Why Public Speaking Is So Important for Authors

Public speaking? The very words scare most people. But if you are an author—or want to become one—you need to get serious about your speaking. It can directly impact your success as a writer.

A Speaker in Front of an Audience - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/vm, Image #2558258

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/vm

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Here’s why:

  1. Public speaking is a way to discover what resonates with your audience.
  2. Public speaking is a way to build your personal brand.
  3. Public speaking is a way to prove to your prospective publisher that you have a platform.
  4. Public speaking is a way to promote your books.
  5. Public speaking is another way to monetize your content.

But where do you start?

About a year-and-a-half ago, I attended the Professional Communicators Summit in Nashville, Tennessee. The conference is designed to assist leaders in either starting a professional public speaking career or taking it to the next level. The next conference will also be held in Nashville on October 18-20, 2010.

As someone who does a fair amount of public speaking myself, I was confident I could benefit personally from the Summit. However, I also thought I could use this information with many of the authors I publish as the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was right on both counts.

The conference is sponsored by Ken Davis. In case you are not familiar with Ken, he is a very popular public speaker and comedian. He has had a significant, wide-reaching career. He is also a student of speaking and, especially, the business of speaking. He has distilled everything he has learned in 30-plus years of professional speaking and used it to take hundreds of other speakers to the next level.

While you can find programs to help you become a better public speaker, this is the only one I know of that will help you build a speaking career. Over the course of three days, you will learn four keys to finding success as a speaker:

  1. Discover your assets. In this session, you will take inventory of your talents and gifts. You will review your own content and platform. I promise, you will discover that you have much more to work with than you may think.
  2. Design your products. Your “products” are a direct result of packaging and selling your assets. You will explore the four different kinds of products:
    • Presentations (or speeches) that you deliver at someone else’s event
    • Workshops or conferences that you host yourself
    • Resources that capture or expand upon your live presentation (e.g. books, DVDs, CDs, etc.)
    • Services that extend your live presentation (e.g., consulting, coaching, counseling, etc.)
  3. Promote your products. You will learn exactly what meeting planners are looking for and how to think about your products from their point-of-view. You will also understand how to develop effective promotional materials and learn the pluses and minuses of speakers bureaus and booking agents.
  4. Determine your value. You will discover why you should charge for your services and how much you should charge. You will learn about a concept called “high bar/low bar” that really takes the stress out of taking about money with potential clients.

Ken is not the only instructor at the event. I will be speaking on the topic of “Platform: What It Is, Why You Need It, and How to Build It.” My friends, Randy Elrod and Spence Smith will also be speaking.

If you have been thinking about “going pro” by either starting a public speaking career or taking your existing career to the next level, this is the conference for you. Ken has also agreed to make a special offer to my readers. Register now and get a $100 discount. To take advantage of this offer, enter the word “HYATT” as the Promotion Code when you register.

Questions: Have you ever thought about a career as a professional speaker? If you are already speaking professionally, have you thought about taking it to the next level?
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  • http://www.allhandsondeckbook.com Joe Tye

    Several years ago I had lunch with the CEO of what was then the nation's largest producer of corporate training videos. He said, "Joe, if you really want to reach an audience, you have to have sex with them." I choked on my noodles and exclaimed, "All of them?!?!"

    He want on to say that if you don't create a Significant Emotional eXperience, you can't effectively reach people at an intellectual level. The only way you can do that is with stories. That's why, when I'm speaking, I illustrate every important point with a story.

    There are great stories everywhere: personal experience, books and movies, the world around you. TS Eliot said that good poets borrow and great poets steal. When it comes to finding stories, I do both and every speaker should.

    Joe Tye

    • http://www.womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com Women Living Well

      Lol! This is true but it made me laugh by the way your friend put it! I do think that if the audience is laughing or crying you know you touched them…I think you want to make them feel something.

      When I get comments on a blog post that my readers are crying…I know it touched my readers. When I get comments that they are laughing, I know that I am entertaining my readers. And when I get comments that say they are motivated to do what I am encouraging them to do – or that they followed through and did it – I know that I'm effectively communicating!

      I LOVE public speaking – but being a mom, wife, and homeschooler doesn't free me up to do it – hence the reason for the many youtubes I create on my blog!

      Thanks for the laugh Joe – I "felt" something!

      • http://www.marydemuth.com marydemuth

        When I speak I usually see audiences laugh and cry. When I report this back to my husband, he camps on the crying part and says, "Why in the world would you want to make someone cry?" He says this tongue in cheek, of course. Because I know that if I touch the emotions of my listeners, they'll remember my words.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        I heard this at a Toastmasters conference. Rule no. 1 of public Speaking: Tell a story, make a point.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That is so true. I find that stories are way more powerful than almost anything else we can use in speaking. Thanks—I think—for a handy way to remember that.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      That is a great way to burn the reminder into memory. While a bit over-the-top, it is definitely memorable.

