I recently participated in two large-scale reading programs: one with a shared read across the state and another community-wide event. Both culminated in a live appearance by the author(s) so it was an interesting comparison as to how they approached their talk.

The first author gave what was presumably the same speech that he gives everywhere: sharing an overview of the book, telling the most interesting stories and hitting all the highlights. His lecture was accompanied by a gorgeous PowerPoint which was the only redeeming factor because everything he spoke of was in the book – and the vast majority of the audience was there because they had just read it.

The second set of authors correctly realized that the attendees would likely be very familiar with the book’s contents so instead of repeating it, they chose to sit around a table and informally give a short update about what has happened since they wrote it. After that, they spent the full 90 minutes answering questions and providing new insights and depth to the material, an approach that added to its understanding and entertainment value.

If you are asked to speak in front of a group, whether that be at a meeting, full-scale presentation or even sharing stories in your living room, pause to consider your audience before you utter a word. People will tune out if you’re not tuned in to what might be relevant to them.

 

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