Today we’re going to be talking all about what you want to speak about. I know for a lot of people, they’re really, really interested in speaking. Speaking is this fascinating thing, but then you start to try to narrow it down and figure out what exactly do you want to talk about though?
What exactly do you want to speak about? I think some people know, and I find other speakers that are just like, “I just want to talk, I just want to speak to people.” And so let’s put it this way: Assuming you were put in front of your perfect audience to talk about any subject, what would you speak about? What is it that you’d want to say to them? What is it that you would want to communicate?
Now, how do you discover what you want to speak about? Let me give you five ways real quick. We’re going to go through these five ways how you can discover what you might want to speak about.
#1: Speak About Your Experience
Number one’s going to be your experience. Now, your experience can be both personal or professional. So maybe you have experience in a professional capacity, some type of industry or organization or trade that you have.
So that may give you some type of professional experience that you want to speak about. Maybe your experience is personal. Maybe you’ve dealt with divorce or addiction. Maybe you’ve dealt with death. Maybe you’ve overcome cancer.
Maybe you have some type of personal story that you want to share. Maybe you’re in some tragic or horrific accident. So maybe for you, it’s just on the personal side, some type of experience that you want to share.
#2: Speak About Your Expertise and Knowledge
Number two is going to be your expertise and knowledge. So what are the subjects and topics that you just know a lot about? What are the things that people come to you for? What do people ask you questions about?
This is why we’re doing this piece right now – because a lot of people ask me questions about speaking. So what are the things that people ask you questions about? It could be any number of things. It could be that people come to you about career decisions.
Or people come to you about starting a business. People come to you about organization or time management. Maybe they come to you about parenting or marriage. What are the things that people ask you questions about? What are the subjects and topics that you just know a lot about?
#3: Speak About Awards and Recognition
Number three is going to be awards and recognition. So how do you discover what you want to speak about? Well, maybe you have some type of award or recognition that you could talk about. There are people that have been speakers who are TV show contestants.
One of the students that we work with was a contestant on The Biggest Loser, a TV show here in the U.S. That may be something that you would want to speak about.
Now, I know most of you have not been on a TV show or won a Nobel Peace Prize or anything, but begin thinking about within your niche, any type of recognition or awards that you may have won, things that you may have earned that would make you an interesting speaker. People would enjoy hearing your story or journey.
#4: Speak About Your Passion
Fourth thing is going to be passion. A key component of a good speaker is someone who’s really passionate about something, someone that really loves their subject and topic. Because if you’re just going through the motions, you don’t care about the subject, that’s always going to show through. So passionate speakers are always going to be much more engaging communicators. So what is it that you’re passionate about?
#5: Speak About What You Enjoy
Number five is going to be enjoyment. You know, just because you have some experience with something or some expertise or some type of award or recognition doesn’t necessarily mean that you enjoy it. There’s some things I know a decent amount about, but I don’t necessarily enjoy talking about them. So when you talk about subjects you enjoy you have more fun and the audience has more fun as well. So what are the things that you really, really enjoy?
Now all of this raises the question, “What if I’m not an expert? What do I do in that situation? Grant, I’ve got these subjects, these topics that I’m interested in, these things that I’ve got some experience with, I’m passionate about, I enjoy, but I know there’s people that know way more about this stuff. Who am I to talk about these things?”
But I want you to think of it like this. Being an expert means that you know slightly more than someone else on that topic – it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the best in the world at it. You just need to know slightly more about a subject than someone else.
I’ll give you an example, an analogy I like to use here. I know squat about cars. I am literally clueless about cars. I know nothing about cars. I’m not a car guy at all. I want something that will run fine, get me from point A to point B. So whenever I take my car to the local mechanic, whoever it is that’s working on my car, to me, that person is the expert. Why? Because they know more about cars than I do.
Now, does that mean that they’re the world’s foremost expert on cars? No, I know that. They know that. But remember, I’m not looking for the world’s greatest expert to work on my car. I’m just looking for that one person who knows more about that subject or topic than I do. So to me, that person is the expert.
Whenever you stand up and speak, you may not be the world’s greatest expert on that subject or topic, but if you know slightly more about that subject or topic than the audience, then to them, the audience, they view you as the expert. They trust what it is that you have to say.
