How to Turn Your Book Into a Speech: A Rolling Stone’s Guide

Sarah Rexford
July 13, 2021 | 7 mins

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You did it. You had an idea and you turned it into a book. But now that idea is still sitting in your head and you want to turn your book into a speech.

How do you take 50-100k words and convert them into a speech without lulling listeners to sleep?

It starts with what you choose to share.

You decided to convert your idea into the form of a book for a reason. Hopefully one of the big reasons was because book form was one of the best ways to communicate your idea.

That said, the stage is an extremely helpful platform for communicating. Communicating in person can reach audiences in ways books simply can’t. So, whether you plan to present your speech live on a literal stage or online, knowing what to present from your book and how to present it is crucial.

Let’s start with why.

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This guide on how to turn your book into a speech covers:

  1. Why you should turn your book into a speech
  2. Gaining a platform for marketing
  3. Getting invited to podcasts
  4. How to turn your book into a speech
  5. Present extemporaneously
  6. Final remarks

Why you should turn your book into a speech

If you want to be a successful author today, some form of public speaking is usually crucial. Gone are the days when authors sat alone at their desks, writing by candlelight, mailing their finished book to the publisher, only to go back and do it again.

Readers want to know the author whose work they love so much. And while it’s pretty much impossible to personally connect with every reader, public speaking allows you to connect with many readers at once.

The good news is, if you’ve come to this article, you likely enjoy speaking to readers and sharing your story with them in real time.

1. A platform for marketing

Public speaking isn’t just a way to connect with readers. It’s also an amazing marketing tool

Books can only communicate via the words on the page. When you present your story via speaking, you get the added benefit of inflection, vocal pauses, rapid speaking, or slowing down for effect. All of these are vital parts of communication that it’s difficult, and often impossible, to get on the page.

Speaking not only markets your book, but it also markets you, the author. When you present your story on stage, you are the medium in which it is presented. 

The audience looks at your story idea through you, the speaker. And speaking is personal. The audience can see your excitement about a particular illustration and feel your passion for the topic. 

Public speaking is a way to connect with individuals in real time and in real space…and true connection is one of the most organic and time-tested methods for successful marketing.

Speaking is an easy way to create soundbites or graphics for social media marketing

Share fifteen seconds of your speech on your Instagram story, create an IGTV video, or throw a quote onto an image of you speaking and post it to your grid.

If you plan to have a Q&A session following your speech, consider going live on Instagram and inviting people to send in questions regarding the topic of your speech. This 1) engages your followers and 2) provides you with a frame of reference for the type of questions that may be asked.

You could also convert your speech into a blog. Cover the main points of your speech in text format. Bold the quotes you want readers to takeaway and create a “click to tweet” option within the post.

2. Your invitation to podcasts

While in-person gatherings are much more common now than during recent times in the past, podcasts are a great way to conduct virtual speaking engagements. Podcasts are also extremely convenient for your busy followers because it enables them to listen on the go.

While podcasts are known for being audio only, sometimes podcast hosts upload the visual recording to YouTube. Keep this in mind as you present your speech. 

When it comes to connecting with your audience, your nonverbal communication is as important as your verbal communication. 

Good nonverbals could land you that next speaking gig or that podcast. 

Small things like healthy posture and hand gestures that contribute, rather than distract, from your speech go a long way.

Avoid keeping your hands in your pockets, swinging your arms without intention, and shuffling across the stage. Make purposeful hand movements and when you walk away from the podium, be careful not to meander across the stage. 

Make eye contact with audience members on one side of the stage, then move back to the podium for a few sentences before moving to the other side and connecting with the audience there.

Purposeful movement can elevate your speech and go a long way in helping secure future bookings. 

Now that we’ve covered why you should turn your book into a speech, here’s the crucial next step: 

How to turn your book into a speech

If you wrote a nonfiction book and have a book proposal, you will have already created a chapter by chapter outline. This is a great starting point.

If you’re turning your fiction book into a speech (maybe on the theme of your novel) your synopsis is a helpful place to begin.

Once you have your chapter by chapter outline or your synopsis in front of you…

Decide what specific parts of your book either 1) have the biggest message or 2) will create the largest impact.

A helpful way to do this is to simply print out your outline/synopsis or paste it into a blank document where you can cross out or delete any aspects that don’t answer the above questions. 

Remember: It’s crucial to know who you will be speaking to, or if you’re presenting online, who you’re targeting your speech for.

One of your chapters may resonate with a particular audience, but not another. If you’ve been asked to speak at a particular event, do your research so you have a good grasp on who your audience will be. This will save you time in preparing and also help ensure your speech is geared toward the individuals who will fill the seats.

Now that you know your audience and have cut any parts of your book that don’t apply to them, take it a step further: 

Cut the good illustrations, present the great illustrations.

If you’re talking to teenagers, illustrating your speech with how you demonstrated persistence by getting into grad school will probably fly right over their heads. 

Illustrating persistence with completing homework, taking college placement tests, or passing a driver’s training test will resonate much more deeply.

Present extemporaneously

While there are a myriad of ways to present yourself onstage, speaking extemporaneously will help you connect with your audience on a much more personal level.

Written speeches are sometimes most appropriate for big events such as graduation ceremonies, weddings, funerals, and other such gatherings. However, reading from a transcript minimizes your ability to connect with the audience in the moment.

If a particular point makes the audience laugh, your main option for connecting with them is to smile, perhaps laugh with them, and then continue with your written speech.

If you’re speaking extemporaneously, you give yourself the option of adding a sentence or two of extra context and making yourself that much more relatable to your audience.

Memorizing your speech is a second option, but if you struggle at all with stage fright, you put yourself at risk of forgetting a sentence. If you forget a sentence, it will likely be difficult to find your place again and continue smoothly. Speeches that are memorized are also difficult to deliver in a way that feels genuine and not rehearsed. They are, after all, memorized. 

If at all possible, write a bullet-point outline of what you plan to discuss.

Please note: You may want to write out your first and last sentence. This is the one exception in extemporaneous speeches. Memorizing your opening and closing sentences allows you to deliver a stammer-free, standout fist and last line, maintain eye contact with the audience, and create an unforgettable closing.

The length of your speech will determine the amount of points and duration you spend on them, so outline in a way that best fits your particular situation.

Speaking extemporaneously allows you to react with the audience, spend more time on points they seem to really resonate with, and brush over points that may not land as well.

Final remarks for writers turned speaker

Before stepping on stage, remember, you wrote an entire book on this topic. You know it inside and out. Be yourself. All you’re doing is sharing your story with a room of people who want to hear it.

You’ve got this.

Take a deep breath…and simply start the conversation.

Your book is coming alive in real time. 

You get to see your readers’ reactions. 

You’re all together on this journey. 

Enjoy it!

Get A Book Cover Design Checklist!

People DO judge books by their covers. Grab a quick checklist to make sure your cover gets the attention of your audience.

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