Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quick Tips for Beginning Speakers

Almost every author eventually tries their hand at public speaking. If you’re just getting started, here's a few recommendations to make your road a little smoother.

1. Start small

Do not try to speak in front of large audiences until you’ve had some experience. Otherwise, you could short-circuit your growth and hinder your chances for referrals. Test your comfort level by speaking locally as much as possible. As your confidence grows, extend your reach into neighboring cities or states. Building a national platform usually takes two to five years. So, set realistic expectations for yourself.

Start off speaking for free until you’ve proven your value and expertise. Raise your fees as your value grows. When leaders are convinced that you can create positive results, your fees are usually less of a concern. However, expect some fee resistance at least 20% of the time. If leaders rarely complain about your fees, then you’re not charging enough.

2. Pick up other speaker’s “crumbs”

As intermediate and advanced speakers get busy, sometimes they can’t take all of the event requests they receive. So, try to build a close relationship with one or two speakers just above your level. Don’t pursue them solely to get bookings. Seek to learn as much as you can from them. Watch what works and learn from their mistakes.

Tell these speakers that you’re available to cover for them or take events they don’t want. Offer to return the favor by assisting their organization or helping promote their book. For instance, you could help run their resource table, handle some their office work, write an article for their newsletter, or baby-sit their kids while they’re out speaking. Position yourself as a partner, and you might create an extra source of new bookings.

3. Create “piggyback” events

If you’re new to speaking and enjoy traveling, you can boost your experience by adding-on events to your current bookings. For example, imagine you’ll be speaking in Atlanta, Georgia six months from now. Spend a day researching and calling other organizations that could also use your value during your visit.

Contact the leader and say, “I’m already booked to speak in your area on this date. Would you have an opportunity for me to address your group, too?” Sometimes, your current booking can provide enough credibility for the secondary leader to book you on short notice. However, don’t accept a piggyback event that could cannibalize attendance at your primary event. That would be unprofessional. And, don’t discount your speaking fees for add-on events. Instead, offer to split the travel expenses with the original organization and make everybody happy.

Every author has to start speaking somewhere. Most famous authors had to pay their dues for a little while. Yet, speaking is one of the best ways to sell more books. So, keep this tactic a central part of your book marketing plan.

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