Home > Life, Writing and Poetry > Speaking Gigs – Who Can Do It?

Speaking Gigs – Who Can Do It?

When I spoke to Irene Roth yesterday about scheduling speaking engagements, she told me that she tries to schedule them for spring and summer when she’s not teaching a full class load. The entire issue brings up some interesting questions.

I know several professors, teachers, writers, etc. who do frequent speaking engagements for a variety of groups. Each has personal rules of engagement, if you will. Some also speak to groups year round.

I have one friend from years ago who turned down as many such schedule-breakers as he accepted. He has been such an expert in his field long enough that specialized groups and institutions clamor for his attention and presence.

Others who take on the speaking circuit do so with an eye for the experience and networking as much as any other reason.

So, what should a person do to create their own speaking schedule? Writers do this juggling act all the time; if they’re lucky they have clubs, specialized groups, libraries and schools that want the writer to visit. But how does the writer get the gigs?

The writer must have something of value to contribute to the group in question. For instance: Irene gets invited to speak by medical groups wishing instruction and opinion on medical ethics issues. She’s asked to speak with corporate groups concerning ethics issues, as well, though not specifically medical in nature. She is an expert in the field of philosophical theory and practice.

Irene also contracts to write specialized academic books on specific philosophical theorems or questions. She then becomes an expert with branching arenas of study. She suffers from severe arthritis, has studied the disease and its effects, and so creates another speaking niche for herself.

I know you’re thinking, “I’m not a professor with a specialty. I can’t do those kinds of things.” Perhaps not, but everyone has something special about them; something they know, have experienced, can teach, etc.

Example: New writer, 45 years old, female, married with children, just sold her tenth story/article to a magazine and has landed a book contract for a craft project how-to book for kids. She’s not worked outside the home since having her first child, has no experience in public speaking, and when she did work, it was as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) in a nursing home.

How can this woman get offered any kind of speaking engagement whatsoever? I’d say, umm, let’s look at this carefully.

1. Shewas trained to care for those no able to care for themselves.

2. She has children who need care, whether ill or not.

3. She’s a successful writer, having sold stories and articles and got a book deal.

4. Whether she’s had public speaking experience or not means little, because she knows how to speak with families.

5. She knows how to finish projects, juggle obligations, has something to say that others want to hear.

So what does this budding speaker do to get the gigs? She:

a. Calls the local Girl/Boy Scout headquarters and introduce herself. She tells them about her new project and asks them if they will have her as a guest speaker to address their group leaders about coming project possibilities, or about the kinds of projects their kids would like to see in a book. All sorts of opportunities could come from this one contact.

b. Calls the local public and school libraries to ask about speaking on-site. She might not get paid for the visit, but she’ll make contacts and gain future readers for the book that she hasn’t yet finished.

c. Contacts local retirement homes about spending an afternoon with the activities director and a group of residents who might enjoy exploring new crafts (perhaps take her children to act as demonstrators, depending on the crafts involved). Here she gains followers who have grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her children learn a lesson. And she sees how easy/difficult the projects are in a group setting. Calls it practical research for the book.

d. Calls the local fraternal orders and asks about speaking to their memberships about children’s literacy and how the issue affects everyone at the local level. Who knows, she might start a community project for them just by speaking for half an hour or so.

e. Speaks to any service organization who’ll have her about the need for children and adults to come together for reading, learning, and sharing. She tells them of her own involvement and encourages others to join in.

f. Lines up book club engagements to talk about the process of developing, writing, and putting together such a book as she’s working on. Readers are often intrigued by how the writer does what she does. This also paves the way for second appearances and readings when the book comes out.

This writer has many avenues to drive down. It’s up to her to make the decisions and take the chances.

But what if you’re male, write literary pieces and don’t have children or write for them? Don’t despair. There are plenty out there who are in your boat. What kind of literary pieces do you write? Is it poetry? If so, you’re doing well.

Many literary groups, book clubs, etc. have a poet come in for readings. Libraries, too, enjoy readings of all sorts. Whether in a large public library, a school library filled with students and faculty, or a senior citizen’s center, people enjoy hearing poetry read well.

Every writer can find places to give a speech. After all, using words is our business. Whether it’s talking to local veterinarians who don’t often see exotic animals such as you know about, or teachers who’ve never gone on an arctic exploration, people are interested in what others have to say.

The key is enthusiasm about your subject, having some fair knowledge of it, a willingness to share that knowledge, and allowing yourself speak for little or no pay until you get established as an interesting and knowledgeable speaker who can hold an audience.

And that talent, my friends, springs from the speaker’s understanding that all people have an interest in something. Humor, confidence, and honesty go a long way toward pulling an audience along the trail of any speech or reading. Practice with friends and family is all a person needs to begin.

Get out there and create a speaking schedule for yourself. Talk about blogging and how to begin your own website, if you have nothing else. Lots of seniors would love to know how to do that.

The bottom line is that all of this activity takes you to the future in many ways. Your name gets used almost as a logo for your writing career. That’s worth the aching feet and dry mouth.

Until tomorrow and my interview with Greg Neri, a bientot. Have fun.



Categories: Life, Writing and Poetry
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