Creating Speaking Platforms

Almost every author learns how to embrace speaking about their books. Whether doing book signings, speaking at libraries, service organizations or business organizations, it is one of the most tried and true methods of developing a following and selling more books.

What most authors do not do is to create their own platform: appear as the keynote and sole source of an event’s purpose. It is a lot of work to develop a following and an audience who will pay to come and hear a speaker, but when done well, authors will realize their books are only about 5 to 8% of their potential income and speaking related activities are around 70 to 80%.

But how does an author go about creating a platform? We know it’s important to do so because of the income, but where does an author begin the journey? I’ve known authors and speakers who simply get out there and speak, anywhere there is an audience. That is how I began speaking.

Well, for those who don’t know me well, I went kicking and screaming “NO” for a year before my mentor took me to a Lion’s Club meeting and told me just before we finished eating I was to be their guest speaker! That is not the recommended beginning to speaking, but through his caring guidance, I not only overcame all of my fears of speaking but have found it to be one of my favorite activities.

I started out with what many speakers refer to as the “Animal Circuit.” The service organizations such as the Lion’s, Kiwanis,  Elk, Moose, Rotary, Soroptimist and any group looking for a “edu-tainment” filler for their meetings. I spoke at groups for unemployed, women’s groups, chambers and any place ten or more were gathered. I practiced, recorded my presentations and listened intently to the recording to pick them apart. I listened for what gained reactions from the audience and what fell flat. I also committed to taking at least one major speaking training program outside of my area every year to meet those who had more experience than I had obtained.

Along the way I taught speaking techniques to my business clients and learned as much from teaching as I seemed to learn from taking other’s courses. I jumped in with both feet and created a presence to establish my claim to be a speaker. Writing my first book didn’t happen until several years later.

I realized after my first major (200 attendees) speaking gig (nine years after I began speaking publically) what a difference it was to speak to larger targeted audiences rather that fill in for a segment of someone else’s function. Rather than selling ten percent of the audience a consulting program, I sold so many books it replaced my previous consulting fees from speaking at an event.

Other than fiction, I believe nearly every book can lend itself to a platform focus. Obviously business books have a huge platform potential while self-help and law of attraction books have a niche of their own. Even biography books can be developed into a platform with some careful thought.

The platform should be designed to be information a large enough segment of the population can relate to or at least they want more knowledge in the topic. Having a book published gives an author permission to be an expert. Leveraging your expertise to create your own platform involves simple steps.

Once you’ve established your message, had ample practice (50+ presentations) and can speak for an hour to four hours on your topic, start thinking in terms of who your target audience is: is their an age range, specific experience, background or expertise? Always keep in mind “What’s in it for them?” Think in terms if you were to come to hear yourself speak, would you feel like the time and investment was worth the effort?

Promoting your platform event can be as simple as going back to the Animal Circuit, Title Companies, Real Estate or Mortgage Brokers and Chamber groups to do a promo event: basic information, but if you want more, attend the event. Schedule an event at least a month or two in advance. With the advent of Meetup, you can speak at least once a day if not twice a day in most metropolitan communities.

The first person I ever saw do this was Tom Hopkins who was thought to be one of the best sales training firms in the 90s. He sent out an advance team to all the local organizations and they had a mini six page workbook with exercises to stimulate interests in his one day free event where he pitched his two-day paid event. Almost all of the mega speakers today use his exact model.

But some of the most successful speakers I’ve met are names you’ve never heard of. They are in their local community, speaking once a month and making more than six to seven figures a year by creating their own platform. They started with five or six platform presentations a year, did guest speaking at other’s events and kept up the momentum. For some, their book came after they had established themselves as an expert.

Platform speaking is a great way to create credibility and gain a following. It is one of the most rewarding benefits of being an author too!

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