I’ve met a number of writers in recent months that have asked me how hard it is to transition their writing to speeches. I was surprised because it’s almost like there’s this perception that being a good speaker and a good writer are mutually exclusive. They think of it like baseball – where good pitchers are rarely good hitters in the major leagues because they focus on one particular skill. So I explain that it’s the complete opposite — writers can make great speakers because the skills necessary to be successful in both endeavors are very similar.
I’m a firm believer that great writers can become great speakers and vice versa. In fact, I always recommend to writers that they consider speaking as another avenue to promote their writing, topics and/or products. The converse holds true for speakers — writing is an excellent way to promote your speaking (if I didn’t strongly believe this, you wouldn’t be reading this). Here are two of the main reasons why great writers can be great speakers:
Great writers have a mastery of their language.
Great writers have excellent abilities when it comes to choosing words. They know exactly which words to use to convey a particular feeling or emotion and have the knack to find the perfect descriptive phrase when needed. They know how to use techniques such as alliteration and onomatopoeia to make key points and phrases memorable. They understand the concepts of using a headline to grab attention and they know how to open and close a piece to increase interest in their topic.
Let’s face it; it’s easy to blunder our words. We can do things like confuse “effect” and “affect” or “insure” and ensure. Experienced writers have a definite advantage here because of language skills.
Writers have great research skills.
Experienced writers understand the importance of “doing their homework.” Fact checking and gathering more information than they need to complete a piece, come second nature to them.
Writers also know how to interview people and the right questions to ask when doing research. They also have a working knowledge of resources for research (including connections and sources that may be exclusive to them).
What writers need to know about speaking:
Now although writers have a distinct advantage when they start public speaking, they still have some challenges to overcome. They need to learn at least the basics to become a successful speaker. Some of the things that writers need to learn before diving into speaking include:
- How to interact with the audience during a speech. Writing is more of a one way means of communication where speaking is two-way.
- How to use vocal variation to make a speech interesting. This can sometimes be difficult for writers as pace and pitch are not factors when you write.
- How to use movement. Many writer-turned-speakers stick to the podium when they speak (watch Book TV on C-SPAN to see what I mean) because movement adds a new dimension.
- How to use props and visuals. A picture truly paints a thousand words and can be a great tool especially for writers who normally don’t include images or graphics with their works.
So speaking and writing can go hand in hand (and at some point, I’ll post an article about how speakers can become writers). If you’re doing one, consider the other. It might be the perfect way for you to promote yourself to a new audience.