    • http://twitter.com/marriagehelper Marriage Helper

      A little overboard with his description. Sounded like he was just trying to help you remember Significant Emotional eXperience.

      But things like laughter, sadness and suspense do help tremendously in being a speaker that people want to hear and not just a lecturer who makes them wish they’d stayed home.

      • colin

        hi there.
        dont try ,to fix,what cant be fixed.
        we are only bystanders,in this circumstance.
        BUT,human nature,makes,you want,to try.
        god bless you.
        I wish you well.


    • colin

      hi jo ,
      it sounds  like you had a bumm,deal.
      ITS not right,call in the fedderals,they,will sort this out.

  • http://www.gospelofkingdom.com Gregory Scott

    MIchael-Looks like a great conference. I don't know if the conference addresses the skill side of public speaking, but it has always struck me as curious that good writing skills do not necessarily translate into good public speaking skills. Have you ever blogged on that or have an opinion as to why that is? P.S. Don't know if the fourth key in your post should be "Determine your value" instead of "our." Thanks for all the great advice on your blog.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Ken does another seminar that focuses exclusively on the content. It is called “The Dynamic Communicators Workshop.” It is excellent as well.

      Thanks also for catching that typo. I have fixed it.

  • http://www.sowingseedsministries.com James Castellano

    I have often thought about public speaking as a career. Would be hard work, but fun and rewarding.
    An associate of mine and I are putting together a goal setting program to present to young athletes in the Lehigh Valley. This may be the start of a new career.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      Let me know if you're ever looking for servant leadership material for those young athletes. I grew up in the area (Emmaus HS) and have a passion for what you are doing. Still have family there as well. Good luck with this!

      • http://www.validleadership.com James Castellano

        We are Emmaus residents as well. Thanks for the offer, I'll let you know if we need them, email is james@seedmin.com

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Michael, sounds like a great conference. I've been part of Toastmasters International for over ten years. If your readers want to learn to speak in public, hone their skills, and have a place to practice, Toastmasters is the place to do it. With over 12,500 clubs all over the world, there is probably one close by.
    While Toastmasters is a great place to learn the mechanics of speaking, a conference like the one you are talking about is a great place to learn about the business side of speaking. One of the most difficult things a speaker faces is going from free to fee… to actually get someone to pay them to speak. This is where published authors have an edge. They already have an audience, they just need to develop products and the speaking skills to promote them.
    Personally, this is a conference that I should attend. It's just logistically tough for me to get away that time of year. Do you know if this will be offered at a different time/location in the future?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I honestly don’t know. You might try contacting them directly from the Web site.

      Thanks for the recommendation of Toastmasters. I have heard nothing but great things about this organization.

  • http://www.marydemuth.com marydemuth

    When I first started writing for publication, I asked my writing mentor what she thought the best way to sell books was. "Hands down, speaking," she said.

    After 9 books and lots of speaking under my belt, I agree. There's no substitute for readers seeing your face, hearing your voice, and then knowing your heart. I know I'm more apt to buy a book from someone I've heard than not. (Testimony: I heard Marcus Buckingham speak for the first time a few weeks ago at Women of Faith, then I bought his latest book.)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think that is so true. That’s why we love Women of Faith so much (it’s part of Thomas Nelson). The exposure to speakers creates an emotional bond that translates into sales.

  • http://www.jcwert.com JasonWert

    It's funny that you post this on your site the day after I posted on my blog about me feeling like God's calling me to be a professional speaker. I have the CD series Ken put out with one of his workshops and the information on it is outstanding…I can't imagine how great it would be to go to the professional communicator's summit. Unfortunately, that's not in the financial cards this year (unless God moves) so this gives me a good goal to work for in 2011.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      Thanks for answering my question – I can not make it either, this year, but hoped to get some portion of the material another way. You may want to link to any of Ken's other products you'd recommend here for other readers. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.imperfectpeople.net Bryan Bulmer

    Ken does a Dynamic Communicators Workshop that is great as well, I attend in the Spring of 2009. It might be away to get your foot in the door of speaking.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I linked to it above.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/flirtingwithfaith joanpball

    Wondering if you have any thoughts on speaking as a calling rather than a career? While I know it can be both (and that is fantastic for some folks) I also think there are many churches/organizations/small businesses that would love to "hire" a speaker but cannot afford the freight. Those are the people/organizations with whom I love to connect.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think if you are called to it and can afford to do it for free, more power to you.

