Friday, November 11, 2011

How to put on a great presentation!

If you are going to be giving a presentation, the biggest priority in your mind should be entertainment.

That’s not to negate the importance of information, or education, or any of the other goals that you may have assigned to your public appearance. But, trust me, the single distinguishing factor of any presentation is the entertainment value. Do you capture the attention of the audience, keep it through out, and leave them happy that they gave you the last 45 minutes of their life? If not, it won’t matter how pristine your content was, you have failed.

And, you want the entertainment to be intentional, not accidental. Yes, there is a sick pleasure to be found in watching someone crash and burn on the stage, like observing the sinking of the Titanic or the most painfully awkward moments on The Office. But moments like those will not help you sell your book. And, really, that’s what it’s all about, right?

So, how do you create the most entertaining presentation possible, while still staying true to yourself and your goals as a writer?

Here’s my way:

1.       Grab the audience from the start. Maybe you open with a joke. (Of course, telling jokes can be one of the most terrifying activities in public speaking) Maybe you give them a video. How about a quote, or a riveting fact. You say you wrote a paranormal Romeo and Juliet parody, starring Zombies from the Appalachians and from New Orleans? And the reason you picked those two locations was because of the voodoo tradition from New Orleans, mixed with the Rip Van Winkle folklore of Appalachia? How about opening like this: “Rip Van Winkle was a zombie. You all knew that, right? He was a brain eating, flesh skewering, never showering zombie. What, you don’t think that’s true? Prove it.”
2.       Escalate your momentum. Now you give them the story. Not the story of your book, but the story of you writing the darn thing. Of course, this isn’t the flowery story you’ve shared with your friends and family, the one where you were so frustrated you wanted to quit and take up professional crocheting. Save that for your blog. Instead, give your audience the truncated, Reader’s Digest version. Take out all the boring parts. Make it easy to follow. Let the audience feel like anyone could do what you did, but there’s no way anyone could do it the way you did it.
3.       Slap them with substance. You know all that crap about theme and archetypes you tried to keep from being too obvious in your book. Now’s the time to make it obvious. And, even more importantly, it’s time to make them relevant. So, your Zombie romance dealt with cultural differences, grief, and vegetarianism? Give it to your audience, with details of why those issues are important to them. But, remember, it’s a sin to be boring. So, give them stories relating to the theme. Real life stories, and then weave in the story of your book.
4.       Leave them wanting more. One of my favorite movies is That Thing You Do. In that movie, there’s a band that is on tour, and their manager tells them to bow, smile, and leave the stage as soon as the song is over. That’s what you need to do, too. Don’t give them everything you’ve got, give them enough so they want more from you. If you want to have a question and answer time, that’s awesome. But, limit it. Let everyone know that you’ll be happy to answer one question per person at the signing line afterwards.  And if there aren’t any questions? Leave them with one final story, the kicker, that piece that will have them salivating to talk to you. It can be funny, sad, or exciting. Whatever you do, leave them asking for more.

I hope that you all have a wonderful career of public speaking in front of you, especially if you are a children’s and young adult writer and you are hoping to make school appearances.

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