it, then pare your talk to a one paragraph pitch. And let others know—your neighbors, coworkers, random strangers you meet at coffeehouses—that you’re available for speaking engagements.
Then, once you gain gigs, you want to make sure you come out strong. Don’t expect perfection but rather, steady progress.
By small, I mean in terms of audience size and time commitment. My first speaking engagement, about fifteen years ago, lasted maybe ten minutes, and involved ten people tops. My next few talks were similar in length and audience size. Though I didn’t plan this, I have no doubt God did. He has a tendency of leading us step-by-step, stretching us just enough without allowing us to crash completely.
Everyone messes up in the beginning—stutters then forgets their words, and peppers their talks with way too many “ums” and “uhs.” Those blunders aren’t a big deal in front of ten or fifteen people. Multiply the audience by twenty, however, and it’s likely new speakers will leave the event so terrified they’ll never want to speak in front of others again!
I can’t over-emphasize this point enough. Practice in front of a mirror, record yourself practicing, gather your friends and random strangers and practice your talk in front of them. According to Carmine Gallo, author of Talk Like Ted, one should “Practice relentlessly and internalize your content so that you can deliver the presentation as comfortably as having a conversation with a close friend” (p. 75).
This is also a great way to reduce the stammers and the ums. Plus, the better you perform in one event, the more likely you are to be booked for another. Consider each gig a job interview.
When Sara Bernier, speaker with Wholly Loved Ministries, felt God’s nudge to speak, she intentionally sought out small-step opportunities. “I approached Nathan Reeves the executive producer at Reality Church in LaVista,” Sara said. “I overheard him talking to the executive pastor about the need for service hosts, so I told him that I was eager for more speaking opportunities and would be happy to try out.”
This allowed her to practice standing in front of an audience and also provided an opportunity for her to receive invaluable feedback from others.
Most writers would never think of submitting a story, be it to an editor, agent, or their readership directly, until they’ve sifted it through their trusted critique partners and beta readers. If we want to have strong keynotes, we’ll apply this same diligence to our presentations. When we receive feedback before our engagement, we ensure our words have maximum impact, that our message is clear, interesting, and that it stays on point. When we solicit feedback from a trusted audience member after our performance, we provide ourselves with an opportunity to grow and improve.
Speaking is a great way to build your platform, increase book sales, and connect on a more personal level with your audience. If you’ve never spoken before, the idea of doing so might feel daunting. You can grow your confidence, however, by starting small and practicing often. Then, solicit feedback and grow from there. If you do, you’ll likely have a thriving and effective speaking ministry within a few years.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Novelist and speaker Jennifer Slattery has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team put on events at partnering churches designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. She writes devotions for Internet Café Devotions, Christian living articles for Crosswalk.com, and edits for Firefly, a Southern fiction imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.
Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and connect with her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte
Mitch, a contractor and house-flipper, is restoring a beautiful old house in an idyllic Midwestern neighborhood. Angela, a woman filled with regrets and recently transplanted to his area, is anything but idyllic. She's almost his worst nightmare, and she s also working on restoring something herself. As he struggles to keep his business afloat and she works to overcome mistakes of her past, these two unlikely friends soon discover they have something unexpected in common, a young mom who is fighting to give her children a better life after her husband's incarceration. While both Mitch and Angela are drawn to help this young mother survive, they also find themselves drawn to each other. Will a lifetime of regrets hold them back or unite them and bring redemption along with true love?
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