As writers, we get a buzz from knowing people are reading our work. But have you ever thought of reading it out loud, to an audience? Neither did I until recently. Now it’s a regular sideline gig.
If you write on a specialist subject, why not talk about it, too? Or talk about being a writer! It’s a pretty offbeat career that would interest many. If you write comedy, give those sketches a whirl. In my case, I had a drawer full of rhymes about the flip-side of gardening and modern life, so I shaped them into 60-minute presentations for gardening and over-50s clubs.
The social aspect of the work provides an antidote to the laptop, and you can control bookings to suit your time – and bank account. It’s potentially lucrative, depending on factors such as advertising levels, travel and topic flexibility, and caliber of events you’re comfortable speaking at. I choose to keep bookings occasional and low-key, with earnings correspondingly reasonable rather than great. But if you’re confident you can keep a large, high society audience gripped for 45 minutes or more! Some hosts will pay handsomely for a polished, spellbinding talk. Whatever the venue, it’ll offer a platform for your books.
Online searches will reveal innumerable societies, many engaging speakers for meetings. Here are some examples, but bear in mind that opportunities vary:
– Sports, especially mainstream
– Personal interests (e.g. gardening, bee-keeping, wine-making, family/local history, books)
– Age-related groups (e.g. 50s/60s; grandparents, war veterans)
– Social groups (e.g. singles, single parents, women’s)
– Charities (for fundraising events)
– Businesses/professional groups – for training or social events.
Society websites: some societies have their own websites, with handy information such as usual topics, timings, audience numbers and contact details.
Society affiliation websites: in some cases, you have to visit the society’s regional or national affiliation website and comb its listings for your local group. Follow these links to sample affiliations, and spot their speaker/talk references:
1. The Royal Horticultural Society (speakers’ register page): https://www.rhs.org.uk/communities/pdf/aff-socs/speakers-and-judges-registers/total-speakers-register
2. Scubaboard.com, USA: http://www.scubaboard.com/forums/new-england/491173-club-speakers-ct-club.html Scroll down to second item: “Club speakers”
3. Federation of Family History Societies, USA:
http://www.ffhs.org.uk/members2/overseas/usa.php The first society on their list mentions a meeting with a speaker on their website: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~bifhsusa/
The first one links to the speakers’ register of the UK’s leading gardeners’ organisation, to which I added my name (free) with positive results.
If you have trouble finding a group, try a related website such as that of your local community, tourist information centre or charitable organisation, for group or event listings. Here’s an example produced by a search for “interest organizations, Boston”: http://www.december.com/places/bos/activities.html
A brief deeper delve using the search term “talks” took me to upcoming events: http://www.bostonhistory.org/?s=osh&p=calendar
Some clubs may only supply a telephone number: no matter! A human voice may kindle interest in your speech offer.
Also look up speaker agencies. See what opportunities they offer, and browse their client profiles for inspiration. I picked US examples .randomly:
1. APB Speakers International: http://www.apbspeakers.com/;
2. The Speaker Agency, California: http://www.thespeakeragency.com/;
3. Washington Speakers Bureau (for businesses): http://www.washingtonspeakers.com/
4. Great Garden Speakers: http://greatgardenspeakers.com/
How much to charge?
Before setting my fee, I checked other speakers’ rates via agency websites and enquiries to local groups. The range is huge, but to me, audience response is as important as check size; besides, a happy group will refer you to others.
My audiences are courteous, attentive, and prompt to pay.
So, what’s stopping you?
Biog: Kate Williams is a published children’s poet with about 150 poems in a range of books, pamphlets and magazines for youngsters. She also writes for teaching magazines and writing websites. Website: poems4pockets.blogspot.co.uk