Hi. Winnie Griggs here again with the next installment on my posts about speaking engagements. So far we've covered why you might want to book speaking engagements and dealing with those butterflies. Today we're going to focus on selecting a topic, in other words, what do you talk about.
For those just testing the waters of speaking engagements, I would suggest you take stock of your personal skills and interests, and choose something you feel comfortable discussing.
For instance, if you’re starting with non-writing groups, you might want to work up an informal talk, laced with personal anecdotes, on how and why you became a writer or what process you go through in writing a book from idea to submission.
If you’ve finished a book, whether sold or not, you’ve done something most people have never done, and most of these will be fascinated to hear all about it. And don’t forget, if you are already published, feel free to sprinkle in references to your own books as part of your talk.
Another point to consider - if the organization you wish to speak to is having a special event or focus, find a way to tie your topic into that.
If it’s writing groups you’re targeting, again play to your strengths. Do you have non-writing experience that would interest them?
- Are you a bookkeeper - you might want to pitch something on taxes and the writer
- Are you a psychologist - how about something on getting inside the head of our alpha hero or serial-killer villain
- Are you in the military, or the spouse or child of someone who is - then you can provide some unique insights into that world for a writer
- Are you in the medical profession - how about something on the inner workings of a hospital
You get the idea. Everyone has something to offer along those lines.
But perhaps you’d rather focus on craft offerings. As a writer yourself, you know what sort of things interest other authors. There are three approaches you can take to brainstorming possible topics.
The first is to take stock of your strengths and experience as a writer.
- Have you sold articles or freelance work?
- Have you developed effective research and interview skills?
- Are your books fast-paced page turners?
- Did you have an ah-ha moment as you were wiring your latest work, one that led to strengthening some aspect of your writing?
Then analyze how you do what it is you do, including any missteps you made along the way, and share that knowledge with the rest of us in a workshop. But what if you have no idea what your personal strengths are as a writer? Then talk to one or more candid friends or critique partners who have read your writing and ask them to help you figure this out. Also, if you have contest feedback or reviews to draw from, look through them and see if there are any common themes about what they like in your work.
The second method, and this is one I personally use a lot, is to take the opposite approach. Here you actually take stock of your weaknesses and/or areas you want to learn more about. This allows you to kill two birds with one stone. You’ll dig deeper than you might have otherwise to focus on that aspect of craft, so that both you and your audience will come out ahead. And you’ll also be able to discuss with your audience all your struggles to nail down this particular skill.
The third method is simply to find out if there is a particular topic your target group wants to hear about and then develop a talk around it.
Just remember, your topic should be something that is of interest to both you and your audience. If you have no interest in the topic, or you feel it’s not something you’re ready to tackle at this point in your career, then your lack of interest or confidence will come through in your delivery and you will be doing both your audience and yourself a disservice.