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As 2018 winds down and we all get ready for 2019, it’s a natural time to think about what it’s going to take for speakers to succeed next year.  The trends I’ve seen suggest that the competitive climate for professional speakers will be tougher than ever in 2019.  There are more good speakers competing for keynote slots than ever.  A number of topics have had long runs and may not be as compelling to meeting planners next year.  And those audiences?  Those are full of stressed-out, information-overloaded, disaffected employees who have too many to-dos.  They’re tougher than ever to win over.

That all adds up to one thing:  speakers are going to find their resilience tested in 2019 as never before.  So what’s it going to take to succeed?  Following are my top five characteristics speakers are going to need to thrive in 2019.

1.The ability to focus fast and thoroughly.  This will be no year to go down rabbit holes or get distracted by all the million other things you could do.  You’ll need to be able to focus quickly on the essentials:  a great message, a kick-ass speech, and a supportive community of like-minded people.

2.The ability to access your emotions.  Speakers have to do the show even though they’re stressed, sick, or under fire on a lot of fronts.  The way to succeed in difficult circumstances is not to stuff or ignore your feelings, but rather to accept them, allow them their full meaning, and use them to get the most out of the moment that you can.

3.The ability to manage your anxiety.  One of the unintended consequences of our information-rich world today is that there’s a never-ending set of things to worry about.  And enough of those worries will come true to justify worrying about them all.  The result is that between unreliable tech, iffy travel options, and, well, possible pandemics, the list of things that could go wrong is virtually endless.  And yet, you’re going to have to keep going anyway, and at the end of it all you want to be having fun.  So whatever deal you strike with your fears, make it one that allows you to motor on with some style.

4.The ability to manage your frustration.  When some of the things that could go wrong do go wrong, if you’re caught up in your own bubble of importance, a natural result would be anger – at the airlines, the A/V people, the world.  Try to remember they’re all doing their jobs the best they can and they don’t have sabotaging your career high on their list.  They’ve got too many other things to worry about too.  Cut the people around you a break.

Funny story about that:  I was traveling last week on what should have been a simple flight to NYC.  I ended up on 4 flights to get there and back again.  When the first flight ran into difficulties, and we were all offloaded back to the gate, there was the usual scrum to get on other flights ASAP.  As a result, there were lots of stressed people and raised voices.  I walked over to the poor frazzled man at the help desk, and deliberately gave him a big smile.  We chatted for a minute about the uncertainties of travel, and then we got to work on my problem.  The result was complicated and involved delays, but I was going to get there in the end.  I thanked him profusely for helping me.  The next day, a $25 credit was issued to my airline account from the help desk with a thank you note.  Who knew niceness actually paid?

5.The ability to relax when the opportunity arises.  I’ve known some speakers to replay their less-than-perfect moments over and over again for years.  That’s not only debilitating; it can stand in the way of you doing a good job next time.  So part of a speaker’s survival arsenal is the ability to let the tensions of the day go, relaxing however you do that, whether it’s with friends, on your own, or by a 20-mile run in the snow.  Know what works for you and allow yourself those moments.  They are an essential part of self-maintenance on the road, just like all the hard work.

Here’s hoping you have a blast in 2019, and all your gigs are standing Os.




  1. Thanks for this, Dr. Nick. Regarding your last point about letting go of frustrations: I literally just read this quote a couple days ago: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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