Tag Archive for public speaking

10 Public Speaking Tips from a TED talker

Bank's Giugale talks TED

World Bank Group’s Marcelo Giugale talks TED

When it was over, the staff wanted to celebrate. Marcelo Giugale, however, wanted to debrief. After all, it isn’t every day that someone from the World Bank Group gives a TED talk.

On the other hand, Giugale, senior director of the WBG Global Practice on Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management, always likes to debrief.

It’s hard to calculate the time and effort that went into Giugale’s 10-and-a-half minute: “Putting a Face on Poverty.” Do you count the time he wrote and rewrote his remarks, sometimes agonizing over single words? Was “stupid” too much? Would “salivating” be misinterpreted?

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Today’s Authors and the Dazzle Factor

The “Writer’s Row” banner hanging from the rafters of the Javits Convention Center is misleading, for no writing gets done here.Row

Rather, this is where unknown authors at BookExpo America, the largest book industry show in North America, plant themselves (for a hefty fee) in hopes of attracting the attention of agents, publishers and readers.

The problem is that most writers prefer the laptop to the lectern, and, it seems, would just as soon pass on making the transition from creative writing to creative marketing. The New York Times asked insiders James Parker and Anna Holmes to weigh in, and both agreed authors in the digital age must get on board.

Says Parker, “Authors have to promote their books, and they have to be flashy about it.” Holmes adds, “Writers are prone to take themselves very seriously, which is fine, except it also means they sometimes find the self-promotional aspects of their craft distasteful, if not downright excruciating.”

Too bad, right? Just as there’s discretionary income, there’s also discretionary leisure time. Few have much of either these days. Which is why if an author wants someone to spend days or possibly weeks reading his book, he should be willing to meet face to face, explain the plot in 90 seconds or less, and do it with as much passion the 50th time as the first.

I suspect the reason authors don’t always like speaking in public has more to do with stage fright than anything else. As an author who also teaches presentation skills professionally, I know that anyone can move the bar with practice and constructive feedback. Practice what?

– A tight pitch that addresses every reader’s most important question: Why should I care enough to read your book?

– The answers to obvious questions, like, Where did the story come from? Who’s your favorite character? What’s your writing process?

– And of course some may need to practice appearing comfortable. Natural hand gestures, smiling and good eye contact will all make an author appear more confident, and thus keep an audience engaged.

I’m betting most who are gifted enough to write a novel are also capable of improving their public speaking skills, and possibly coming to enjoy recasting their 400 pages into the digestible bites that will persuade people to read all those words.

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A Super (Bowl) Lesson in Personal Branding

NFL pro provides branding lesson

NFL pro provides branding lesson

Author, chef, athlete, dry cleaner – it doesn’t matter. Whatever you do, it’s smart to remember you’re always working on your personal brand. And that smart phones turn average people into “citizen journalists” who can tweet or even post videos if you do something well – or outrageous – in public. Follow this link for a potent lesson in personal branding from the NFL.

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8 Author Resolutions for 2014

Make this the year you nail it

Make this the year you nail it

Say goodbye to 2013 and get ready to reboot. Just one question: Will you be ready when new opportunities present themselves in 2014? Some suggested New Year’s Resolutions for my fellow writers:

1 – Update your website and social media properties. Maybe you’ve won an award or changed jobs. Maybe that idea you had for a Tumblr site didn’t work out and you haven’t updated it in months. Do some housecleaning. You can’t expect visitors to be engaged if you’re not even paying attention.

2 – Make your bio a story worth reading. The only people who want to read resumes are prospective employers. Readers like stories. You’ve got one, plus the ability to tell it in an imaginative way. Creativity shouldn’t end when you finish writing your novel.

3 – Commit to more personal appearances. Efficient as social media is, a handshake trumps a cyber-shake. Get out there and meet real readers. Look them in the eye. Tell them face-to-face why you’re so passionate. That doesn’t mean neglect your social media arsenal; it means find a balance between being social online and being social in person.

4 – Become a more engaging speaker. If you write like Steinbeck and speak like an insurance salesman, there’s work to do. Three quick tips: First, practice aloud, preferably in front of real people, or at least a mirror. Second, understand your crowd before you walk on stage. (What do they care about? How much do they know about your subject?) Third, anticipate likely questions, practice your answers, and try to weave in some relatable stories.

