The Union Club in Soho invited me to give a talk about how to give a talk to mark the publication of my book – so it was also my book launch. It took place, as everything does at the moment, on Zoom.
There were several dozen people, many I don’t know, many I do. Two joined from the West Coast of the US. Most were in the UK.
I didn’t record the talk itself, because I thought that might worry participants. Instead, I saved what people typed into the chat box, and I’m posting it here (edited to preserve anonymity).
Who’s in the house?
The event started at 7pm. To begin, I explained that invitations had been sent to, among others:
- a regular TV presenter
- a Cicero Award winning speech writer
- the founder of a speaker bureau
- a TEDx superhero whose video went viral
- somebody who had delivered the BBC’s Christmas Lectures
- a multiple audiobook voice-artist
This intimidated me a little, I explained, even if they didn’t all make it – because who am I to tell these people about making speeches?
But my audience also included my literary agent and publisher, who would like to think I’m exactly the right fellow to tell people about making speeches.
As this indicates, every audience has a mix of interests, and every speaker must at least consider addressing them all.
Don’t be an alien
Plainly, it helps to learn more about the audience, because if you know nothing about them, it’s like sending one of those messages into outer space, in hope that an alien a) exists and b) hears it and c) works out what it means.
With that in mind, I asked everybody in my audience (at this book launch / talk) to leave a comment in the Zoom chat box telling me what they wanted to get out of our time together.
In the next few posts, I’ll try to answer the questions and comments: as you scroll down this page, if you find a hyperlink, just click on it to see my response:
19:15:40 From Claire M : Celebrate your book with you
19:15:47 From Paul B : Some hints and tips on public speaking
19:15:52 From Karen D : I’m just super happy to see you my friend!
19:15:59 From Ayla L : Toast your success and be joyful about what you and Jaime have made together! :D :D
19:16:01 From Martin B : what to expect from reading the book
19:16:03 From Angus C : What didn’t make it into the book?
19:16:04 From Laura C : Curious what you found most natural and most difficult to absorb to tell us. (And cheers for the book!)
19:16:05 From Jonathan B : more of your lovely illustrations
19:16:08 From Andy R : getting the balance right between gravitas and relaxing the audience
19:16:09 From Jaime M : How to not be weighed down by a really bad past performance
19:16:09 From David : Some general principles
19:16:12 From Joanne : enjoy seeing you bring the book to life
19:16:15 From Ayla L : And, I have a legit question too:
19:16:15 From Cat O’S : I want to be able to make a passable off-the-cuff speech at a dinner party
19:16:18 From Nic H : A nugget of wisdom to incorporate into my lecturing.
19:16:22 From Chrissy L : How not to loose it on stage….ie: crying :)
19:16:29 From Joel L : Just wanted to turn up for my mate x
19:16:33 From Steve C : Examples of BAD advice to getting good at public speaking
19:16:40 From will h : Any insight
19:16:43 From Danny M : How to know what’s interesting to the folks you are speaking to.
19:16:48 From Lynda T : JP I’m learning stuff already about how you relate to an audience. I didn’t have a clue!
19:17:01 From Ayla L : What was the toughest thing about writing this book? And what’s the most joyful thing about connecting with an audience? Why does that matter? (ARGH three questions, v sorry.)
19:17:10 From Peter : Is it ok to read your speech?
19:17:22 From Deborah S : Wanted to rejoice with you! How to be genuine without being crawly – you manage it!
19:17:22 From krisd : How to make a virtual book launch work in the middle of a pandemic
19:18:21 From David H : I can’t play a musical instrument so I want to be able to talk better instead.
19:20:10 From Felice H : Just being supportive but also interested to see what a zoom book launch looks like.
Taking these questions, comments and requests as prompts, I gave an outline of the book, with stories and illustrations.
At around 7.45, I announced that I intended to finish early. We could go on longer, but if anybody would like to leave now, please do!
Some left, many stayed. But they knew they were free to leave any time, which is important.
19:45:49 From Karen D : Do you feel confident when giving a talk, and where do you get your confidence from?
19:46:39 From Ayla L : Loving this event – brb, I think dinner’s burning! Not a tech-failed-actually-leaving-now-nice-tip-JP moment!
19:47:10 From Laura C : I have to scram for a midday meeting here in PST, but this was fabulous fun. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom, JP.
19:47:50 From Joanne : Congratulations on the book – it’s a great read – perceptive and very entertaining
19:48:31 From Steve C : I’m hanging around until you kick me out
19:48:31 From will h : Thank you. Insight delivered. Cheers. See you in the Union sometime
19:48:48 From Ray P : JP, thanks for the talk, loved it. Will be purchasing your book, one request, would you mind signing it for me when I hope to see you in the club one day.
19:48:51 From Peter : What about timings JP. Is less always more?
19:49:06 From Deborah S : I think we need a toast to your book
19:49:18 From Martin B : should a good talk include a joke?
19:49:29 From Apple : great nuggets! trying to remember it all. Give back time yes!
19:49:29 From Felice H : Thank you so much for having me to your launch. I’m going to finish cooking dinner now.
19:50:02 From William & Fiona R : What do you make of Clubhouse?
19:53:19 From Nic H : When you wrote the book, did one bit of trivia, as a result of your research, stick with you? Especially concerning speeches from the past?
19:53:29 From Angus C : How do you prepare physically – your voice?
19:54:03 From Nic H : Lol!
19:54:11 From Nic H : Yep
19:55:13 From krisd : In the book there’s a great story about you observing someone in a cafe not reading an article in a magazine that you’d written. Any tips for not being put off by your audience when making a speech live/on zoom?
19:55:46 From Deborah S : Do you think all the Zooming we have been doing will change the style of public speaking?
19:55:49 From Angus C : I’ve read it. So that’s two!
19:56:05 From Karen D : What if you do a talk espousing something, and a member (or two) of the audience really don’t agree with you and say so? How would you deal with it if it comes up in Q&A/heckling?
19:57:20 From David H : Have a breakout room called the Naughty Step and stick any one who’s not paying attention into it.
19:57:58 From Jaime M : You’ve said somewhere you don’t want to ‘own the room’. So when things go well, what is the feeling you feel?
19:59:49 From Deborah S : Don’t you think the room rather likes feeling owned by the speaker?
20:00:36 From Steve C : I think there’s maybe a difference between “owning the room” and “holding the audience”
20:01:03 From Joel L : Thanks so much JP, can’t wait to get my copy of the book! See you soon….
20:01:25 From Nic H : Looking forward to read the book JP! Nic
20:01:32 From Peter : Thank you!
20:01:32 From David : Thanks very much! Looking forward to getting my copy
20:01:34 From Ray P : it’s been great JP but I have to dash now for supper. Thank you
20:01:37 From Leslie C : Thanks so much and good luck with the book sales!
20:01:39 From William & Fiona R : Thank you JP! The book awaits….
20:01:50 From Ayla L : This has really been the most amazing experience of my life! ;) No really, I’m so glad that you’ve written this, and I’m absolutely delighted that you and Jaime are making rhetorical magic together!
20:01:51 From Claire M : Thank you, JP
20:01:57 From Martin B : thanks. great talk !
20:02:14 From Chrissy L : Thanks love ya x
20:02:25 From Mel : Thank you JP, I’ve enjoyed it so much..wish you wouldn’t leave