One of the best-paid gigs out there is being a public speaker.
If you're a writer, this is great news. Supplementing writing income with speaking gigs isn't unheard of: in fact, writers can turn their finances around by publishing a book or two and using it as the basis for speaking engagements.
In this article, we'll discuss tips on selecting lucrative non-fiction book topics, training yourself in public speaking, securing speaking engagements, and best practice in presentations.
1. Selecting lucrative non-fiction book topics
First and foremost, be honest about your passions, interests, and skills. There must be one or two subjects that you can write and elaborate into books as a subject matter expert.
If you've been writing professionally as a freelancer on multiple subjects and industries, consider selecting topics that you're most familiar with. They should be the ones that feel like second nature, meaning you can explain the ins and outs in detailed without having to pause and locate references.
Once you've found your subjects, skim through lists of best-selling books. Start with the Amazon and New York Times lists to see the existing published books available in the market.
However, choose topics that aren't directly competing with the top ten books. Instead, take note of topic trends and aim to publish new titles that complement them.
2. Training in public speaking
Many writers are introverts. Us introverts feel more energized alone, which is why we choose to be writers in the first place. We also perform best alone, which oftentimes makes public speaking a huge undertaking to master.
The good news is, you can test the water and get trained. My recommendation is to join your local chapter of (Toastmasters International)[https://www.toastmasters.org/], where you can learn public speaking in a safe environment without judgement and bullying. In fact, fellow members actually help you to focus and provide constructive criticism.
3. Securing speaking engagements directly
Start your public speaking career by getting interviewed on top podcasts on your specialist topic. There are also podcasts about books and authors, so you might want to look into them as well. It helps build your audience as well as giving you speaking experience.
Be helpful in giving out valuable information to podcasts and regional radio or TV stations. You can then attach recorded interviews in introductory emails to impress hiring managers.
Consider joining gig directories as a talent providing public speaking services. Gig Salad and Thumbtack are good resources to start with.
4. Securing speaking engagements through speakers' bureaus
Whenever you're ready, you can start contacting speakers' bureaus. If the covered issues resonate with many people, your speaking fee can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
However, it takes time to command high fees, so be patient. Consider accepting speaking opportunities in your community, which might not pay that much, just to get the word out.
Here are several options to get you started:
- All American Speakers
- Christian Speakers Services
- The Harry Walker Agency
- International Association of Speakers Bureaus
- National Speakers Bureau
5. Presentation best practice
Once you've secured your gig, here's how to make your presentation a success.
Have a good night's sleep the night before, dress comfortably, and nourish yourself well. You must feel good about being yourself on stage so that you can perform well. And a full (but not too full) stomach is key for focus. Remember to have a bottle of water ready next to you, so you won't get dehydrated.
Consider wearing layers of clothing so you can take off that jacket if it's too warm. For women, wear medium-heel or flat shoes, so you can stand comfortably without worrying about new blisters forming due to high heels.
Understand your audience and align the angle
Understand your audience so that you can identify the most appropriate angle. Align your content with the audience's needs. What do they do? Where do they live? How old are they? Why are they attending your presentation? How much did they pay to attend?
For instance, if your book is about time management and you're speaking in front of college students, make the topic relevant to them. Use examples and anecdotes that they can relate to, such as how to manage your study time before that big exam.
This requires tailored preparation beforehand, despite your complete understanding of the topic. You'll need information on the details of the audience, their pain points or problems, and what they expect to learn from your presentation.
You can mention your credentials as a book author at the beginning of the presentation, but never sound like you're there just to sell the book. Whenever you're quoting, do so like you were citing someone else's publication. Staying objective will make you more respectable.
Build excitement through your narrative
As a speaker, it's your job to keep the audience engaged and feel excited. Understanding how a presentation should be narrated will greatly help.
Nancy Duarte, the author of Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences, presented an enlightening TED Talk on how to do this. She outlines how structuring your presentation in the way that Steve Jobs did in his "I have a dream" iPhone launch speech will draw more attention and create more excitement.
You're a star on the stage, but only if you look like it and make the audience feel good. Project positivity by engaging audience with relevant anecdotes, examples, stories, and positive body language.
Keep friendly eye contact with the audience and smile from time to time. If it's a standing presentation and you can walk on the stage, own it and walk slowly from one side to the other. In short, you should look and feel like a friendly human being, not a robot or a statue.
Stand straight, never slouch. Your tone of voice should be friendly and warm. Use PG-rated vocabularies. Never use profanity. If the audience is technical, including professional jargon is acceptable. Otherwise, use straightforward language and common terminology.
Jokes are welcomed, but throw them in sparingly. Never joke about religion, race, political affiliation, sexual orientation, disability, or anything else that might offend groups of people. After all, you want to make a career out of public speaking, not offensive stand-up.
Question-and-answer (Q&A) sessions can make or break a presentation, because they can be hijacked to serve some unethical attendees' agenda. You'll need to control where the microphone is and to interrupt whenever the question asked isn't appropriate.
If necessary, you can start by providing some examples of questions that you're willing and not willing to answer. Limit the number of questions you'll take. Keep your tone friendly and offer individual follow-ups after the event if there's a question you can't answer.
Public speaking is an extension of your writing
Being a public speaker is more than about selling more books, it's about building your personal brand and commanding thousands of dollars per presentation. As your profile elevates, you can branch out selling more books or other products and services.
In 2019, Barack Obama was the highest-paid speaker in the world with a $600,000 fee per speech. While we might not receive such a high fee, every non-fiction author should keep this in mind: speaking about your book is a natural derivative of being a writer. After all, before we speak publicly, we must prepare the speech in writing. The only difference is that we must present it verbally and in person.
Being an author who speaks or a speaker who writes is merely an extension of being a wholesome individual. We spoke before we were even able to spell A-B-C. Writers simply need to train and be creative in managing our skills and energy, so we can project a positive image as public speakers.