5 – Improve your pitch. No one has much time, what with the demands of the job, the house, the kids and the car. If someone gives you five minutes to explain your story, make sure to nail it. And (I can’t say this enough) be enthusiastic every time you make your pitch. Excitement is contagious. If you don’t have any, you can’t infect anyone else.

6 – Distance yourself from the reviews. Some, hopefully most, will be great, but some will be lousy. Live with it. There’s no way to please everyone, and remember you never wanted that when you first started out. Otherwise you would have begun by conducting a focus group instead of a prologue. And for heaven’s sake, don’t get in an online argument with someone who pans your book.

7 – Keep writing (and reading). There’s no finish line for writers. When you finish a short story, a novel or any piece of writing, take a break, but after a time, begin something else. Sometimes the work is great; other times it’s slow and painful. The only constant is that to continue improving, you have to keep writing. And reading. Reading helps, especially when the stuff you read makes you think.

8 – Pay it forward. Wherever you are as a writer, there are plenty in front and plenty behind. Tip your hat to the ones ahead and help the ones behind whenever and however you can. It pays healthy dividends.

Good luck, all, and please share the resolutions you’ve made for 2014.

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5 Ways Authors Can Pump Up the Volume

Neighborhood "libraries:" another way to meet readers

Neighborhood “libraries:” another way to meet readers

The lure of social media is powerful, particularly for artists, authors and other creative types who’d rather produce than promote.

Technology has made it possible to talk, influence, monitor and interact without leaving the comfort (and security) of your cozy home office. How efficient.

Here’s what’s missing: eye contact, handshakes (including an occasional high five or fist bump), body language, plus the opportunity to explain your work face to face, with the genuine passion that forges bonds far stronger than those generated by a like on Facebook or a follow on Twitter.


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Marketing Thyself

Twitter doesn't let you touch a reader.

We can argue about whether writers choose their craft or if it chooses them. But there’s no debate about paying bills and buying groceries. It’s got to be done. When Twain said, “Write without pay until someone offers to pay,” he was probably already being paid plenty. If you’re going to make it as a writer, you need to be as creative with marketing as you are with words. This includes personal appearances and public speaking, neither of which aligns naturally with the sometimes pleasant, sometimes painful solitude and discipline required to weave words into stories.

Nervousness can spring from several sources. Your book is done. You’re proud but wonder who besides friends and family will come to your reading. Or, you get to the reading and there are 85 people waiting to hear you speak. You start and falter. You turn to a page and stare at words you wrote and rewrote and anguished over a dozen times, and they look absurd. Mae West’s famous line crowds into your skull. “I speak two languages: Body and English.” You suddenly speak none.

The first thing to remember is that anxiety rises from unfamiliar situations and new experiences. Of course you’re going to be nervous. Remember that you know your subject. In fact, you wrote the book.

Second, put together a catchy answer to the most important question you’ll be asked: What’s the book about? You shouldn’t need more than two sentences. While you’re at it, add two more quick points you want to make. Short of a sale, what do you want folks to remember about you and your story when they walk away? When you nail these items, put some time into rehearsal, preferably in front of a mirror. Be brutally honest. Maybe you need to sharpen your pitch some more, as in these examples:

Yawn: Bella is about the journey of a widow who loses her husband under mysterious circumstances in the midst of war in Afghanistan. The military tells her he died in battle, but an anonymous caller says he was accidentally killed by a fellow soldier. Bella enlists the help of a Washington journalist to find the truth. During the investigation, they learn far more than they expected.

Yay: Isabel Moss knew she could lose her husband when he went off to war. When the call came, she was almost ready. What stopped her cold was the second call…

Third, remember you’re a likeable character. If you’re not, don’t forget you’re a writer, so write yourself some good lines. Be enthusiastic and confident; smile and make eye contact; stay focused on your core messages, and, if the occasion arises, toss in a colorful metaphor. John Nance Garner was America’s 32nd vice president. He said once, “The vice-presidency isn’t worth a pitcher of warm spit.”

That’s worth a smile. Call it up as needed.