If you recall, I had the privilege of kicking off February here at Across the Board with a post about how authors can integrate a few presentation tips into their writing process. As promised, I’m back with the second installment to give you some presentation tips for those moments when you actually have to talk about your writing.
To be successful in any industry you have to have a solid network. Establishing a relationship with your readers and other industry professionals is the most effective way to build that network.
And building a network requires communication.
Today I’m going to point out some of the most common mistakes in presentations, and why you also want to avoid these in conversations about your writing.
The need for preparation is obvious for some events, such as book signings, and I’m not going to discuss those here.
What I want to focus on is that chance encounter with a potential business partner or a reader. You should always know exactly what you would say in any given situation. In many corners of the business world this is known as an elevator speech. The idea is that if you are stuck in an elevator with the CEO of your company, what would you say to form a lasting impression?
You should have elevator speeches for your bio and for your writing. You might even have a couple different elevator speeches for each, depending on who you are talking too. Here is an elevator speech for my first book, Kingston’s Project:
- Kingston’s Project is a poignant look at how one woman overcomes grief after a significant loss in her life and the relationships she builds along the way.
I mention the primary theme for the novel while (hopefully) giving just enough detail to make the person want to ask more questions. You will want to practice your elevator speech to the point that you can deliver it with ease and confidence.
Poor First Impression
It’s important to give a good first impression because that sets the tone for the conversation. Let’s say an author is doing a reading at a book signing and she cracks a joke as an ice-breaker, but it turned out to be offensive to some. Right away the author made some people uncomfortable. The result is that they may feel they wouldn’t like anything she wrote.
In addition to how you act, first impressions are affected by how you look. Think about what you wear and what it says about you and how it makes you feel. I personally dress as business casual to all book events. That’s what makes me feel most confident, and I know I perform at my best when I feel confident.
At book signings, you also need to think about the kind of first impression your table/display creates. If you don’t know, you can always take a picture and post to your social media sites and ask people to tell you want they think of your display—too busy, too bland, disorganized, awesome...
I wish I didn’t have to point this one out, but I’ve seen this happen. When I participate in a book fair, I always make it a point to go around and talk to the other authors. There are always a few who just don’t seem excited to be there. I’m sorry, even if only one person attends the event you need to show passion for what you do. If you don’t have enthusiasm for your work, why would anyone else want to read it?
Lack of Engagement
Always remember—a conversation is not defined as only one person talking. It’s an exchange of words between people. Get the other person talking. Ask questions. “Do you like to read?” or “What types of books do you typically like to read?” are two simple questions that can easily open the door to communication. Building a solid network requires making a connection with others, and you can’t do that if you do all the talking. Also, pay attention to the other person’s body language. If a person is backing away or showing other signs of not wanting to engage, don’t push it. And don’t jump out in front of them as they walk past you or your table!
Spend some time thinking about what you can use as handouts for your various events. It might be a bookmark with the name of your novel, pen with your name on it, or a printout of a writing sample. The type of event will determine what’s appropriate.
I personally keep two forms of ‘handouts’ with me at all times. The first are business cards that contain my email address and phone number. The second are what I call book cards (see images below).They are the size of a standard business card, but instead of personal information they have my book cover on the front and my social media information on the back.
I can’t tell you how many times someone told me the name of a book or author that I’d forgotten by the time I got home. Professional looking handouts can significantly increase the chances of someone taking action later, either by reaching out to you for future opportunities or by buying your novel.
I could make this list a lot longer, but these are the core mistakes I’ve seen other authors make. I’ve even made a few of them myself! Take the time to plan ahead and practice, practice, practice!