What it takes to make it in the world of public speaking.

Loyalty, relatability, trustworthiness – these are elements necessary to a solid connection and relationship. My lovely wife, Randi, holds these expectations of me – and I of her – because we know we are at our best when we have these.

Yet, this concept isn’t always clear when we start applying it to our work – or especially when we apply it to public speaking. (Maybe it’s because those two words alone have the power of sending some people into a panic.) To me, it has never seemed more important than it does right now to build strong foundational elements, like loyalty and trust, into our strategy for truly reaching and connecting with our audiences.

Public speaking has changed over the years. The challenge is to continually create new messaging, insights – aka content – so you’re not a one-trick pony. Yet, we’re so inundated with content and information that people need a reason to be interested in you and focused on what it is that you have to say. I think about this with my podcast because people need a reason to keep coming back to hear what I have to say. In a world that is rapidly being altered by technology, we are tasked with not only creating content but creating an impeccable context in which people can engage.

Speaking of podcasting, a recent guest of mine, who has established himself as an authority in customer service and keynote speaking, shared some tips with me that I want to pass along to you. Chip Bell is a world-renowned authority on customer loyalty and service innovation. He is one of the best keynote speakers in the world, a war veteran, author of 24 books, including his bestselling book, Inside Your Customer’s Imagination.

Creating A Village
The critical part of connection is the never-ending marketing, promoting and network. There’s a lot of competition but it’s a small community in the sense that you want people to be connected and part of your network. You’re tasked with creating your own village but you’ll need to rely on other people’s villages too. If you sold a book to your village, it wouldn’t be enough. You would want/need to sell to other people’s villages as well. So the branding and promoting is super important, but so is the professional network side of it.

Takeaway: If you want to create opportunities to be on stage, your foremost focus should be building your brand and authority – professionally within your network and with your target audience.

A Different Perspective
We’ve just established that if you have a great message that you want to share it’s useless if no one knows who you are. Building a network and connecting with your audience, when you have a strong message, should be fun. It’s a way to contribute to the world and bring your own unique flavor and I think if we look at speaking and building an online presence from this angle, instead of “it’s work you have to do”, this changes our approach and how willing we are to share more of ourselves. Chip says he approaches everything by delivering something that would make his mama proud, and I love this.

Takeaway: When you’re focused on being genuine and delivering something good, it has always been my experience that the Universe will support those efforts.

Focusing on the Connection
A keynote speaker is not just a deliverer of content, but they are a catalyst for connection with the people. They are the ones bringing people together in one big space with the goal of creating a shift. Rather than focusing on your audience being interested in you – how about you be interested in them. Use your speech and stage time to put the focus on them, where they are, and what they need from you in that moment. This is how we connect and create space for something magical to happen.

Takeaway: Focus on what your audience needs over what you want to say. This shift will help you create content and context that is meaningful and impactful.

A Hiccup in the System
When COVID hit and everything went virtual, keynote speakers collectively panicked and some decided to give away their virtual keynote. That way, the bureaus or meeting planners would hear it and that exposure would get bookings once things were back to normal. Initially, I thought that might hurt the speaking industry but now what we’re seeing is that free exposure was still not as valuable, virtually, than a live in-person experience. The energy in a room, the personal connection a speaker creates with the audience, those are not easily replaced. And we all really felt this after spending months Zoom-ing.

Takeaway: It is very difficult to create the passion, energy and connection we experience live, through a screen and lens. However, this is still the reality for so many of us. So we can use these opportunities to become better at connecting with our audience, to practice authenticity, to keep our audience attentive and to get really comfortable with the message we’re delivering. And get in the habit of asking yourself, as you plan a speech or before you go live, why am I here? Who am I here for? Put your focus and energy in the right space.