When you speak to a group about the topic or genre of your book, you want to make a connection with your audience and you want them to connect with one another. If they sit apart from one another, they are individuals either for or against you. Yes, against you. Some people come to your presentation with a chip on their shoulder and they are daring you to knock it off. In other words, “Tell me something I don’t know and that I can actually believe.”
Note: I find that this is actually rare. It happens and I think it is important to mention. But, unless your book and your talk cover something quite controversial, you’ll find most of your audience members congenial, alert and eager to hear what you have to share.
I suggest that you try to bring audience members who are spread all over the room closer together—invite them to come forward and take some of the seats toward the front, for example. Some will and some won’t. A few people will move one row closer. Others won’t budge.
Even if audience members sit apart, you can still pull them together and create an atmosphere of camaraderie, which will greatly enhance your presentation. Here are a few ideas:
• For a smaller group, ask them each to introduce themselves and their projects related to the theme of your talk or their interest or experience in the topic.
• Ask what they’ve come to learn from the session. Some might reveal a problem they’re having. Encourage audience input.
• If someone asks a question or expresses a desire for additional resources or information, respond, but also consider solicit comments from the audience. People will begin to connect. I’ve seen it happen so often.
• If there is time, at some point in the program, assign an exercise that requires audience members to come together in groups—something that depends on teamwork. Try to make it fun.
• Present a challenge to audience members at large—something that requires discussion among the entire group—again, something light, so you get them laughing together.
• Once some of the audience members have revealed something about themselves with relationship to the theme of your talk, mention it a time or two throughout your presentation. Say, for example, “Just as Sonny said earlier, ‘some cats are more trainable than others.’ Does anyone have a cat as stubborn as the one he described?” or “Angie told us that she plants her sweet peas in December—does anyone else have success doing this?” This will endear the individual to you and, again, help to create a connection between him or her and the rest of the group.
This is excerpted from the book I am currently working on—Talk Up Your Book. In the meantime, be sure to order your copy of my newest book, Publish Your Book at Amazon.com or at my website: http://www.matilijapress.com