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From Oct 1-6 2010, I was the speaker for “Write and Sell Your Book”, a retreat organized by Robin Sparks and OneWorld Retreats at Kumara Sakti resort in Ubud, Bali. We had a fantastic group of people ranging in writing experience, but all with amazing life experiences to share! It was a privilege to share information and inspiration with them on writing, publishing and book marketing for a digital age.
I have been doing speaking events for 18 months now, but this was my first international speaking event and also my first multi-day retreat.I definitely want to do more of them as it was a brilliant experience for me as well as the participants (check out testimonials here).
Here are some of my lessons learned which may help you in your own speaking career (remember, authors should be speakers these days!)
- Prepare extensively. I had prepared 8 x 3-hour workshops with powerpoint presentations for each, as well as doing a questionnaire for all the participants to get their questions prior. The sessions were on Writing, Creativity, Publishing, Branding, Blogging, Social Networking, Multimedia Audio and Video and Author Entrepreneur. All of those I can do as a full-day workshop so I had a lot of material to chunk down. I use the Presentation Zen methodology which is all about using images and few words, rather than the death by powerpoint we see so much in the corporate world. It is much more effective but it also takes more time to prepare as you need to work harder to find the perfect images.
- Be adaptable and flexible. I arrived at the resort on the day of the first session so I didn't have much time to set up or get to know the venue. We opted for the shaded seating area which looked out onto the jungle and the swimming pool. It was brilliant to be in the open air but when it rained, the water came through the roof and we all scrambled for the electronics! Bali also has sporadic internet and power cuts, so for one session we were relying on physical back up notes and laptop batteries. But this was a retreat in an idyllic setting, NOT a corporate retreat in a business suite. So we just relaxed and got into the material anyway! I also usually wear smarter clothing and more makeup but in this setting, sarongs and bare feet were more the order of the day… sometimes you just have to go with the flow!
- Join in, but look after yourself. I was concerned on a multi-day retreat that my energy levels would be severely depleted by teaching for 5-6 hours per day but with a silent break at lunchtime I was fine. I have shared about being an introvert before, but I did get enough alone time to rejuvenate in between sessions. I was shocked to find out that most speakers don't spend any time with the students outside the teaching sessions, but I ate with the group and did the social activities too. I really enjoyed the company of the amazing women there. So I think a blend of keeping your energy up and being social is important.
- Share your personal stories. Multi-day retreats are often time for people to share more of themselves than just one speaking performance where you are much more separate from your audience. In the spirit of the retreat, I joined in the sharing and found it a valuable time for me and also loved to be part of the group, and not just ‘the teacher'. By hearing stories and by sharing in them, I was able to weave aspects of this into the teaching which made it more personal to people. I was constantly adjusting my sessions and slides to cater for people's questions and experiences, so I needed to be a part of that sharing.
- Understand the physical aspects of a multi-day event. I stand up to speak so I was pretty tired after standing up all day. I found the daily yoga practice on the retreat to be a brilliant way to incorporate different movements and I am sure that helped my concentration as well. It was very hot and humid so I drank a lot of water anyway, but that also helped with my voice. I didn't drink alcohol until the last night and went to bed early. Speaking does drain me, but it is also exhilarating as well!
- Take feedback. I always ask for feedback, both positive for testimonials and also for improvement. It turns out I still have too much material for many people. I am a content-rich speaker and pack my seminars with actionable information, but sometimes I try to cram too much in. It was interesting to find that even 5 days was not enough to get through it all! (anyone for a full week's retreat!). I also videoed and recorded some of the sessions in order to look for improvements in my own performance. I am always striving to improve as I am passionate about getting this information out there!
In conclusion, the Bali retreat was a fantastic experience and I am looking forward to doing more international, multi-day retreats.Thank you to Robin Sparks for taking a chance on a new speaker and also to Iyan and Claude at OneWorld Retreats for the wonderful time!