If you want to be seen as an expert on the topic of your book, you need to start thinking about how you will build your author platform with speaking engagements that help brand you even as you’re working out your ideas publicly and getting known.
Which came first, the speaking engagement or the book? Either, depending on what your expertise is. What are you an expert on, and how would you pitch yourself to someone who books speakers at a local public library, your community’s recreation department, a wellness center, a church, a school, a store, a YMCA or similar community center, or elsewhere? You might speak about how to effectively parent middle schoolers—maybe you are a therapist who specializes in treating kids of this age. You might speak about being a survivor of a particular type of trauma and what helped you to move past that experience. Begin to tell your story or give your presentation locally, and ask a good friend or two to attend and give you feedback. Criticism can be very tough when you’re starting out, so be sure to ask your friend to offer you three positive observations, even if it’s just comments like, “I liked the outfit you wore” or “Your PowerPoint presentation had some nice slides” or “You clearly are passionate about your topic.” Then ask for one piece of constructive criticism—and after that, be brave and ask for one more! Keep working at building your presentation skills and soliciting feedback. You can also ask your attendees to voluntarily fill out a form telling you what two things they found most enjoyable, valuable, or beneficial and one or two pieces of advice that might help you in the future. John Gray, author of the mega-bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, said that when he spoke about his topic (men and women’s different behaviors and perceptions within relationships), he paid attention to his audience members’ body language. If they leaned forward with interest, he knew that what he was saying was intriguing them and resonating for them. If they crossed their arms or sat back or frowned, something wasn’t working. All that valuable feedback helped him work out his ideas that ended up in his book.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone in your audience. What would make them take time out of their busy lives to see you speak—and what title for your speech would make them think, “Oh, I should check that out!”? Think about what urgent problem they might have that you could help solve (middle schoolers and their moodiness, for example!). Think about how you can inspire them with practical ideas for what allowed you to overcome trauma and create a better life for yourself.
Next, imagine you could speak on three specific topics related to your expertise. What would they be? How would you describe them in a paragraph? For example, I can speaking on Parenting with Sensory Smarts, Sensory Smarts at School, and Practical Tips for Helping Kids with Sensory Issues at Home, at School, and Away. The first and third topics are appropriate for an audience of parents, while the second would appeal to parents, educators, and school administrators. If I wanted to speak to parents, I would start looking for where parents gather and listen to lectures or attend short workshops. Is there a series through a Y or a church, for example?
Identifying what you can speak about, writing your speech, and planning to present it to an audience at a specific venue can help you start identifying your core areas of expertise that you want to get across in the book you will write. Then aim to book a speaking engagement, just one, to get started. And be sure to get out the word about your speaking engagement using social media.
Questions? Comments? Let me know, because I hope my advice helps you to build your author platform and brand yourself with a book.