How to Narrow Down Your Target Audience

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Question: How Do You Narrow Down Your Target Audience?

Today’s question comes from Pamela who asks, “What recommendation do you have for narrowing down your target audience?”


All right, great question, Pamela. Now, this is a challenge for a lot of speakers, both new and veteran, but especially new speakers because for a lot of us, we have a lot of different topics and subjects that we’re interested in and that we could speak about, but we’re not necessarily sure which path we should take.

Narrow Down Your Subject

First of all, you can’t speak on anything and everything. I think this is a mistake and a challenge that a lot of speakers have, is we just think, man, there’s a lot of topics that I’m interested in. There’s a lot of subjects I could talk about. There’s a lot of things that I know I don’t necessarily know a lot about, but I know enough about and so I want to speak on all these different things and I’m pulled in all these different directions.

The analogy I like to use is if you and I were to go to a restaurant, we sit down for lunch and the waiter walks up and asks what we want to eat, we would probably ask for a menu. What if they say, “Well, we don’t have menus here. We can cook anything you want.”

We would assume, no, you cannot cook anything and everything. You can’t. “Well, we do. I’m going to rattle off 19 cuisines,” and I’d think of it as some random buffet that’s mediocre at best. Like you cannot do every single type of cuisine, so you have to really, really narrow down and focus what it is that you’re going to speak about. Restaurants can’t cook anything and everything.

You can’t speak on anything and everything. So one of the things that you’ve probably heard us talk about is that we always teach answering three specific foundational questions for speakers.

Number one is, why? Why is it that you want to speak? Number two is, who? Who do you want to speak to? And then number three is, what? What do you want to speak about? So why you want to speak, who you want to speak to, what you could speak about. Oftentimes, your answers to those first two questions about who and why will influence what you might want to speak about.

For example, if your primary reason for speaking is to make money, there are certain topics that will pay better than others, and so that might dictate and determine a little bit of what you might want to speak about. If your primary reason for speaking is to build credibility, there may be other markets or topics that you should pursue.

If your primary reason for speaking is to sell product, that may also influence what you speak about.

So again, figuring out why you want to speak about and who you want to speak to will definitely have a huge, huge impact on what you could speak about and beginning to narrow down that subject or topic.

Find a Mentor

Another thing that I found that works really well for kind of narrowing this down is finding mentors that you can learn from in your market. This really makes a big difference now, meaning basically you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

So basically you’re just looking to see what is working out there for other people. So a good exercise would be this: I would start to try to find other speakers, see what they are doing, what events they’re speaking at, what topics they’re talking about.

And so here’s how I would actually do this. Let’s say that I knew I wanted to speak to medical professionals, but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to talk about to medical professionals. There’s a lot of different directions or angles or subjects or topics that I could talk about.

What I would do next is I would go online and I would Google terms like “medical speaker” or “healthcare speaker” or “medicine speaker” or “hospital speaker,” just some of those other variations of key words there. And I’m looking for speakers who are already doing something similar to what I would want to do.

So I would then begin to go to their website. I would look up what topics they would speak about. And again, the goal here isn’t to copy what it is they’re doing. It’s just to get an idea of what is working and what people are being hired for in the marketplace. So that is a great exercise.

I highly, highly recommend anyone to do that, just to see what is already working in the marketplace. Who has the type of business that I want to have, and what is working for them? This was something I did early on whenever I got started speaking and something I still do today even is, as I pivot and evolve a little bit on what I speak about, I want to begin to look and figure out who are other people that are out there, what are they speaking about?

What are the topics and subjects that are working well? And again, I’m not trying to say, “They speak about this, so I have to speak about this.” No, no, if anything, it’s just to kind of get my wheels spinning on what might be a good topic, what might be a good direction of something that I could talk about.

Now, let me give you three thoughts here, and these are thoughts that we’ve talked about before. But the more often you speak, the sooner you’ll discover what topics resonate with your audience.

This is similar to any type of communication medium, whether you’re blogging or your podcasting or you’re producing some type of content, there’s going to be some material that will resonate with the audience more than others. And so how do you discover that? To actually speak, you have to actually put that content out into the world.

Second thing, number two, is the more often you speak, the sooner you’ll discover what topics are easier to get booked for. For example, we used to offer four different workshops on our website, but really only two of them were ever booked.

So you just don’t know unless you’re actually speaking. You can’t just sit back again in your cave and try to just figure all this out on your own. You have to begin to actually try to get out there and be speaking.

The third thing is that the more often you speak, the sooner you’ll discover what topics you most enjoy speaking about. Again, sometimes you just don’t know until you try. You may find that you really enjoy speaking on one subject or topic more than another topic.

And so the point of all of this is that it’s kind of like riding a bike. If you want to learn to ride a bike, it’s really hard to ride a bike and learn to ride a bike if it’s not in motion. If a bike is not in motion, it’s not going to go anywhere.

It’s going to tip over in the same way. It’s very difficult to steer a vehicle, steer a car that is not in motion. Have you ever tried turning the wheel of a car that’s not going anywhere? But a car that’s going somewhere that’s moving, that has some momentum behind it – it’s a lot easier to steer and go one direction or the other.

And so the same thing is true as a speaker. The more you start speaking, just picking a patch, just picking something here, the more often you speak, the sooner you’ll discover what topics resonate with your audience, what topics are easier to get booked for, and what topics you actually enjoy speaking about.

But you cannot discover those things by just sitting at home and just doing research until your eyes bleed. At some point you’ve got to pick something. So I would say this: as I think sometimes we worry that whatever it is that we choose to talk about, whatever path we go down in our speaking business or any type of business endeavor, we feel like that thing is permanent.

Nothing is Permanent – Evolve

Like, what if I pick this topic and it doesn’t work? What if nobody’s booking it? What if nobody pays for it? What if I realize that this is a topic I don’t even like? What do I do with that? I’m stuck with it.

No, you’re not. Nothing is permanent. Nothing at all is permanent. There’s a lot of speakers that I know that are constantly reinventing themselves, meaning that every few years they’re picking different subjects and topics to talk about that they didn’t talk about a few years ago.

Why? Because the markets are evolving, because they are evolving, because those different conditions are always changing, so don’t feel like whatever direction you decide to go is permanent – it is not.

So I think my biggest advice would be that at some point you just have to pick a topic and go with it. Like give yourself six months to promote that topic, see if you can gain any traction. And if you can’t, then try moving to a different topic.

But ultimately, to get started, you have to just pick something. Stop over-analyzing it. Stop overthinking it, pick a direction and go. And then if you get six months down the line and you’ve got to pivot, that’s fine. It’s not a failure. You’re just getting closer to what it is that you want to be doing.

So do a little homework, do a little research, think it through, figure out how it fits into your why and your who. But then just pick something and go.

Hope that helps. Thanks for the question, Pamela.

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