Public Speaking 101

on September 2, 2010

I’m the keynote speaker for the upcoming Moonlight & Magnolia conference in Atlanta the first weekend in October. I like writing speeches about as much as I like plotting—which is to say, I’d rather walk over hot coals in bare feet being chased by a pack of hungry, man-eating arachnids.

Rocki, of course, thought I was insane two years ago when I told her I wasn’t going to write a speech for the Emerald City conference. For those of you who have had the privilege of hearing Rocki speak, you know she’s an amazing public speaker. She’s poised, polished, professional, and . . . and . . . and . . . I’m trying to think of another “p” word that means “everyone who listens to Rocki is in awe and talks about her fabulous speech or workshop.”

You get the point.

Rocki writes, rewrites, and practices her speech a gazillion times. She lectured me (and yes, it was a lecture, because I felt if I didn’t follow her advice I would be buried to the neck in the desert and have honey poured over my head) that I had to do the same thing.

I . . . can’t.

But I tried.

For Emerald City, I wrote bullet points. That didn’t work out so well because I was so paranoid about those bullet points and the speech I should have written that I started taking notes before the speech, and ended up with a mess. It wasn’t my finest presentation, but they didn’t throw tomatoes.

So, when I spoke to New Jersey RWA last year, I wrote a speech. It wasn’t bad—I actually had a theme (You’re Not Normal) and had fun writing it. No, I didn’t practice it over and over again (though I did read it out loud once to make sure it sounded natural) but I did print it out in large font and have all 10 or 11 pages there for me to read. And I knew the material well enough that I didn’t really want to read it, I was just going to use the opening lines to seque into what I wanted to talk about.

The problem? I digressed. A lot.

I think the speech ended up being pretty good, but God knows I have no idea what I said after page two. All I remember was Madeline Hunter giving me the “time” signal, though I didn’t know that at the time ☺ I looked at my speech, realized I hadn’t really given it, and jumped to the last page so I could have a conclusion.

So as I started thinking about what I would say to the Moonlight & Magnolia conference goers, I knew I’d need to find a happy medium between the bullet points and the full-length speech that never was read.

But what would I talk about? What would I say? How can I inspire people while also being realistic about writing and publishing and the whole enchilada?

That’s where I am now. I’m using the conference theme as my springboard: Master Your Story, Master Your Destiny. First, I have to figure out what that means.

I like my “You’re Not Normal” theme. My kids have told me that I’m not like other moms, and I take that as a compliment. Why be normal? What’s the fun in being like everyone else? So I’m thinking of a “Master Your Story Because Your Family Already Thinks You’re Crazy” approach.

Or maybe a Star Wars theme, where the Padawan turns into a Jedi Master because it’s his destiny . . . and the force is what we learn that makes us better storytellers, and the dark side is the negative people who try to stop us from achieving our goals.

Or not. :/

So I have a few questions for MSW readers. What types of speeches do you enjoy listening to? Do you want to learn something? Be entertained? Be inspired? Or learn something while simultaneously being entertained and inspired? (Whew, big shoes to fill! I hope Rocki hasn’t spoke to M&M yet because I don’t think I can reach her bar!)

Do you like journey stories? (What I did to get from point A to B.) Or not? What’s a recent speaker you’ve heard where you think, wow, that was fabulous! And then remember something about the speech later. What is that tidbit that stuck with you?

I’m very interested in your comments and opinions, so please share . . . and if you honestly have nothing to say, say “hi” because I’m giving away books to commenters! Three people will win any backlist title of mine they want.

I’m committed to giving away over 200 books between now and the release of LOVE ME TO DEATH on December 28. I’m giving away a book every week to my Facebook Fans and to my Twitter Followers, and a book a day in December. Plus other days with special contests and fun things through those two venues and my newsletter. So follow me, like me, whatever you want, and you will get more chances to win free books in my #lovemetodeath giveaway!