Top 4 Tips for Conference Presentations

When an author is invited to speak at a conference–Reading Association, National Council of Teachers of English, Science Teacher’s Association, School Librarians Association, etc–it’s a great opportunity to connect with an audience who is already inclined to like your books. You need to be ready to maximize your efforts at such a speaking engagement.

    Darcy Pattison on Read Across America Day 2011

  • Do a great presentation. First and foremost, do a great presentation. Plan ahead, make sure the audio-visual setup works, have great handouts. Practice. It is worth everything you can do to make a good impression. Think about the needs of your audience, not about what you want to present. What would help your audience do their job better? Meet the needs of the audience, exceed their expectations.
  • Build a Mailing List. The second most important thing to do–if you do nothing else right, get this one right–is to build a mailing list. I just have a paper signup sheet asking for name and email. Period. Make it easy for them to sign up. At the top, I clearly state the purpose of the newsletter: Darcy Pattison’s News: Occasional Updates, New Releases, Speaking Engagement and Other News.

    I use MailChimp (NOTE: This is an affiliate link.) to actually set up and send e-newsletters. I’ve tried Constant Contact, but found it harder to understand. With MailChimp, a free account allows up to 2000 subscribers. They also offer a simple mailing program–no html formats (which means no pictures in the email)–with TinyLetter. If you’re really afraid of doing this, try TinyLetter for a while: it’s simple, easy and fun.
  • Handouts. You should have handouts ready. A flyer on your latest book. Business cards. Sales coupon for your book. Something. At conferences, attendees LOVE freebies and will take almost anything you hand them. Think ahead about what you want to promote or what you want them talking about. Maybe you’ve just put up some great book trailers and you want people to go watch them!

    Here’s a tip: If you want people to go to a certain website, use the URL shortening service to create a custom URL just for them. You must be a member to use this feature, but it’s worth the registration. Try this one: Sure, you could do a designer QR codes, too, but how many people have the app? Be safe and try a catchy URL.

  • Schmooze. Talk to people! If you’re like me, you hate talking to strangers. OK. Find someone else who is standing alone and go talk to them. Remember how YOU feel standing alone and be a friend (To make a friend, BE a friend!)

    Another tip: Read the newspapers closely for 2-3 days before you go, so you are up on current events. Choose a couple things that interest you and be ready to talk about them. It can be general cultural things, or industry specific things. For educators right now, you might talk about the Common Core State Standards. For other writers, talk about the new Nook tablet that was just announced (See my book for Nook, 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph!) If all else fails and conversation flags, ask questions. People love to talk about themselves, so get them started and sit back and enjoy.

    Your goal in schmoozing is NOT to sell a book, get invited to a school, or anything but this one thing: make a friend. But hey, I do speak at conferences–here’s the info. And I’ll be speaking at the 2012 NYC SCBWI conference. I’ll be the one standing alone: please come and introduce yourself!

One thought on “0

  1. EYE ON THE IDITAROD: AISLING’S QUEST, my new nonfiction book, will be released in a couple of weeks. I get more school invitations when I have a new publication so your advice is timely for me. Thanks a bunch.

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