Reminiscing about my Speaking Career and the Options for Reviving It
I recently had to do that “elevator speech” thing at a business event. My spiel says that I write and speak about history, but that’s kind of a lie since I haven’t given a talk since before COVID. Now that this new book is coming out soon, (honestly, it is!) I’ve been mapping out a marketing plan. Speaking engagements will probably be part of it and I’m still deciding how I feel about that.
My daughter is a professional pianist. My son has acted in both film and television. And my husband has been a radio deejay, voice-over actor, film actor, stage actor, emcee, and lecturer. They all seem to enjoy it, but I have not been comfortable “performing” since I was a kid. In fact, I got once woozy just walking across a stage when I was in college.
When my first book was published, however, all the author experts insisted that having a presentation to offer was vital to one’s book marketing plan and possibly even more lucrative than just selling books.
So I put together a presentation. That was the easy part! Next, I shopped it around. That was a little bit harder for an introvert. Soon, I lined up a number of speaking gigs at libraries, service clubs, senior living facilities, and schools. To be honest, most – but not all! – of them were unpaid, but I didn’t take a job unless I could at least set up a table in the back to sell books.
Then I practiced. And practiced. And practiced some more. The intent was to memorize an opening and an ending so that I started and ended strong and was really comfortable with my facts so I sounded natural in between. For back up, I held an outline of the presentation in my hand and had a facts sheet handy if I stumbled on a date or name. In addition to all of that, I illustrated my talk with PowerPoint slides, which was useful on two fronts: Each slide reminded me what I was supposed to be talking about next and it gave folks something to look at besides me.
Even with all my preparation, three days before every event, I would get sick to my stomach. It was hard to eat, to sleep, to concentrate on work. Some of the groups invited me to speak after a meal, but I could barely manage a few bites, let alone enjoy it.
That said, once I started talking about the cool facts I discovered and the historic puzzles I unraveled, I would get a little excited because I do love sharing history. The audiences usually looked engaged and they didn’t ask difficult questions too often. Best of all, many of them would stop to buy books afterwards.
It’s easier than ever to do virtual presentations for book clubs or similar groups and there are tons of podcasts. I’m curious to see stats on how many people click to order books after an event like that. In-person events are also being scheduled again, which I think are more engaging, but they’re also more time-consuming. My marketing plans include all of these.
And that means I have to face my public speaking fears again soon.
For a little bit longer, I can put it off, but the book will be launched soon (honestly, it is!) and the author experts say I should have some gigs lined up before it does. If you have any good tips on how to avoid three days of dread before every presentation, boy! I'd really like to hear them!