Free Public Speaking Course — How to Give Book Readings that Engage Readers and Make Them Want to Read Your Book

by Karen Jonson

What’s Your Public Speaking Fear Factor? — An Online Course May Give You More Confidence

Cartoon Lady Speaker at Podium

Here’s some love for you today – a link to a FREE online course on public speaking: a skill every author should master.

I’m sharing some love today — this 14th of February 2014.

Recently I found a free online course on public speaking. I signed up. Then I realized that I should let other indie authors know about this great opportunity too.

After all, many authors are of the introverted variety of the human species. Yet, public speaking is one of the best ways spread the word out about our books.

I’ve had the great luck to find four opportunities to speak about my book. Like any introvert I was nervous.

I even prefaced one of my talks to a Rotary Club group with the statement: I’m not an experienced public speaker.

After my talk, one of the men in the audience came up to me and told me I did a great job.

“You were speaking about something you are passionate about, and it really showed. That’s the secret to great public speaking.”

He doesn’t know how much I appreciated those words of support.

And he was 100 percent right!

By forcing myself to break through my public speaking fears, I discovered that it was much easier to speak in front of a group about my book than I thought it would be.

In fact, I really enjoyed it.

Authors Who Love Their Books Are Better Public Speakers

I have the great fortune to live near one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Every month they have a full schedule of author book readings.

I typically attend one or two book readings a month.

I also attend a wonderful event held every year in Austin — the Texas Book Festival. For two days, I attend back-to-back author lectures each Saturday and Sunday.

So I’ve heard many authors speak and read from their books. And most of the time I marvel at the fact that the majority of the authors are great public speakers.

After my experiences of standing in front of groups to discuss my book, I understand why. Because, as authors, we are talking about something we love and know intimately: our books.

That said, I still believe that there is room for improvement in nearly everyone’s public speaking skills.

For example, I want to become more riveting, smoother in my delivery, and more enticing in the subject matter of my books — so that my speaking engagements result in book sales.

I’ve been planning to attend Toastmasters — which everyone, including one of Austin’s premier public speakers, Thom Singer — highly recommends. But I’ve ran into a number of scheduling problems, so I haven’t made it there yet.

Authors Who Take Public Speaking Courses Gain Confidence

Then a few weeks ago I found a great opportunity — a free online public speaking course, called Introduction to Public Speaking, offered by a respected university: the University of Washington.

Here’s how they describe the course:

The overriding goal of this course is to demystify the process of writing, practicing, and performing a clear and engaging speech. In so doing, I hope this course can help each student improve the quality of his or her speeches and confidence with which he or she presents them.

The course will cover the topic from several angles including:

  • Creating and delivering informative presentations
  • Speaking confidently with appropriate rate, projection, movement, and vocal variety
  • Learning how to evaluate and critique speeches

The 10-week course will deliver lessons in several ways, including short video lectures, discussions forums, quizzes, Google hangouts, and peer assessment assignments.

The course is offered by Coursera, one of the many new marketplaces for online courses. Here’s how Coursera describes itself on its website:

We believe in connecting people to a great education so that anyone around the world can learn without limits. Coursera is an education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. Our technology enables our partners to teach millions of students rather than hundreds. We envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education that has so far been available to a select few. We aim to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.

I really love how Coursera organizes information for the students. I have my own dashboard which lists courses in three categories: current courses I’m taking, past courses I’ve taken, and upcoming courses I’ve signed up for. There’s also a page for my course records, including any results from the courses I’ve taken, including what they call “statements of accomplishment.”

To register for this free course, or check out other courses available on Coursera, go here:

P.S. I’m not being paid to share this with you. I just think it’s a great opportunity for those of us who want to improve our public speaking skills.

For author-specific public speaking lessons, the Market Your Book Smarter online course I offer to independent authors includes a multi-part lesson on public speaking including: secrets to fearless public speaking, ways to keep your audience awake, the deadly sins of public speaking, the top tips for conquering your fear of public speaking, and more. It’s just one of many author-centric topics covered in this course. Learn more about the Market Your Book Smarter course and register here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

vicki lee zell October 24, 2014 at 6:35 am

I love hearing authors talk about their works. I’ve never done so, and being out in the sticks, from a small town, with a hard way of getting around, being a guest speaker would be near impossible for me. So I try to reach out through the internet best I can. It’s a very exciting world now with so many venues to explore. So I think what you’re doing here is wonderful for upcoming authors. Bless you.


Karen Jonson October 24, 2014 at 11:06 am

Hi Vicki,

You are welcome. I am happy to help my fellow authors.

Being “out in the sticks” as you say is not a problem in the Internet age. I hope I can give you some great ideas for marketing your books.

All My Best,


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