Basics Of Public Speaking For Authors (Mutani Gitonga)

By Timothy G.M Mutani

Traditionally, authors have been thought off as introverts. Many authors were known to relish themselves in their own company. This is where the creative mind exploded and they give the world their masterpieces.

It is reported that many of the world’s best novelists seclude themselves, sometimes up to several months away from anyone to plot their books.

In today’s world, authors, artists and other creatives are finding themselves on the list of almost every public speaking event. Additionally, authors must now engage in public speaking in order to promote their books.

However, not all authors are prepared, trained or even willing to participate in public speaking.

The challenge with public speaking is not the words, it is the presentation.

1 Corinthians 14:9 (NIV)  So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.

The Four Categories Of Authors.

1)            Those that abhor anything that puts them in public

2)            Those that believe they cannot speak in public

3)            Those that could make great speakers but have very poor skills

4)            Excellent speakers

The first group, which carries the majority of authors, lies in the group of the young king Saul (1 Samuel 10: 22) who is said to have hidden when the Israelites were looking for him to anoint him king. Anything that puts them in public light seems scary and undoable.

The second group obviously belongs to the Moses type (Exodus 4:10) who regardless of the highest level of training and exposure still believe they cannot speak in public.

The third group belongs to people like the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 10:10). The Bible records “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing”. It is clear that his writing prowess was unquestionable but his public speaking was wanting.

The fourth group lies in the group of Apollos (Acts 18: 24-25) who is said to have spoken with great fervor while teaching about Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ Himself, whom I refer to as the greatest public speaker who ever existed is in this group.

The good news is that public speaking is an art. It can be taught and learnt, it can be acquired with practice and it is unavoidable for the 21st century author. So no matter which category you belong to, you must start now.

Why Do Authors Need To Learn Public Speaking?

1.            Public speaking is a way to promote our books.

2.            It is an opportunity to create and sustain our personal brand.

3.            A book program is another way to earn from our content.

4.            Audience reactions from speaking engagements direct our future works.

5.            It creates a ready market platform (read fan base) for all our books and future works.

6.            It is a great way to reach the next generation of authors. Everyone has a story and sometimes one needs to hear another story to tell theirs

Before Any Speaking Engagement

1) Prepare

Before any speaking engagement I have to prepare. I have made it a personal rule never to pick emergency engagements unless it is a follow up of a previous talk or it is an area whose content is in my fingertips 110%. There are three things I prepare on;

a)            Personal preparedness: the target is to reach the Ephesians 6:19 scenario whenever I open my mouth in front of people, every word is impactful.

Dear authors, before every engagement we must pray. I pray for my audience, for the organization of the event, for the landing of the content, for understanding, for every question that shall be asked. We should basically pray for every variable in the event and trust me the variables are in the hundreds, anything can go wrong at whatever time.

You must be in control of your emotional and physical stability before facing your audience.

Your confidence or lack off will reflect on the content you deliver.

b)            Content preparedness: be a master of the area you are speaking on. Never attempt for any sake to get into an area you are not sure of. Mumbling inaudible things in front of expectant crowds is the worst nightmare for public speakers. Authors are particularly lucky in this area because we mostly find ourselves talking about our existing or future projects. Avoid the lure of accepting things that you have nothing but a vague idea of.

c)            Environmental preparedness: whenever I accept an invitation to speak I will want to know the settings I will find myself in. I must find out everything possible about my audience, the number of expected listeners, the number of participants, the setting – is it a panel, an interview, or a podium setting. Am I the key speaker? Are other people speaking before and after me? Am I supposed to bring along my assistants? Is my speech the main and only activity or am I speaking at the sidelines of other happenings?  How will the room be set up? Am I carrying my equipment or is the organizer working with a list of what I need?

For paid engagements, what does the pay cover? Accommodation, travel, a plus one etc. When am I getting paid? I am always at ease when I ask all these questions. Preparation is a must, that way should a mishap occur, you are ready. Remember Murphy’s Law at all times, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”.