  • http://www.MyGemOfWisdom.com Angela Breidenbach

    I'm already speaking and writing. My dream and purpose in life. I'm ready to take it to the next level. I'm working on adding this to my schedule, but if it doesn't fit this year then I will buy the teaching system from it until I can attend next time. One step at a time gets me where I want to go :-)

  • http://www.keithferrin.com Keith Ferrin

    I was at the Professional Communicators' Summit with Michael a year and a half ago. As someone who has made a living as a public speaker the last 14 years, I couldn't agree more about the quality and value of this conference! And as one of the coaches (and a former student) of the Dynamic Communicator's Workshop – which Michael metioned in reply to a previous comment – I can't say enough about Ken's talent, impact, and integrity as a communicator and a presenter.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for the that testimony, Keith. I can’t wait until this years event.

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

    Thanks for this. This is an uncomfortable topic for me, so I appreciate your just coming right out and saying it.

  • http://www.abasketcase.com/ Allison Beckett

    As a teacher, I try to use humor with my students. I find that it helps lower the affective filters. When I have public speaking engagements, I also try to use humor. It just helps everyone relax!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Humor is a fantastic tool.

  • Versandra Kennebrew

    Great article! Public speaking has allowed me to travel the country inspiring, empowering and encouraging people in transition. Without this opportunity, my book sales would be minimal at best.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I hink other authors could offer similar stories. Excellent. Thank you.

    • colin

      hi there.
      public speaking,can,get you into ,trouble,providing you have ,basic knowledge.
      YOU can aire your views.
      BUT at what cost?
      free speach,is not free.
      honesty,has always been,the best policy.
      unfortunately,the powers that be,do not aggree.
      look forward to comment.

  • Charlene

    Thank you for these tips.

  • http://www.jennyrain.com JennyRain

    I've had several folks encourage me to get into this world and thought about it for awhile. I have almost two decades of corporate training experience – which I loved, and have spoken at some conferences…

    My biggest question is this… I am a writer who speaks, not a speaker who writes… my passion is the writing piece. Though I love to "train" (because it engages the audience, there is interactivity, etc – so its more fun)… I struggle with straight "speaking" including stage fright (despite my years of experience)… Would love to hear your thoughts on how you have transcended some of these battles in your own life, or have seen other speakers successfully move past them. Thanks – great blog Michael!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is a great idea for a blog post. I will definitely consider it.

  • http://lovedoesntletgo.blogspot.com Israel Sanchez

    Thanks for this very informative entry. The days of the reclusive author sitting in his tower are over. Unless, of course you are Stephen King and his tower may not be a metaphor.

  • http://lauradroege.wordpress.com lauradroege

    Okay, I understand why being a public speaker helps build a platform, which in turn helps sell books. But what about if you're an absolutely horrible speaker? I'm extremely shy, and even talking in my church small group can make me tongue-tied, mispronounce words, and sound idiotic. It was the same way when I volunteer taught ESL (to a handful of students) for several years. So it's not an issue that's going to go away; even if I got better, I would be mediocre at best.

    I connect with people much better one-on-one or through writing. That's my strength, and it makes more sense to continue to develop my writing craft and develop my relationships with my target audience through the medium of writing (whether that's personal communication with someone through email, Facebook, etc., or more general communication through articles, etc.)

    Yet when I visit author's websites, I see that they all seem to be speakers. It almost seems like a prerequisite for publishing a book. So is there hope for all of us socially awkward and shy people to ever be published? Would you encourage someone in my position to force myself to work on public speaking?

  • http://www.publishedauthors.net/robsargeant Rob Sargeant

    The first book I wrote was for children aged 4-12. It was such a joy to read in front of kids in a Sunday School setting. I was amazed at how well the younger ones could follow along. They really are geniuses.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    I think I may purchase Ken's DVD set and give it a look. Might be a useful tool to share with some of the authors / speakers I work with. We can all benefit from opportunities to learn and grow, regardless of how new or experienced we are. :) I thinking of doing a blog soon about how speakers can attract more business.

  • http://www.mattedmundson.com Matt Edmundson

    Hi Mike, do you think they CD set is worth getting? I can't go to the conference, but wondered if it would be worth getting the CDs by way of introduction to what they are doing? Wondered if you'd listened to them?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Honestly, I haven’t listened to them. You might see if they have a money-back guarantee. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/RyanCritchett @RyanCritchett

    This is a great post. I'm in the process of taking what I've learned and applied, and delivering it to the world on a massive scale! Thanks for sharing

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  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    I remember you mentioning this in a previous – more recent post. But didn’t remember all the details about being able to form a speaking career from it. Seems like some really extensive training. Gotta give it some serious thought just from the training point of view.  Have they switched the format since this post.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, it is pretty much the same.

      • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

        Yeah. I figured since I asked you a question, I would go look it up. :)
        That’s what I found out too. It’s the same. 
        Sorry for the completely unnecessary question.
        But you know how it is before you start editing. 

  • Awhyummu

    Ijust give that comment for this research. becuase that is very important for the people in the world now a day. so if you wont to be postting it please you are give more than in the global society.

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