Mystery Week 2017
We’ve blogged about attending conferences. But we haven’t talked about speaking. Public speaking is a common fear. It’s anathema for most writers. We tuck ourselves away in our writing corners with a laptop or notebook. Maybe there’s a window. But there’s definitely not an audience. And that’s how we like it, right? Not if you intend to sell books. Once a book is written, a contract is signed, and the book gets published, that’s when the “work” begins. I put “work” in quotes because, to me, writing is fun. Promotion is the part where we need to step out of our comfort zones. One form of promotion that’s never too early to start is building your brand. A great way to accomplish this is speaking at conferences. It’s no secret I know a lot about cyber crime and technology. Thus, I look for opportunities to share my knowledge. This year, in particular, cyber-y things are a hot topic. I belong to Sisters In Crime, Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers and each of those organizations hosts author events throughout the year. They send out emails and calls on social media for participants in these events. If I see any inkling of interest in educating my fellow writers about cyber crime, I raise my hand and volunteer. Heck, even if I don’t see a specific call for experts I’ve pitched ideas to conference organizers. As a result, I’m on panels at 3 conferences this fall and I’ve been invited to 2 more (so far) in 2018. I didn’t start out comfortable speaking to sometimes large groups. I have my day job to thank for helping me learn ways to get past the inevitable stage fright. I’m not shy among friends and co-workers so I’ve been tapped many, many times to give presentations on a variety of topics. It’s like anything else, the more you do it the easier it gets. I’ve learned a couple of secrets along the way. My first rule – know the subject matter inside and out. At 20 years and counting living & breathing all things cyber, I’ve got that one down. The only variable is whether or not I need to have something prepared or if the format is Q&A. I actually prefer the latter. Then it’s less like “public speaking” and more of a conversation. Some speakers don’t like being caught off guard by doing Q&As but I enjoy directly addressing what’s on the minds of participants. If I don’t know the answer to a question, which happens from time to time, I commit to find out and follow up with whoever asked. If I have to have something prepared, then I adhere to my second rule – make it fun. I’m a storyteller so this part is easy. I try to use animated images in slides rather than words (this is possible with both PowerPoint and Keynote). That probably seems counterintuitive for a writer but wordy slides put me to sleep so I create an experience that I’d find entertaining myself. Since I’m my own toughest critic, if I pass that test, I can feel good about what – and how – I present. The whole idea of speaking at conferences is to make a connection. That’s why we attend in the first place, right? Network with each other, meet agents and publishers, see or even get to meet our heroes. Participating is a great way to reach a lot of people all at once. Speaking of which (see what I did there?), you can see me during the NorCal MWA Mystery Week on October 16 and at the New England Crime Bake Nov. 10 -12 in the “Ask The Experts” session. If you attend either of these, or see me at a future event, please say hi. I’d love to meet you.