What does it take to create a successful speech – and a successful speaking career — in 2016? The rules have changed, and it’s useful to consider the following seven keys to successful speaking in order to ensure that every time you step onto the stage you’re sure-footed and don’t make a wrong move.


Authenticity begins with personal clarity about your own values, as well as about your goals and needs. In this era, we demand more of one another – more authenticity, more emotion, and yes, even more self-disclosure. You get to choose what you reveal – and we don’t want too much – see Key #2 – but we need something to know that you’re real.


It’s a commonplace that the pace of life and work just keeps on increasing, and that means we often lose track of the big picture, or that we simply don’t know what we don’t know. That hugely increases the need for someone to keep us straight – to give us a few simple rules to keep our heads in the game, above water, and screwed on tight. And oh, yes – get it done in 20 minutes, please, like a TED talk.


Today, in our rush to get it done, we use mental shortcuts for things that we used to take time to do. For example, we tend to use consistency as an imperfect test for establishing trust. We accept that we ourselves can change our minds and suffer bad moods – but we’re much less likely to accept this kind of natural inconsistency from others. For better or for worse, this desire for consistency makes it much more essential to keep your messages straight and your story unitary.


We demand greater and greater transparency from our leaders. This demand has huge implications not only for internal speakers – such as team leaders and managers, who must work much harder to show their teams how their work contributes to the broader mission – but also for external keynoters, who must be prepared to work more openly than ever before.


Aside from Donald Trump, the rest of us are expected to show greater understanding of and greater sensitivity to more and more perspectives than ever before. Being caught out with a lack of empathy for someone or some group can completely derail a speech – and a career.


It’s not enough any longer to simply stand and deliver your information to an audience. You have to engage them with your stories – and show that you’re at least willing to hear their stories in return. A real conversation is table stakes for speakers today. That demands far more attention and attention to detail than speaking required in the past.


Audiences expect more than just a speech from their keynoters. Whether it’s working the room before the talk, or hanging out with the audience after – for the rest of the conference – audiences expect to be able to connect with their speakers today in ways that go way beyond merely dropping a business card in a box to get an email of the slides as a follow up. You may find yourself essentially providing free consulting long after an event depending on the level of engagement and the expectations of your audience.

Ignore these new rules of successful speaker at your peril. The speaking world has changed and keynoters need to change with it. As the good general said, if you hate change, you’re going to like irrelevancy even less.

We’ll be talking about successful public speaking at our one-day workshop in Boston on April 22nd. We’re keeping it small so that we can be interactive, but we’ve got a few places left. Sign up now!


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