Writers speak? Out loud?

Sheila Hart-O’Connor, copywriter and Creative Freelancer Conference veteran (here’s what she wrote when she got home from CFC 09), just did her first speaking engagement.

“Great writers are often terrible speakers.”

At least, that’s what one of my college professors claimed several years ago. He, of course, couldn’t have been talking about me. I loved to talk (still do).

Fast forward to last week, to the copywriting group I had recently joined, and to the fact that I had been asked to speak at the meeting.

Speak, not talk.

But This Is What I’ve Always Wanted

Over the past few years, I’ve heard many successful freelancers attest to the benefits of public speaking, and I also wanted to develop this skill.

But I am a writer. I write my thoughts; I translate others’ thoughts into effective copywriting.

How was I going to give an equally effective and meaningful presentation?

The Right Topic

It had been more than 10 years since I had been responsible for any type of presentation; I was overwhelmed by thoughts of which topic to choose and how to present it.

So I decided to start with what I knew best.


I talked to my husband about how stuck I was on creating a presentation idea. I talked to him about how doubtful I was that I would have anything to contribute. I talked his ear off (he’s a patient fellow) until I ran out of things to talk about.

Then, something incredible happened.

He gave me a starting point.

From there, I created an outline, which I worked and re-worked until it made sense.

For simplicity’s sake, I decided on three main points, and then I created sub-points that would provide further support and examples.

I had never created a PowerPoint presentation, but I did.

I had never created handouts, but I did.

Then, I put the PowerPoint presentation on my screen and I printed out my talking points.

I read along with the slides. Would you believe it actually felt natural?

The Time Had Come

When I arrived at the meeting, I felt more excited than nervous. Because I had prepared, I was really comfortable with the ideas I was presenting. I couldn’t wait to share my thoughts.

Of course, you don’t truly know how you’ll feel about the presentation until you’re actually giving it. Luckily, the group is one that readily participated in the presentation, so it felt more like a conversation than a formal presentation.

After I was finished, I got a lot of great feedback from the other members.

“That was useful information.”

“I am going to use that suggestion you mentioned.”

“You should give presentations more often.”

So there, take that college professor. I spoke – and I spoke well.

Sheila Hart-O’Connor is a Chicago-based copywriter that works with small businesses and in-house marketing departments to develop clear, effective communication. More information about Sheila can be found online at www.writerathart.com. Or followed at @writerathart

P.S. Join us this year for the Creative Freelancer Conference in Boston, June 21-22, 2012 (or get the Big Ticket and attend all of HOW Design Live). Early bird discount ends March 30.

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