PUBLISHED MAY/JUNE 2020
by Jodee Blanco, Founder & CEO, Jodee Blanco Group —
How authors can use digital platforms to reach their audience remotely.
It feels weird doing online now what we would normally do in person every day. Giving an author talk and knocking it out of the park is challenging enough face to face, let alone remotely via digital platforms.
Are you wondering, “How am I going to have the same impact, make meaningful contact, and know if I’m getting through or not if I can’t see my audience? How do I use the technology available to me, make it my own, and really connect with people as I would if they were sitting right there in front of me?”
You’re not alone. As an author and professional speaker who travels to schools doing anti-bullying work, I understand why these questions are important. If you’re a publisher, helping your authors transition to digital platforms for their appearances will require a mutual willingness to master the possibilities together. Eventually, life will resume to some semblance of normal, but no matter what, all of us will have to become more comfortable with the camera lens on our devices.
7 Tips for Virtual Talks
- Make sure whatever room you’re doing your virtual talk from is well-lit.
- Before you begin, take a deep breath, hold it for a count of seven, exhale, and remind yourself that you and your audience are connected in spirit. Really try and feel their energy, allowing it to animate you from within.
- Always look into the camera lens. Even if you can see a moderator on your screen or it’s a virtual meeting and you can see the other participants, don’t look at the screen. Speak into the camera lens; otherwise, it will appear as if you’re gazing off into the distance.
- Find the camera lens on your device and put a small piece of tape next to it or a sticky note with an arrow pointing to it. This will help you maintain eye contact.
- Relax, smile, talk with your audience as you normally would in person, and pretend the camera lens is your window to them. Imagine their faces as you’re giving the presentation. Imagine them on the other side of that window, listening and engaging.
- You’re not on TV. You don’t have to be perfect. And even television’s most endearing moments are the bloopers. If you have a blooper moment, smile and keep going. Your audience won’t remember the mistake. What they will remember is laughing with you at a time when laughter was more precious than ever.
- If the online author talk experience makes you feel self-conscious, practice just talking into the camera. Make a few videos and find your comfort level. Recite the lyrics of a favorite song or describe the weather outside. Just have fun with it.
Consider a Virtual Book Signing
Speaking of fun, another way to make the digital connection with audiences feel as real and alive as they are in person is to include a virtual book signing, just as you would a conventional appearance. All you’ll need are bookplates. For those who may be unfamiliar, a bookplate is a printed self-adhesive label about the size of an iPhone screen. You can purchase them online or from any good printer. I love bookplates, and they’ve been my secret weapon for years for turning any event into an impromptu autographing.
I always carry a stack in my purse, so if someone wants a signed copy of my book and I don’t have books with me, I can sign a bookplate for them, and they order the book online. When it arrives, they stick the bookplate on the inside front cover of the book, and, voila, a personalized signed author copy! It’s a good idea to have your name printed on the front of the bookplate; and, on the back, the title of your book, website address, and contact info.
Bookplates are great for virtual signings. At the conclusion of a virtual talk, simply ask attendees if they’d like you to sign a book for them, and offer to send a personalized bookplate to those who are interested. I always believe simplest is best, so I’ll typically tell them to email me the name they’d like me to personalize it to and the address of where to send it. The advantage of bookplates is that once you sign one for someone, it motivates them to order the book. I encourage you to be creative and take advantage of how you can use bookplates for virtual appearances and in-person, too.
One day, we’ll all look back on 2020 and wonder how we got through it. Until then, let’s use this period of disruption to hone our talents, strengthen our resolve, and deepen our bond with each other and readers. We got this.
Jodee Blanco is the founder and CEO of The Jodee Blanco Group, a consulting and curriculum development company. Blanco is an expert on how to successfully leverage the matrix of public speaking, publishing, and public relations to take one’s life or career to a whole new level. She is the award-winning author of two New York Times bestsellers, including the seminal memoir, Please Stop Laughing at Me, among multiple other titles.