I spent the day yesterday with a wonderful client who is exploring how he might develop a successful, sustained professional speaking career. We began, as we always do, discussing the idea.
That’s where a speaking career begins. It doesn’t begin with the money, or the desire to perform on a stage, or the need for the love of audiences. All those things may follow, and all are potentially important aspects of a speaking career. But the idea is where you need to start.
Following closely on the idea is the audience with whom you want to share the idea. The two are integrally related. Ideas beget audiences and audiences beget ideas. Neither can exist without the other. So you have to talk about both, almost at the same time, but we start with the idea because that’s where the passion resides, and you need passion to take you the distance.
Now, this client proposed at least three related ideas, and at least three potential audiences. He wanted to do all of them. Not because he was megalomaniacal, or grandiose, or ego-driven. But because he was genuinely passionate about his overall idea, deeply believed in its importance, and very much wanted to share it with the world.
Those are good impulses. But it was my job to help him choose one idea and one audience, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. Wouldn’t that narrow his potential impact, scope, and revenue?
No. It’s the way the world works, today. We are information-addled, over-busy digital creatures today, and when you want to get our attention, you have to narrow down your message, your brand, and your persona into a crisp, graspable bite-size chunk that we can get quickly. No half-baked, multi-faceted, renaissance personas need apply. They just won’t get traction.
So your first job, if you want to make an impact on this world, now, is to choose your idea and your audience and make them both specific enough that they scare you a little. That’s where you need to start.
Of course, if you become wildly successful, you can extend your brand, branch out into new territory, cut the soles off your sandals and learn to play the flute. Whatever you want. But while you’re getting traction, keep choosing. Narrow it down. Pick one idea and one audience.