They’re interested in learning what it is that you have to say. See, we don’t think of ourselves as experts because we are looking a step ahead of where we are, but the person interested in what you know is looking to you. I want you to let that sink in for a second.
We don’t view ourselves as experts because we’re looking ahead, but the person that’s interested in learning from us, they’re looking to us. They view us as the experts.
So in reality, whether you think you’re an expert or not is somewhat irrelevant. Expertise is really in the eye of the beholder. Also know this, that you don’t need any type of educational or job experience to be considered an expert.
I’ll give you an example. My wife and I are really, really particular about our finances. I’ll give you the quick nutshell of our story. When we got married, we had about $30,000 in combined debt, and we had student loan debt and credit card debt and car loans and just like the normal debt stuff. And for a while we thought, “Well, this is normal. This is the way people live.” And eventually we got sick of this.
We were like, “This sucks. We don’t want to live like this. And so we want to, let’s get rid of this debt, let’s unload this. Let’s start living on a budget. Let’s start living on less than we make. Let’s start doing some of the basic things that people do with money,” and it took us about two years, but we paid off every single dime of our debt.
We paid off all of that, and so I don’t necessarily have any educational or job experience on budgeting or accounting or personal finance. But I have a lot of people that ask us questions about getting out of debt or personal finance or the steps that my wife and I took about how we live on a budget today.
And again, remember, I have no educational or job experience with this. I took zero accounting classes in college. I don’t consider myself an expert at all in accounting or personal finance, but there are people that ask me questions about it. So they view me as the expert.
Again, it’s less about how I view myself, more about how someone else would view me. And the same thing is true for you. What are the things that people ask you questions about? What are the things that people look to you for?
Now, in the context of all of this it’s really, really important why you want to speak in the first place. Why you speak will also determine a little bit about what you want to talk about. And here’s what I mean. So in terms of why you want to speak and how you see speaking fitting into your business and your life, let’s say you want to speak five times a year. Let’s say you want to speak fifty times a year. Well, then what you may talk about may be slightly different.
If you want to talk only five times a year about a super niche topic, then you could probably get away with that if you’re just speaking a few times a year. But if you’re talking about this ridiculously niche topic, you want to talk about knitting scarves for kittens, you might be able to pull that off. But if you want to do that a hundred times a year and get paid every time, that’s going to be really, really hard.
So the point here is that some topics are easier to get booked for than others. Now let’s talk about this for a second.
First of all, the more niche your topic, the tougher it is to get booked. Again, if you’re wanting to talk about something like knitting scarves for kittens, if you’re talking about this really niche thing, it’s going to be difficult to get booked because the more niche it is, the fewer number of people would be interested in that, and even fewer number of people would be willing to book a speaker to talk about that.
Common Topic, Unique Presentation
Also, the more unique your presentation on a common topic, the easier it is to get booked. So I’ll give you an example here. There’s a couple of guys that are kind of a speaking duo called The Passing Zone. (You can look up their site, passingzone.com), but they have a unique presentation on a common subject or topic such as teamwork and collaboration.
They do like juggling and comedy. And so teamwork and collaboration is a really common topic, but because they have a unique spin on it, a unique presentation style, it’s a little easier for them to get booked at times. Also the more unique your spin on a common topic, the easier it is to get booked as well.
The more unique your presentation on a common topic, the easier it is to get booked, but also the more unique your spin on a common topic, the easier it is to get. So some topics are easier to get booked for than others, but also some topics are easier to get paid for than others.
Again, just because you want to speak doesn’t necessarily mean you’re speaking about a subject that people are interested in paying for or people are interested in bringing you in to talk about. So a couple of thoughts on this. The more well-known you are in a niche, the more you can be paid. You don’t have to be well-known in the world, just within your niche. I’m not a well-known speaker overall in the entire world but I’m a fairly well-known speaker in my own small niche.
Now, as it relates to getting paid and topics, in conference settings, keynotes are generally paid while workshops are generally not and there are certain topics that work better as a keynote rather than a workshop. Subjects such as motivation, inspiration, leadership, sales, marketing, customer service, company, culture, innovation, these are topics that work really, really well as keynotes because they can be a bit more broad of a subject or topic.
And so the wider the range of appeal of your topic, the easier it is to get booked as a keynote. If you’re talking about a really, really niche, niche topic or subject, then only a handful of people may be interested in that.
