Author Book Talks: Watch for These Signals As You Speak

Professional speakers are on alert and scan the crowd constantly, looking for clues. If things aren’t going well, these speakers modify their talk on the spot. I’m giving talks and workshops related to my newly released book. Experience has taught me to watch for these things.

Monitor body language. Chances are a person who is slouching isn’t really interested in what you have to say. On the other hand, this person may be thinking, “Prove yourself to me.” I was just about to begin a workshop at a national conference when a woman walked in, sat in the front row, and stretched her body across three chairs. She almost went to sleep. I worked hard to win this woman over and I think I did.

Watch changing facial expressions. A big smile and twinkling eyes are clues to an attentive listener. However, a person with a flat affect and no expression on their face may still be listening. Recently I gave a talk at the local senior center. A man in the back row barely reacted to my talk and I became worried. Afterwards, I learned the man was grieving and had come to hear my talk about happiness in an effort to help himself.

Look for emotional clues. People who agree with you may nod their heads vertically in agreement. People who disagree with may not their heads horizontally in disagreement. Focus on those who are disagreeing, make eye contact, and talk directly to them. Of course, you may make eye contact with audience members who seem to agree with you.



Stay alert to signs of fatigue. I think the woman who almost went to sleep during my presentation was tired. The conference schedule was packed and people want to attend as many presentations as possible, a tiring process. Yawning, rubbing eyes, and stretching are all signs of fatigue. To wake up these people you may speak more rapidly and tell a funny story.

Note the people who are talking. It happens sometimes — people start talking while you’re talking. Bawling them out will generate hostility. Another approach is to stop talking, make eye contact and say, “It’s difficult for others to hear while you’re talking. I’ll be happy to answer your questions later.” Keep in mind that the talkers aren’t trying to be rude and may be friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time.

Think about ending with laughter. Hearty laughter is one of the best things a speaker can hear. Unfortunately, I’m lousy at telling jokes, so I tell personal stories instead. When you end a talk with laughter people leave in a good mood. Most important, laughter helps audience members remember ou and the title of your book.

Book talks require planning and energy, yet you can still enjoy yourself. In fact, I make it a point to enjoy myself and you may too. Onward to the next book talk!

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Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for 40 years and is the author of 33, soon to be 34, published books. Her latest releases are “Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss,” “Seed Time: Growing from Life’s Disappointments, Losses, and Sorrows,” and “Help! I’m Raising My Grandkids.” Visit her website and learn more about this busy author.

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1 Comment on "Author Book Talks: Watch for These Signals As You Speak"

  1. I once had three (THREE!) people carry on a conversation during my talk. I wish I’d had your tips, because I had no idea how to handle it. I tried staring them down, and when that didn’t work I just focused on the people who were paying attention.


    Cherie Reply:

    Oh my, not cool. Not cool at all.


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