My First Speaking Engagement

I recently had the opportunity to speak at a business networking lunch at North Sydney. I had attended this function a few times before, and it has a great format – about 20 workers from the local business area get together at lunch time once a month for sandwiches and a guest speaker.

I’ve done plenty of public speaking in the past but this was my first gig specifically as an author.

The title of the talk was “Has the Kindle Killed the Bookstore?” I thought that might get the anticipation up, and fortunately there were no book store lovers with pitchforks lining up at the door. It could just have easily been “How Technology is Impacting how we Listen, Read and Watch” or “The Self-Publishing Revolution.”

I kicked off with a quick outline of what had been happening with electronic content (music, video, books) and then did a quick quiz by show of hands. This helped get the audience involved, but also gave me a quick temperature check of where people were at.

  • Who has ever bought a book on the personal recommendation of staff in a bookstore?
  • Who has read a book on a device?
  • Who has bought a book based on the “you might like” on amazon.com?
  • Who has read a self-published book?
  • Who has listened to an audio book?
  • Who listens to podcasts?
  • Who has always wanted to write a book?
  • Who actually has?

This is the powerpoint slide I used during the quiz, rather than have the questions on the screen

There were plenty of ereaders and potential writers in the room – a great sign.

I used my iPad to drive the powerpoint I used, so I switched out of that to the iPad kindle app, to show its capability – different modes, font sizes, the library.

Next I talked about how alternate forms of fiction were flourishing, starting with the serial/series model being used by Sean Platt and David Wright (“The Kings of Serial”). Again, I switched out of the powerpoint presentation to demonstrate The Silent History app, and then (to groans) an app that could read the story of The Three Little Pigs to a child.

With the scene set, I then talked about my own writing and self-publishing experience, illustrating points about writing and then formatting and publishing from my own experience. I have a fair bit of variety to draw on with a catalogue that includes a serial, a collaboratively written novel, some short stories, five books of cricket parody and a travel humour book.

There were plenty of questions, which we had to cut short at the end as time ran out.

Some top tips:

– Work out what is going to interest the audience. Talk a lot about that, and talk about yourself and your work through that lens.

– Plan for interactivity.

– Have some core content planned to go way less than the allotted time. There will be questions along the way and at the end, and this will result in valuable interaction.

– Be wary of using powerpoint. In a one hour talk about writing and words, the majority of my eight slides were backdrop pictures only.

– Have some books at hand, and also a card so people who are interested in your work can find you by phone, email and online.

Feedback was good – I’m probably game to do another one!

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