One of the best ways to build your authority as an author is to become a speaker. Nonfiction authors including subject matter experts, consultants and memoir writers often marry book sales and speaking events to strengthen their influence. Fiction authors, too, rely on bookstore appearances and speaking at literary festivals and events to build and connect with their audiences.
Maybe you became a writer to help strengthen your speaker clout. Or, maybe you never even considered that becoming a speaker could be part of your author journey. Either way, consider the following steps to build influence through speaking.
- Identify your strengths. Not everyone is a natural when it comes to public speaking. That’s why we work with authors to identify their top influencer traits first. Maybe you’re better as a panel speaker as opposed to a keynote speaker, or maybe you’re great with podcasts but speaking in front of a live audience terrifies you. While getting comfortable as a speaker takes time and practice, don’t force it. There are ways to find speaking opportunities that fit your specific strengths.
- Find a speakers agent. A speakers agent is similar to a literary agent, only they focus on–you guessed it–securing speaking opportunities. Working with a professional in this capacity is important because these agents know what opportunities exist, who to contact, and how to get the gig (on the terms you want). Now, we’ll be the first to admit that a great speakers agent is hard to find. In fact, many will only work with authors who already have a successful speaking track record. So when you come across one with the right relationships and know-how, don’t let them go.
- Book early. Often, the more significant the conference or speaking engagement, the earlier you need to pitch your topic. Long-running major events like SXSW and the Texas Women’s Conference take speaker submissions 8-9 months in advance. Other trade conferences and organizations will gladly rebook successful speakers so, as you complete a successful appearance at an annual or regularly occurring event, don’t wait to follow up. Talk to the event planner immediately about a repeat performance.
- Iron out the logistics. “Who’s got the books?” We’ve heard far too many speakers utter that question in a panic. Don’t assume the event planner you’re working with will take care of everything for you. Iron out details like who will be providing your books, how they’ll be sold or distributed, whether there will be a book signing, even down to who will have the Sharpies. Do the same for the technology you’ll need for your presentation. Leave logistics to chance and you’ll risk leaving an unprofessional impression for both the attendees and event planners.
- Capture the audience’s info. Your purpose in speaking is to gain followers, so be sure to have a system in place to stay connected to your audience long after the event. Incentives are a great way to do this. You can send a powerpoint or summary of notes or freebie to participants with incentives to sign up for a newsletter or to follow you on social media, for instance. Or you could offer a giveaway of your product or service as a free product sample (FPS) in exchange for adding them to your email list.
- Be social. Ignore social media leading up to and during the event at your own peril. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter are all valuable tools to help get the word out about your speaking event. Ask the event planner what social media they’ll be using to promote you and be sure to monitor those channels early and often. Retweet and share promotions and respond to chatter and questions about your session. During and immediately after the event, be sure to monitor and respond to feedback and questions on platforms like Twitter.
- Go live online. Also in the social realm, consider a Facebook or Instagram Live video for the Q&A portion or some other section of the event. Doing so will broaden your audience and give you a lasting video recording to promote. If live video isn’t allowed, find out how you might be able to record a portion of the event. If you’re unsure how a recording might help you build your influence, think about TED Talks. Authors like Susan Cain and Brene Brown both broke through on YouTube with more than 8 million viewers each of their recorded TED Talks (Cain’s on the power of introverts and Brown’s on the power of vulnerability).
There’s no more direct way to get your book into the hands of your audience than through speaking engagements. It’s an important step in the process that takes you from author to influencer. Learn more about what we call The Road to Influence–and how speaking fits.