My first book was published last year and since receiving The Call, I’ve gone on to sell four more stories to my publisher. I’m planning to attend the National conference in Atlanta this year and have started net-working with various writing groups and RWA Chapters. Several requests have come in, asking me to give talks or workshops on specific topics in the writing field. Unfortunately, public speaking makes me very apprehensive and I also have no idea how to plan for workshops. However, I’ve decided to take the plunge – after all, I’ve got to start sometime. But before I dive head long into the madness, I wondered if you could dispense some advice on possible things to consider when planning a workshop / public speaking? What can I expect as a speaker and what are some things I should be careful to avoid?
Apprehensive in Aiken, TX
First of all, congratulations on your sales!
After publishing, many writers find they are invited to speak and present workshops at a variety of events. Speaking can be fun, and it can also be a great way to connect with other writers. Of course, having fun in front of an audience requires getting rid of your jitters. And for most people, getting rid of the jitters means solid preparation so that they’re confident while they’re speaking in public.
Up front, when deciding on a speech or workshop, I think it’s important to choose a topic that interests and excites you. When you project energy and enthusiasm, which you normally do on a subject you enjoy, the audience is more likely to engage in the talk.
I’ve done a number of workshops over the years. I usually choose craft topics because, in my opinion, craft is the foundation of a successful writing career. You can have the most brilliant story ideas in the world, but if you don’t understand the craft of bringing them to life on the page, you’ll probably never sell.
I have friends who prefer to talk about the challenges of the writing life. And I have other friends who like to talk about the business end of writing–contracts, marketing, publicity, etc.
Once you’ve chosen a topic, I think it’s important to make your subject matter as interesting and as organized as possible. I like to use overhead slides. They help keep me organized as I speak, and give the audience a frame of reference throughout the presentation. I also think it’s a good idea to balance theory with real life examples. And, unless you’re giving a straight speech, it’s a good idea to make the talk interactive.
If you have some willing volunteers, friends or family, you might test out the presentation on them. There’s nothing like a live run-through to work out the little glitches. It’s also a good idea to start with smaller regional events where your audience might be smaller and less intimidating. But above all, you should have fun with speaking. Given your success so far, it’s obvious that you love the craft of writing, and that love will shine through when you talk to others.
Again, congratulations on your success and all the best in the future!