I have found myself in the unfortunate event where I get to an event only to realize that there are no projection equipments. Another time I was invited as a keynote speaker only to arrive at the event to realize that I was speaking as part of a larger group where everyone was speaking on different things. Some actually a total contrast to what I was presenting. And lastly, I have been invited to events where the timetable was so crammed that I ended up not speaking at all even though my dues were paid in full.

2) Practice Your Speech

I was taught the art of practicing my speech in front of a mirror or just saying it out to myself before facing the crowd. At times I have practiced it so well that I almost did it word for word without reference to my index cards. This is not new. The greatest speakers of all times have been known to practice their speeches up to 40 times before they ever spoke. Do you wonder how Deputy President Ruto is able to mention even tiny villages off the head with so much ease? This is the technique he uses.

D-Day: The Day You Deliver The Speech

1)            Clarity of mind is key. In order to focus on perfect delivery, whenever possible, make it your practice to avoid conflicting engagements on the same day. If you have to speak at different venues try your best to make sure the speeches are related.

2)            Arrive early. Getting to the venue early has very many advantages. You get to learn the audience as they settle, you have time to reflect on your presentation and you portray a great deal of duty which is key for return business.

The Speech Itself

1)            Presentation. Dress for the occasion; if it is a casual event, be in smart casual wear, and if it is formal, be in formal wear. If there is a color scheme please, by all means, dress in accordance. There is nothing as bad as starting your speech on the wrong foot before you open your mouth.

2)            Your book. If you are using your book as part of the presentation, make sure your cover page is visible to the audience at all times. You never know where the photos of the event may land. (Colossians 4:5) make use of every opportunity.

You can also put a display table for your books at the front of the hall to show case your books. Be creative in your display and presentation.

If the host will allow, especially if you are the keynote speaker, you can have a book table at the back (and someone to sell for you other than yourself)

3)            Back up. If you have prepared your presentation on electronic gadgets, have another copy in one or two other sources. One time my tablet failed on me during a sermon. Luckily I had carried a flash disk that I quickly gave to the technical bench. It saved me a great embarrassment.

 If you are the freestyle speaker, it is also important to carry index cards or record on your phone. Anything can happen even to the best of us.

4)            Think outside the box. Your presentation should never be a word for word representation of the book. Be creative with your delivery, we should make people feel like buying our books, we are not reading it for them. Develop content around your book that will be understood fully after people read the book. Create a hunger for more.

5)            Manage nervousness. Even the most experienced speakers suffer from a bout of nervousness once in a while. I learned to use the beginning of my speeches as a moment to relax.

The introduction moment is everything. Let the audience focus on you while you get a moment to convert your timidity into enthusiasm for the content you are about to convey.

6)            Imagery and humor. Jesus gave eccentric speeches. Thousands stood or sat keenly listening to him because he connected with them at all levels. A proper sense of humor will keep your audience clinging onto your every word.

7)            Chunks. If your expected delivery time is more than twenty minutes, divide your content into blocks of less than 20 minutes each. In between the chunks you can create reflection moments like questions or activities. Remember Acts 20:9 – don’t kill your hearers (Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead).

8)            Avoid extremes. Too long a speech is boring; too short a speech speaks unpreparedness. If you have a timed session, always end within the set time. Never exceed the scheduled time.

9)            Ask questions. Since your content is original and you have all the confidence in it, invite questions. That way you speak on what is important to your audience not merely what you think is great for them (Jesus did great ministry through answering questions).

After A Speaking Engagement

1)            Seek response from participants and use the feedback to improve

2)            Look for more speaking opportunities

3)            Attend other authors’ speaking engagements and learn

4)            Join speaking clubs, classes or story telling clubs

Additional skills like poise, body posture, tonal variation, use of appropriate props, audience involvement are better taught in such forums.

In Conclusion

Lastly, remember whatever we do must be for God’s glory. We are only vessels, 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 remind us that we should not be demonstrating our wisdom but God’s power. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,  so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

And for those still in fear, this is God’s promise in Exodus 4:12 (NIV) Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”


What would you do when you deliver a section of the talk, ask a question and the audience doesn’t respond and stare at you as if you an alien from Mars?

