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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, Shannon Alter shares how her new book, Be Influential, Surefire Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills, helps readers achieve more.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Shannon Alter about her new book, Be Influential, Surefire Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills, how she inspires her readers, and her creative process.
Tell me a bit about who you are
I’m Shannon Alter and I’m the author of three books. My latest book “Be Influential, Surefire Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills” was an Amazon bestseller.
I also have over 25 years of experience in hospitality and commercial real estate management and work with leaders and organizations to help them to communicate with clarity so that they learn exactly what to say and how to say it.
I’m a Certified Property Manager® and a National Instructor for the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM®), the Institute of Organization Management (IOM) and the American Management Association (AMA). I have trained professionals in 10 countries, including Eastern Europe, Canada, China, South Korea, South Africa and Ghana.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I actually thought about it in fourth grade! One of my best childhood friends and I started by writing a neighbourhood newspaper. I’d say it was more like yellow journalism, even though we didn’t know what that was. Our inaugural edition screamed something like “Teenager Roams the Woods”. This was way before smartphones, so we wrote it out and edited it and my mom took it to her office to copy it. We sold it for 25 cents to as many neighbours who were willing to buy.
When I was in high school I was editor of our school newspaper and in college, I was a theatre major, so learning how to tell stories effectively has always been there. This is one of the skills I use the most, and do best. In my book you’ll find lots of stories and examples throughout, by design.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I wrote two earlier books about 10 years ago. One was a tactical commercial real estate topic on how to work with small tenants. I did the writing and the organization that approached me to write the book did the heavy lifting for publication and production. My second book was also on presentation skills, but definitely a quick primer. I didn’t even have my face on the cover!
This time, I had intended to just update the second book, but when I started to update it I realized that I really needed a different slant and positioning, so I started a different book from scratch. The slant this time is really “everyone can do this”- meaning everyone can learn to present and communicate well, whether they are presenting a business case to their boss, working with other departments, sitting on a panel or talking with their child’s soccer coach.
I also used excellent resources this time: my book editor and graphic designer, PR expert and book consultant.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
All told, it took around nine months to complete it, from the initial idea to it being published.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
It took me a similar amount of time to write “Be Influential”. I hired a team of experts to help me create it, which helped to speed up parts of the process, but it still took around eight months from when I first started to write to when it was published. It’s not something you want to rush as the book will be on bookshelves for a very long time and is often purchased by people who don’t already know you, so you want to make a great first impression.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Be Influential?
I have been hearing from clients and colleagues that the way people (ie. their employees and clients) communicate is different now versus pre-pandemic. There’s a feeling that communication is more awkward today than it’s ever been.
Even though not everyone is on a sales team per se, we all sell every day, in every way. This book is for leaders at every level who want to boost their confidence, overcome imposter syndrome and communicate effectively.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Be Influential?
Time, definitely. It took more time than I anticipated. The ideas don’t always come out fast and furious! Having a book consultant was so worthwhile.
What was your research process for Be Influential?
I am well-versed in this topic and have been doing workshops and executive coaching on it for several years. Additionally, I intentionally surveyed a group of real estate leaders and talked with my clients and colleagues to see where the gaps are. And, I also practised on friends and family!
How did you plan the structure of Be Influential?
I used what I call a “whiteboard hack”, which I also describe further in my book.
The premise is simple, but not always easy to do. My first goal is always to get all of my ideas out of my head (I have a lot of ideas!), then to organize them coherently. I also use this when I’m preparing a presentation or workshop.
I use a white board and a pack of Post-It notes, but you could also use a desk or other flat surface. I write one idea only on each post-it note and stick it up on the whiteboard in no particular order. Depending on my topic, I could have five Post-It notes, 50 Post-It notes, or even more!
Then, I start to organize the Post-It ideas, moving them around to suit. For this book I organised them (still on the whiteboard) under each chapter. I also am not afraid to “kill my darlings”. Some ideas may not work for a particular chapter or piece so I park them off to the side. I may eventually work them back in, save them for another chapter or presentation, or delete them.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Be Influential need?
Yes, I had working sessions with my book editor and we also had a proofreader. It’s a great idea to use these resources otherwise you’re at the mercy of whatever is in your own head!
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
First, sketch out your ideas, use the whiteboard hack!
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Not yet! But I am thinking about book number four.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Oh yes, absolutely! The world is much noisier now than it was when I wrote my first two books, so it was definitely more effort, but I love the outcome!
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