Randall Payleitner


How to Turn Your Book Into a Talk

I recently went to the Q Conference in Nashville. It was my first time attending and, as advertised, it is quite a whirlwind.

The format is 2.5 days, 16 hours or so of speaking, and at least 42 different presentations. Most of the speakers get either 9 or 18 minutes to make you remember them—with very short breaks in between.

These presenters are advocates, pastors, world-changers, and, of course, authors. Many, though not all, of them derived their talks from the whole or a piece of a book they had written. As a book publisher, I loved this. And as a learner at this conference I took in quite a bit about how to best turn your book into a talk. Here goes:


(1) Know the audience.

The audience for your book is likely more general than the audience to whom you are speaking in person. Answer these three questions ahead of planning your talk:

  1. Why are they gathered?
  2. What do they care about?
  3. When, in the program, are you speaking (Before lunch? First? After a famous person?).


(2) Do find the one point you want your audience to remember.

People forget talks faster than they forget books.


(3) Don’t give your talk the same title as your book.

This will help you hone your message to stay on point with your talk. You don't want to try and make yourself say everything that happens in your book. The Q Conference's specific "time schedule" is a perfect foil for the "say everything" talk. I loved it (see next point).


(4) Don’t go over your allotted time.

The organizers of an event know their audience better than you do. Stick to the time you’ve been given every time (especially if there’s a giant clock counting down that everyone can see—like at Q)!


(5) Do explicitly mention your book.

Most people at conferences and in an audience want to know how to follow up on your ideas in a deeper way. Don't make it a huge sales pitch, but don't also humble yourself out of a few interested readers.


In the end, I really enjoyed myself. The amount of energy, time, sweat, stress, prayer, and research that goes into writing a book will often go a long way toward helping its author craft a great talk. Writing a book and giving a talk are different skillsets, to be sure, but they both require clarity, a willing audience, and creative delivery.