Hi, writers! I did a virtual writing workshop with Read Aloud Revival (a fantastic book-centered homeschooling membership group). It. Was. Awesome.
And something about what one of the organizers said afterward has helped me really identify, for myself, what kind of speaker I work toward being.
Some speakers are flashy or funny or simply mesmerizing. You sit there listening—knowing that you are lucky to be hearing what they are saying…to be witnessing the storytelling magic or the creation of art. But then you leave. You are still the same person, but you have this really cool memory. But…you are unchanged. Don’t get me wrong–these can be incredible, enjoyable, inspiring talks, and I have great memories of some of them from over the years.
I think my small gift is to not be flashy or particularly mesmerizing, but to show the audience that they can be writers, especially poets. Sarah (founder of Read Aloud Revival) sent me a note afterward in which she thanked me for making poetry unintimidating. She mentioned that the podcast manager was writing poems with her daughter and said, “I feel like Laura has helped discover a gift!”
THAT’s what I want to do. Make writers (kids or adults) know that THEY are the amazing ones, and that THEY can create poetry and other meaningful writing. My job, as I see it, is not to be some star performer (which is never gonna happen). It’s to unlock something inside of the people I present to or workshop with–to help them discover their own gift of creativity.
So, writers, if part of your career plan involves speaking to audiences, spend some time figuring out what kind of speaker you are or want to be. I’ve known in vague, amorphous shapes what my speaking was about for years. I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to just spell it out. And maybe it’s only something you can pinpoint and define after you speak for several years. But I think defining your approach and strength and celebrating it will help the speaking/teaching aspect of your career a lot. I’m already thinking of ways I need to tweak my materials on my website and such to help organizations know what to expect when they hire me.
Maybe your strength is as an entertainer. Or a storyteller. Or a connector of an audience to your specific books. All of these are worthwhile and meaningful! I’m not trying to say my style is what you should aspire to. Just that knowing WHAT your strength is, your purpose as a speaker, feels really powerful. I feel some changes bubbling inside me around speaking and how I present myself. Would love to hear your thoughts on your own speaking!