Avoiding Sales Pitches for Books at Your Conference

Author: Convene Editors       

creative thinking

Rohit Bhargava signs copies of his book during Convening Leaders 2019 in Pittsburgh. A meet-the-author book signing could alleviate the hard sell of books at events. (Elaine Manusakis)

PCMA’s Catalyst community offers members a platform to ask each other questions, share ideas, or, as the website says, “communicate and collaborate.” Each month Convene features some of the most popular topics in the forum. Here’s a sampling from a recent Catalyst discussion.

Meet and Greet

“Has anyone incorporated an author series into their conference sessions?” Dana Tilghman, senior events planner at Minitab, asked the PCMA Catalyst community. “I’m considering this for our user conference in 2020. We have several individuals who have written books that include our software and I want to get some criteria out there for those folks to submit a presentation without sounding like a sales pitch for their book. We would also allow them to have a booth in our exhibit hall to sell their books.”


We do a “Meet the Author” lunch and book signing as part of our event. The book can either be directly or indirectly related to the meeting content — we usually brainstorm options with our planning committee. We ask the authors to give a 20- or 30-minute presentation of their book. We defer to them on content, but generally, they talk about how they came to write the book and more about the book as it relates to the overall meeting content. After their talk, we have a moderated discussion with the author, and then it’s open for questions and answers. The event ends with a book signing. We sell copies of the book in our onsite bookstore.

If you’re trying to eliminate the appearance of a sales pitch, I’d suggest focusing on the importance of the content in the book to the attendees in conversations or invitations with potential speakers — call out specifically what in the book would be of interest. And we find having planning calls with speakers is helpful to ensure everyone is on the same page for these types of higher-level, high-exposure talks. Having a moderator and time for questions might also be ways to mitigate the presentation looking like a sales pitch.

Mariellen Morris, director of conferences, Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research