The other night I gave a half hour talk to a small group. Some nine years ago I wrote a book that serves as a guide and introduction to an historic site where I live in Hamilton, Ontario. This is Dundurn Castle, an 1830s mansion built by a colourful character, Sir Allan MacNab. A small group called the MacNab Circle meet once a year to hear a speaker and to talk about this man and his life. I must add I was their second choice. Their preferred speaker could not do this, so I was asked on her recommendation. This recommendation highlights one aspect of marketing – word of mouth – schmoozing – getting to know as many people as possible. You never know what that will lead to. Secondly, and more importantly, I learned a hard lesson. They were all very kind that evening, but I know my talk did not go well. There are good personal reasons for this, which I won’t go into, but I was not, shall we say, a shining star in their 48 years of listening to talks once a year.
I decided to make this a ‘learning experience’. I think it is absolutely vital for writers to become known not just through your work, or through a ‘dust jacket’ photo (whether on an eBook or a printed book), but as a living, breathing human being. Small talks to small groups do this as do large talks to large groups. I did quite a few of these several years ago when I had a number of books coming out and became proficient at this particular skill. But several years had passed before this talk and I had lost the expertise.
It is a skill I need to relearn and more importantly to hone. I didn’t allow myself enough time to prepare properly. I had to spend a great deal of time re-acquainting myself with the subject matter, which is vital. But this meant I had virtually no time to prepare a talk that grabbed and held the attention of the audience. I have to retrain myself so I appear open, friendly, knowledgable and someone worth the attention of an audience.