I love a charged crowd. However, some topics will land you to this situation:

1) Because they have understood
2) Because they have not understood
3) External factors like hunger, fatigue

So I always prepare questions to gauge my crowd. If I discover the reason is 3 above, I have short activities before proceeding to the next chunk.

Plus as much as possible, I avoid anything close to lunch with a crowd that hasn’t been fed before the presentation.

There are instances where you are given blank slate of time ie the host says you have morning (9am) to lunchtime (1pm). How do you prepare for that?

I love such hosts. I would gather as much information as possible.

1) I have previously made written tests (similar to a workbook) that they fill immediately I land (30 mins to 1 hour). This forms the basis of my talk. In this model, time flies without you noticing.

2) In a few instances, I have carried other facilitators to pick up the slots before me (curtain-raisers). Please note that you must pick them very wisely since you should all complement each other rather than compete with one another.

3) This is what I love most ( for groups of 50 and below), I carry out themed team building, with a breather after every activity where we share what we have learned.

You mentioned freestyle speakers, what other types of speakers are there?

Apart from the off the cuff guys, all the rest of us depend on something (PowerPoint, micro notes on papers, index cards, etc) to direct us as we talk. Else we risk losing track of our intended speech.

How do you market yourself as a speaker especially being an author first and a speaker as a secondary function?

It all boils down to your niche. Every niche market has its way of reaching out but above all, the power of networking is unfathomable.

Your network is your net worth

Where can one join speaking clubs, classes or story telling clubs?

Reading clubs and speaking clubs are so many. Check out Toastmasters (they meet at the Nairobi club) among others.

Schools are also great places to build your speaking confidence. Volunteer in church leadership/groups to give you an opportunity to develop confidence and learn how to interact with people. Whenever they ask for one to give a vote of thanks, take it as a practice opportunity.

Always have in your pocket a card with 3 or 5 key points for a talk even if you don’t refer to it. You never know when you might need it.

Referring to this statement – “for paid engagements, what does the pay cover?” The question is, how much or what range do speaking engagements fetch?

Pricing speaking services needs a lot of consideration. I will suggest that people talk to their mentors seriously on that issue. It depends on so many things and varies a lot. However, for me, I have almost standardized the rates for team building services (clustered in regions).

One of my seniors says that many motivational speakers in Kenya undercharge for their speaking engagements. From him, I formed a personal mantra on this: “I’d rather do it free of charge than undercharge my services.”

What do you use to prepare your index cards? Do you print them out or handwrite them?

Many of the times I use printed cards with spaces in between to handle any revelation that lands while I am preaching.

As you become more engaged as a speaker, how do you know you have dressed appropriately? Do you hire someone to assist you on that line?

I am one person who doesn’t like extremes when it comes to fashion. (Where one extreme is pathetic dressing and the other extreme is overdoing it). I have two people I consult on grooming (just for basics) the rest of the time, I play around with information from the host, other factors like expected weather and or the audience.

For instance, in one informal breakfast, the host had asked us to be in a red top? I choose a red sweater because all indications were that it would be a cold morning on the breakfast day.

Helpful Reads

In my library I have the following titles that I check on from time to time, they might be of help to all of us

1)            The Art of Public Speaking – Dale Carnegie

2)            How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication – Larry King

3)            How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

4)            How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

5)            How to Analyze People On Sight – Benedict & Benedict

6)            Talking To Strangers – Malcom Gladwell

7)            The Art Of Seduction – Robert Greene


GITONGA MUTANI is a Life Coach and Motivational Speaker. He is a staunch family man and a friend of Christ with a great passion for the wholesome growth of man. He runs programs in colleges, schools, corporations and homes that train men on true masculinity. His background as a certified public accountant, a Hospitality and Eco-tourism expert, a senior administrator in both public and private firms coupled with interests in Information Technology and Theology have grounded his approach to the many disciplines of life. He lives in Chuka and Nairobi, Kenya with his wife and son.

Mutani is a successful businessman who runs, among several other businesses, MOTRIAD Coaches, a human capital training company. His passion for social justice often leads him into political engagements. Above all things, he preaches Jesus Christ.

Mutani can be found on:
Whatsapp: +254735262578 or
Social media: @mutaniwealth


Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.