Picture it! Sicily. 2013. Well actually not Sicily but Woodstock. Yesterday. (Apologies to Sophia of Golden Girls!)
Me and a room full of men.
Yup, that was my morning and I loved it. Oh, did I mention I was the guest speaker talking about my new book, The Loyalist’s Wife? A local men’s group with a membership of about 70 invited me to present for half an hour, a thoroughly enjoyable time as I knew lots of the people and I got to talk about my writing journey.
For my first venture down this speaking-about-my-book road I drew on my years of teaching high school and prepared a PowerPoint presentation. It went pretty well but because I’m a perfectionist I noted some things that I could have done better. These can be used in any public speaking engagement you are asked to do.
5 Tips For Guest Speakers (Authors)
- Print your notes in a large font as you may not have enough light on the podium.
- Create a vivid picture of the setting for your book. Mine is historical and I talked more about the research than the actual book. Next time I’ll set the scene of a young couple, in the wilds of New York State, in 1778, when he decides to join Butler’s Rangers and fight for the British, leaving her behind to look after their isolated farm. I’ll sketch a vivid picture of daily life for John and Lucy at that time and draw my audience in to the story that way.
- Consider your audience and tailor your talk to them with a view to enticing them to buy your book. My audience was all men, my book is titled The Loyalist’s Wife, and I neglected to talk about its dual point of view structure, with chapters about John fighting the war interspersed with chapters about Lucy’s personal war alone on their land with marauding land grabbers and wounded natives. From the title they may have thought it was only about Lucy.
- Put in some multiple choice slides to engage the audience in your subject. My husband and I thought of this after the fact and I, ever the teacher, added slides for next time with multiple choice questions such as, What was Southern Ontario called back in 1778? (a) Upper Canada (b) Ontario (c) Quebec. (Give your answer in the comments below.)
- Tell the audience about any historical phenomena that surround your story. Don’t assume they know the history. My book expands on the loyalists in the American Revolutionary War and I blithely assumed everyone would know and connect with the loyalists. What I should have done was explain the term, United Empire Loyalist, show how I am personally descended from ardent loyalists, and ask how many in the audience trace their history to this period. Next time I’ll know better.
I should also mention that I am going looking for a device so that I don’t have to lean over to the laptop and click the forward arrow for each slide. That was really disconcerting as they had a stand-up mike which I had to stay close to. Why didn’t I pick it off the stand and hold it? That goes in the could’ve, should’ve category.
All in all the presentation went well, although I wasn’t nearly as funny as Sophia with her lines on Golden Girls. Many, many men came and told me afterwards how much they enjoyed my talk. I loved that. And I was happy to reach that many more people with my book.