by Carol Hamilton
Sell more books by developing a speaking platform. Do you shudder at the thought of presenting anything before an audience? To make yourself more comfortable, choose a topic you are passionate about and know well. Talk about the writing life, a life-changing experience, or choose a theme or topic from your book.
To create a presentation, your material should be your own stories. If you incorporate someone else’s ideas, do so sparingly and be sure to quote them. Get permission from the original source, if possible.
If you have heard a joke or illustration told by another, chances are people in your audience have heard it as well. It won’t be fresh for them. Better to use your own stories.
Below is a tongue-in-cheek tale I wrote to give you a word picture to help you avoid some mistakes speakers make.
A mediocre speaker strolled along the beach at sunrise. What proof do I have of her incompetence? She repeated a joke and laughed about how she “borrowed” it from a colleague, without obtaining permission.
She talked constantly. “How shall I place this pirated prose into my already over-packed program?” She clutched her hands. “What clever alliteration! I can’t wait to say that into a microphone so the ‘P’s’ will pop.”
She stopped. Along the shore stranded sea creatures reflected the sunrise.
She rushed to them. “How lovely. Look at those blues, pinks, and even purple.”
She raised her hands. “Oh, joy! After all those years of sharing the starfish story with my audiences I finally get the chance to make a difference to at least one.”
She bent. Her face hovered over me. Her hands wiggled beneath me and lifted me out of the sand. She chose me.
I did what I was created to do – I zapped a sharp sting on her arm.
“Ouch. Why did you do that?”
It was a rhetorical question. She didn’t expect me to answer, but I said, “Lady, I’ve floated beside enough cruise ships to learn:
1. If you had joined National Speakers Association, you would know the endless retelling of the starfish story has become a speaking industry joke.
2. If you had joined Toastmasters they would have taught you to build a speech from your own stories.
3. If you had researched you would know starfish typically have five arms. I have tentacles. I’m not a starfish, I’m a Portuguese man-of-war.”
She hurled me far into the ocean.
“Amazing,” I said as I plopped into the sea, “it did make a difference, to this one.”
The starfish story is adapted from an essay, The Star Thrower, published in The Unexpected Universe in 1969 written by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977).
Don’t let my sarcasm intimidate you. Many people have been retelling the starfish story since Mr. Eiseley published it. People enjoy hearing the speakers. The audience doesn’t throw rotten tomatoes. Even if you make mistakes you will still be sharing a message you are passionate about and people will benefit from it. Strive to be a better speaker as you do to be a better writer. Learn ways to improve, but don’t feel you have to be perfect.
As a Christian writer you have God’s truth undergirding your message. You are a creative writer. People grow by reading what you write. How many more can be touched if you go into the world and speak what God has given you to share? May God encourage, guide, and strengthen you as you share His message.
Carol Hamilton teaches professional speaking for writers. She’ll be presenting two sessions at the ACFW Pennsylvania Keystone Christian Fiction Writers Conference November 5, 2016.
For the third year she’ll teach writers to be better speakers through a continuing morning workshop at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference.
Excellent advice! And I love the starfish story.
Thank you, Patricia! It is a great story.
Thank you for the encouragement to go into the world and speak what God has given us to share. Wonderful message!