Friday, August 17, 2012

Doing the Lecture Circuit

As you get more into freelance writing, you’ll probably discover that you’ll need to support your writing efforts by going out on the road. You’ll have to brave audiences, interviewers, and television cameras to push your wares. This isn’t such a bad idea when you figure that the more visible you are, the more your writing will sell, especially if you’re doing books. The opposite is also true---you don't have to write a bestseller to find yourself in demand for speaking engagements.

And even if you don't have a book to promote, speaking engagements are a good way to promote yourself and your specialty, as well as to make some extra money. Begin locally at first. Start with small audiences and once you’ve gained the needed confidence in your abilities and in the value of your efforts, you'll be ready to speak before larger audiences and receive higher fees.

And speaking of fees: Organizations love to call the money they give you to speak an honorarium. Just as the word “literary” implies that you’re writing on a higher plane, so the word “honorarium” implies that it’s an honor to speak to a particular group, and since it’s an honor, the organization doesn’t have to pay you as much. Take the word “honorarium” out of your vocabulary. In order to give a good presentation, you have to spend time putting it together, so you need to be paid a fair amount. This might be as low as $25 for a short speech to several hundred for a one to two-hour lecture, to well over $1,000 for a six-hour seminar.

The best approach to being sought out as a speaker is by creating a good programs to start with, letting program chairmen know about them, and then letting your reputation spread. Charity groups, schools, businesses, clubs, retirement villages,in fact, all sorts of organizations might be interested in your presentations. Program chairmen are always looking for something new and interesting. Let them know what you have.

Your programs can be anything you make them, from a concise speech to a well-integrated Powerpoint  presentation. You’ve got a lot of material in your files just waiting to be used. Think about the work you've published and the amount of information you gathered that you didn’t use. What is there in it that would make a good program? Take a topic from your main subject, or look back into the files of your research material to see if there are other angles that, developed a bit further, might be of interest to your audiences. Use your own illustrations or find some that will illustrate your material. Remember, it’s important to develop an inventory, but certain programs may really catch on, so you’ll be able to do them a number of times. It’s much like selling reprints of your writing, only live.

How do you go about getting your name around to the right people? There are two schools of thought here. One is that you should be subtle about making arrangements and the other is the direct approach. 
Whatever method you use to line up speaking engagements, make sure you’re as professional as possible. Some believe you should never ask to be a speaker—always be in the position of being asked. They’re the ones who use the term “honorarium”—this attitude comes from the academic side of the lecture fence. But you’re not an academic. You’re a writer. Therefore, promote yourself as such. Eventually, people and organizations will come to you asking if you’d speak for them.

To seek a broader audience for your lecturing, produce a simple flyer announcing your subjects for either  seminars or speeches. Post it where influential people might see it. Hand out a few to your business friends asking them to pass them on to appropriate people. Create a special speaking page on your Web site where you can list some of your most successful programs.

As a spinoff of lecture engagements, you can also teach continuing education courses, either in-depth on the same subjects or on other related to the kind of writing you do. For instance, let’s say you write about genealogy. You could develop a short course to teach the basics. You can even develop courses based on the type of writing you do—article writing, short-story writing, novel writing, for example.

If you’ve written a book, you may want to alert the local press, so they can send a reporter to cover your talk. And don’t forget local radio and T.V. stations that may want to schedule you for an interview.  For radio, you can even do this from your home via phone. Create a press kit and email it to local media outlets along with a good digital photo of yourself. Have a professional photo taken or take it yourself, but make it as professional as you can.  And be sure to prepare a short bio to send to the organization for which you’ll be speaking so that whoever is in charge will be able to introduce you properly.

And when you’re doing a lecture or seminar, be sure to bring along copies of your articles and place them strategically around the room. Keep a couple in reserve in your briefcase to hand to special people you meet. If you have a book coming out, bring along a sample copy and order blanks for it. Call attention to the existence of all this material before you leave the podium if the person who introduced you failed to do so.

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