Speakers, what are your plans for 2017? How are you going to prepare yourself to develop your best voice, presence, and message this coming year? The good news is that it’s a great time to be a speaker; the conference marketplace has bounced back from its 2009 lows to record opportunities. The bad news is that the competition is fiercer than ever. Everyone wants to stand on that keynote stage, rock the audience, and move them to action. So here’s your to-do list for 2017 to get you in the best shape ever.
1.Do your daily prep. Speaking is a kind of psychological torment for most speakers – wonderful when it goes well, and like a preview of hell when it doesn’t. So take some of the chance out of the equation by beginning each day with your own mental preparations. Get a positive mantra to tune up your unconscious mind and remove any blocks to success that are lurking down there. And run your mental movie – the one of you killing it from the stage in front of thousands of enraptured audience members – every day.
2.Study great speakers. The study of great speakers – indeed, most speakers, never mind how good or bad – should be part of your daily routine. There are no excuses now – TED makes it easy. Take a speech a day, watch the speaker go to work, and ask yourself, what about this speaker’s story and style do I like, and what doesn’t work for me? The idea is never to copy another speaker, but to learn from them in order to become the best you can be.
3.Work with a partner. Speaking can be a lonely venture, especially the more successful you get. You’re on the road a lot, there are a lot of nights in hotel rooms, and you’re always on the move. So think about partnering up with a speech buddy that you check in with regularly, helping each other with road warrior tips, critiquing each other, and generally supporting each other’s vision as you have the chance. It might make the road much more bearable. And you might learn something.
4.Spend a day each week keeping up with your expertise. The shortest half-life of any element of any speaker’s life is her expertise. You need to be constantly checking in with your field, your fellow experts, and the periodicals in your field, to stay in touch, keep your own material fresh with new additions, and to avoid getting stale. Imagine how I felt this year, thinking I knew something about what makes a great political speaker, when along came Donald Trump and upended most of what we thought we knew about the rules of the rhetorical road for running for president. Time to relearn!
5.Take time off for re-charging, and take care of yourself. You need regular breaks in order to be able to focus when you need to, and you need to do the obvious things too, to keep yourself in top form: good sleep and eating habits, and regular exercise. A few years ago, everyone was saying, “Who needs sleep? I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” Now we realize that’s a recipe for mediocrity, not greatness. The human body uses sleep to re-charge, to re-connect, and to re-learn. You can’t give your best to your audiences if you don’t have it to give.
There you are – a sure-fire program for success in 2017. Here’s to some great speaking.
(I’m going to take a little time off at year-end, so will only be posting once this week and once next. I’ll be back to the regular output in January 2017. Happy holidays!)