Before the Covid virus arrived, I took a promotional road trip. In my hometown of Portland, Oregon, I attended the 50th reunion of my high school graduating class and spoke to several audiences, including creative writing classes at the high school and a combined meeting of book clubs. How did my planning for Public Speaking engagements mesh with the actual experiences? Were my preparations adequate? What were the results?
~ Shipping books and marketing materials in advance proved useful. Not only did they arrive safely, but once I completed my appearances, I was able to pack the remaining items into the spacious luggage I took for that purpose.
~ During research for travel, I joined an international hotel group that awards points. They also provided: transport to area restaurants and businesses; quality buffet breakfasts which permitted taking food back to one’s room; offered a 25% discount for dinners, including when I hosted guests.
~ Since the penalty for altering flights was the same as emergency rescheduling, I did not purchase airline tickets with that option…I would have done so if my itinerary were more complex.
~ With today’s complex public safety rules, I had to carry multiple small containers of toiletries, snacks, and food supplements, which I divided between carry-on and checked baggage. In case my checked bag failed to arrive, my carry -on pieces included: clothing; accessories; necessary paperwork for public appearances, such as handouts for audiences. I also carried a thumb drive with data that could be downloaded and printed out in the hotel’s business office.
~ Because I was having dinner with a friend [and former theatre director] shortly after my arrival, I was not able to schedule an initial day without activity. But the following day I enjoyed a delicious lunch at a Hawaiian Café and a memorable tour of the city with my editor, while moving from a hotel near the airport to one near my engagements.
~ I was grateful to avoid renting a car. Although I tried using share-ride transportation, I found it awkward to schedule repeat transport with drivers I liked, and the cost was not substantially less than a highly rated traditional cab company. Thereby I repeatedly scheduled drive times with a couple of cab drivers I liked!
~ I travelled with ample cash for tipping people who rendered excellent service, such as porters at airports and the hotel. As I encouraged readers to purchase books through their favorite local stores or online, I made only a couple of cash sales, although I was capable of taking credit card payments.
PUBLICITY AND MARKETING
~ Since my events were not open to the general public, there was no reason to generate Media Releases. I did add a news page to my author website and referenced my travel on Facebook. I posted a picture with my editor taken at the book club meeting I addressed.
~ At the reunion, I followed the organizer’s suggestion and served Hawaiian macadamia nut candy...and discussed all of my books in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series.
~ I followed my own advice regarding maximizing the expression of one’s personality and profession. Because my writing focuses on Hawai'i, I wore tropical print jackets and a large name badge throughout my trip—with business cards at the ready. This facilitated conversation with numerous people I would not have otherwise met!
~ Since the Northwest was becoming colder and wetter than Tucson, I had to travel with varied clothing for the eight days. Despite necessary increases in the number of items I carried, my planning for multiple events proved to be appropriate.
~ Except for when my editor joined me in speaking to the book club, I was the sole presenter and did not need to coordinate my attire with other speakers.
~ In addition to my tropical-themed wardrobe, I accessorized with a necklace of my design and the name badge featuring my personal logo. I also wore a realistic appearing artificial orchid in my hair, which I wore pinned to heavily sprayed hair swept to one side, so the arrangement would remain in place for several hours.
SETTING THE STAGE
~ While it was not appropriate to hang a banner from podiums, my colorful attire proclaimed my personal style and the nature of my writing.
~ I positioned my presentation outline, a large watch, and bottle of water in advance of speaking—and a short bio in my pocket in case the person introducing me forgot the copy I had provided in advance
~ I set up a colorful display with marketing materials, books, and laid out an information request sheet on a clipboard. These items were placed on clear acrylic stands on a multi-level tablescape covered with purple and gold tablecloths, with a scattering of shell leis and tropical flowers.
BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER PERFORMANCES
~ I provided event organizers with my bio and a short introduction in advance of each event...and carried a copy with me in case they omitted important details.
~ Since the venues at which I spoke were small, I did not need overhead projections or a sound system. I merely arrived with a spiral bound binder with my presentation, potential readings from the three books in my series, and handouts. [I also carried notes for unexpected issues that might arise, and backup electronic files.]
~ Walking through Portland’s cold air provided physical warmups; I was limited in my ability to warm up vocally.
~ By using an annotated outline rather than scripted presentation, I was able to make periodic eye contact with my audience...letting attendees know I cared about them individually.
~ Despite allergies, my voice was strong enough for the demands of my public speaking. Theatrical training and experience has increased my ability for vocal projection.
~ My primary challenge was ensuring I covered each of my main points before the conclusion of each presentation. My large watch aided time management so that free-flowing dialogue could develop during Q&A segments, thereby maximizing audience interaction.
~ I concluded each presentation by holding up a pin with a single inspiring word...IMAGINE! Beyond the generally inspiring meaning, the word highlighted my branding, as my marketing website is ImaginingsWordpower.com!
~ As part of my long-term branding program, I travelled with Thank You cards, distinctive postage stamps and gifts of Hawaiian candy. I presented the candy to key people involved with events and mailed Thank You cards prior to leaving Portland.
Let me close my Postmortem by confirming that each public speaking appearance is a branding, as well as sales, opportunity. When you decide to embark on promotional road trips, I urge you to choose trips that can serve multiple purposes. And, by planning your journeys with care, you should be able to enjoy each phase of the experience! You never know who or what you’ll encounter along the way. I can say that I established new readers and organizational contacts with which/whom I’ve remained in touch. My only regret is that because of Covid, I wasn’t able to follow through on other planned events, such as attending a book fair in Hawai'i, because I might have travelled again to Portland en route!
Wishing you the best,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, narrator, consultant, and motivational speaker. Find more about her on her blog at: https://blog.jeanneburrows-johnson.com/