Penn Whispers to Speakers

Joanna Penn, Speaking

Joanna Penn.  2014.  Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives, and Other Introverts.  UK: Creative Penn Limited.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

In analyzing the results of the launch of my first book last month, a surprising finding emerged.  While my online sales were frustratingly few, sales during personal appearances were stronger than for typical authors [1].  The question then came up:  should I be speaking more?  And what should such speaking look like?  When I stumbled across Joanna Penn’s book, Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives, and Other Introverts, I immediately ordered a copy.

Background as Speaker

Mind you, I have been speaking publicly for most of my professional life, both as an economist and as a pastor.  However, economists typically address audiences of other economists and pastors typically address a familiar congregation.  In neither case is the audience wholly unfamiliar; in both cases the audience response is fairly gracious of what is being presented [2].  Public speaking to unfamiliar audience to speak about a book is a bit more out there than I am accustomed to.

Organization of Book

Penn states her writing objective as follows:  In this book, I’ll share everything that I know as a professional speaker and introvert (11).  She breaks this objective down into 4 parts:

  1. The practicalities of speaking;
  2. The psychological aspects of speaking;
  3. The business side; and
  4. Interviews with professional speakers (11).

In other words, this book focuses on things that speakers do and worry about; it does not focus on how to write and deliver good speeches.

The Mix

An important point in my own choice of this book is that Penn straddles 2 worlds:  public speaking and book writing and publishing.  While there is a lot of overlap these days between these 2 worlds—speakers that write (politicians, for example) and writers that speak (best-selling authors that do appearances)—the mechanics of these 2 professional realms are filled with thousands of unwritten rules, details, and networking requirements.  If the subject matter were different, an entirely different set of observations would arise.  Think of the worlds of IT gurus or sports figures or film stars. Penn’s niche and expertise speaks specifically into my space as a writer/publisher.


Penn drills down into her audience a bit deeper by focusing on the fears and anxieties of “introverts” and “creatives”.  In some sense, she is carving out a niche here with not just authors, but authors focused on creative writing.  Perhaps even more specifically female, creative writers (17-19) [3].

Types of Speaking

Two sections of the book were of special interest to me.  The first focused on 6 types of speaking.  Penn lists those as:

  1. Keynote/Inspirational speaking;
  2. Content speaking;
  3. Workshop presenting/facilitating;
  4. Mc/Event chair;
  5. Chair of panel or panelist; and
  6. Reader/performer of your own work (24-25).

I suppose that an author presenting their own work might fit into most of these types, depending on the work.  One type of speaking on my mind as I read the book is not on the list:  radio interviewing.

Role for Video

The second section of special interest to me was her discussion of using video.  For example, Penn sees 6 uses for video:

  1. Self-improvement tool;
  2. Evidence of speaking ability;
  3. Bonus material for spicing up sessions;
  4. Testimonials;
  5. Marketing; and
  6. Premium product for customers (133-134)

Although I have produced a number of You-Tube videos for Leader and Media Guides [4] to promote my book, video remains a source of anxiety for me [5].  Seeing the scope of use for video helps to reduce anxiety by demonstrating the range and real value of their use.

AIDA Principle

Penn’s background in marketing broke through in her comments on social media.  She cites the AIDA principle:

  1. Attention.  Social media content lets people know you exist and what you do.  Hopefully, your content is interesting and informative
  2. Interest.  Once people know you exist, they have to know how to find you.
  3. Desire.  Once people know that you exist, they need to know that they can trust you.  Are you authentic or simply interested in attention?
  4. Action.  Once people know you, how to find you, and trust you, then when an appropriate occasion arises they may turn to you for advice and products (129-130).

AIDA makes sense not only in social media, pastors effectively use it by practicing a “ministry of presence”. It also works with animals, like horses [6].


Joanna Penn’s Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives, and Other Introverts is a real gem.  Over the years I have read a number of books on public speaking—most on preaching—and this is the first book with real value added in terms of what speakers worry about most—the zillions of details where things go wrong or should be prepared for in advance.  Penn is obviously very readable.  Authors should take special note.


[1] Members of my book club reported that the industry average number of sales for a public book signing was 3 books.  My first two appearances resulted in sales of 8 and 10 books.

[2] Economists sometimes talk about the “prisoner’s dilemma”. Prisoners informally agree without consultation not to “rat each other out”, in part, because of the threat of retaliation in kind. Economists may seem to be a tough bunch to present in front of because of all the tough questions, but the informal agreement usually is to limit questions to the topic at hand—no ad hominem (personal) attacks.

[3] Penn lists her Myers Briggs type as INFJ (18).  This is surprising because her book abounds with details—a big selling point for readers and a classic flag for a sensate personality, not intuitive personality—more like an ISFJ.

[4] Check out

[5] To borrow a phrase from Garrison Keillor, I am particularly shy of video and Skype where my “face made for radio” might be a liability hard to control for.

[6] A film called The Horse Whisperer (1998) staring Robert Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas, employed a ministry of presence to calm frightened horses (

Penn Whispers to Speakers

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