Book review: From Page to Stage

Almost 16 years ago, I was hired by a financial services company to speak at a breakfast meeting of women business owners.

I had no way of knowing when I signed the contract months before that my father’s funeral in my hometown 120 miles away would be the day before.

Tucking my grief and exhaustion aside for that presentation was probably one of the toughest things I’ve done professionally. Public speaking requires focus and energy, and I was just plain worn out.

Several things helped me do the best I could under the circumstances.

First, my client acknowledged my loss with a lovely flower arrangement and a warm hug. She and her colleagues discreetly explained the reason for the flowers to guests over eggs and home fries.

Second, I knew I was being paid to deliver a professional presentation. My client had a right to expect quality content presented appropriately.

Finally, I don’t like to disappoint. So I did the best I could that morning.

From Page to Stage

I was reminded of this challenging situation while reading Betsy Graziani Fasbinder’s new book, From Page to Stage: Inspiration, Tools, and Public Speaking Tips for Writers.

In Chapter 16, she discusses why she believes “presence” is “the most important delivery skill of all.” Fasbinder says presence “is about being fully attuned emotionally, intellectually, and physically in the moment . . . .”

I agree. That’s why I wanted to be truly present for this group when speaking the day after my father’s funeral.

It wasn’t the only part of Fasbinder’s book that resonated with me, though. Some sections triggered more memories (including the time I wish I had handled a question from the audience better). Others reminded me of areas where I can improve.

What will you find in Fasbinder’s book?

What’s in this thorough and well-written book for you?

So much!

Here are some of the things that stand out for me in From Page to Stage as I think about what you might find most helpful.

  • It covers far more than speaking before an audience at a book signing or at a conference. Fasbinder helps readers see how what she teaches can be applied when pitching an agent, being interviewed by the press or a podcaster, or presenting at a virtual summit.
  • There’s useful information for authors and writers at all levels. New to public speaking? Read every page. Are you a veteran presenter? I’ll bet you’ll be intrigued by the story map in Chapter 4.
  • Need strategies for getting your audience to tune out the world and truly listen to what you’re saying? Use a few of the “spellbinders” in Chapter 7.
  • Chapter 18 details the LEAD approach to answering difficult questions, whether they’re from the audience or a reporter. (LEAD is the acronym for listen, empathize, answer, and detail.)
  • You’ll learn how to handle “that guy.” You know who “that guy” is. He — or she — is the person who takes the microphone and starts sharing . . . and sharing . . . and sharing what he knows so others know he knows. Or the woman who asks a question that’s unrelated to the presentation topic. Or the contrarian who wants to argue.
  • The anecdotes, examples, and author’s experiences bring life and energy to a how-to topic. I felt like I was getting advice from Fasbinder over lattes at Starbucks.
  • The book’s format includes the kinds of special features that I love to see in prescriptive nonfiction. She offers “mental shifts” that encourage readers to challenge presumptions. “Make it stick” sections feature writing exercises along with speaking examples you will want to look up online.
  • If you want to read from your book at an event, you’ll learn how to select what to read plus how to include it in your presentation.

More on book clubs, please

I would have liked to have seen more on speaking to book clubs either in person or virtually. Fasbinder only touches on them, even though they’re a big part of the speaking lineup for many authors.

In addition, like most authors except me, Fasbinder refers to book-related presentations as “talks.”

That word feels demeaning to me.

When you go to the trouble of preparing a compelling presentation that’s related to your book, you’re giving a full-blown presentation, not a talk. I’d like to see authors use “talk” less and select a replacement word with more gravitas.

I also want to encourage pragmatic souls to see past references like those where we’re asked to get our hearts ready for speaking. That seems a little “touchy-feely” to me. It’s appropriate for my yoga instructor but maybe less so for a book on the business side of authorship.

From Page to Stage: Inspiration, Tools, and Public Speaking Tips for Writers is a public speaking master class for authors. Whether you’re a beginner or just looking to up your game, you’ll find what you need in this new book.

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  1. Great topic and yes, From Page to Stage is a winning formula for authors. It looks like the book covers a great deal every author would benefit from. Excellent post… as always!

  2. Sandy,

    What a great review! Thank you for pointing to sections relevant to us with various needs and concerns, as well as identifying what you wish had gotten more coverage.

    Your opening story about having to speak the day after your father’s funeral brought back memories. A few days after my mother’s funeral I posed for a Los Angeles Times photographer so he could get shots for an article in which I was featured. Talk about tough! It’s times like these when professionalism gets you through.

  3. This is an excellent, comprehensive book review. As I’ve got a new book releasing in Sept and 11 speaking gigs planned this fall, this book will surely improve my ‘presentations’– definitely the word I prefer to use for what I do. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Kayleen! I’m glad it was helpful. (And hey, I’m glad you’d rather use “presentation,” too. “Talk” seems too casual given the thought, effort, and energy we put into what we share in a structured way with a group.)

      : )


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