So if a conference or an association or an event is looking to bring in a speaker, they want to make sure that, especially if they’re wanting to bring in a speaker that’s paid, they want to bring in a speaker hat’s going to appeal to the entire audience. Now, if you want to do a workshop, which is going to be typically a smaller subset of that audience, then you may be able to talk about something a little bit more niche.
But if you’re going to be talking in a keynote-type setting and you’re looking to get paid, then generally it works better to have some more of a broad type of topic. So again, the wider the range of your topic, the easier it is to get booked as a keynote.
Now, having said that, the wider the range of your topic, the more competition you’ll have as well, meaning if you want to, let’s say, give a motivational talk – motivation is a really, really common topic whenever it comes to speaking and to speakers. So it may be difficult for you to get booked as just a general motivational speaker. So you want to maybe niche that down a little bit as well.
Now, I know everybody reading this is going to be at a different spot here in your career and your speaking trajectory. And so if you’re just getting started, maybe you don’t know what you want to speak about right now, maybe you just have no idea.
And you know what? That’s okay. Part of discovering what it is that you want to speak about is doing two things. One is beginning to get out there and beginning to get a sense of, “Okay, that worked or that didn’t work.”
Because the reality is you may have some ideas right now of what you want to speak about, of what you think you could get booked to speak about, of what you think an audience would be interested in, but you really don’t know until you get in front of a live audience. You may get in front of a live audience and it goes great, and it was awesome and everything clicks and it resonates and it works.
You may get in front of a live audience and it just bombs. It didn’t work with them. You didn’t like the topic as much as you thought you would. It just came across as boring, dull, lame. It just wasn’t there. That happens sometimes. So part of discovering what you want to speak about is actually getting up and speaking and beginning to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.
Do Your Research
The second piece here, a part of discovering what you want to speak about is also doing some research. So let’s say for example, you wanted to speak about something like personal finance.
One of the things I would recommend that you do is that you’d begin to look for other personal finance speakers and see not only what presentations they offer, but see where it is that they are getting booked to speak. I want to just figure out who are some other speakers who are speaking on the types of subjects that I would want to talk about. Who are some other speakers that are doing what it is that I want to do? And here’s a couple different ways that you can do some research:
#1: Google It
Let me give you three simple ways to get some topic ideas and to figure out maybe some potential topics that you could speak up. One would just be to look up relevant conferences. So you could do this by just simply going to Google and figuring out – let’s say for example, you wanted to speak about personal finance. You could go onto Google and look up something like “personal finance conference,” “personal finance workshop,” “personal finance association,” “personal finance event,” and you’re just looking for some existing events around that.
Then what you can do is you can start to go into it and figure out who are some of the speakers that they’re bringing in and what are those speakers talking about? The keynote speaker at those conferences, what are they speaking about? Are they talking about something that’s more broad? Are they talking about something that’s more narrow? That may begin to kind of get the wheels spinning for you about what some potential topic ideas would be.
#2: Go to Other Speakers’ Websites
The second way to find some topic ideas is to look up other speakers’ sites and see what it is that they speak about. So just going to individual speakers’ sites. Again, this helps to find people that are in a similar niche or a similar space and just see, “I want to speak about personal finance. And so let me start Googling and trying to find personal finance speakers. Who is it that speaks about these things?”
And then on most speakers’ websites, you’re going to be able to find a list of topics, a list of presentations that they offer. And you don’t need to straight up copy them. Definitely don’t do that. But look to see like, here’s someone who is most likely a few steps ahead of you in the speaking game and you can figure out what it is that they are being hired to speak about. What are some of their subjects and topics? So that is definitely a way to get some relevant topic ideas as well.
#3: Speaker Bureaus
And then the third way to find some topic ideas and to do some research is looking up speaker bureaus. So if you go to a speaker bureaus website, and there’s a lot of major ones out there and you can find them, they’ve got some different searching and browsing capabilities.
And if you’re not familiar with the speaker bureau, basically it is like a third-party middleman. Let’s say that they have a bunch of speakers on their website, speakers that they represent, and an event planner would come to a speakers bureau and say, “Hey, I’m looking for a speaker who talks about X. I’m looking for a speaker who talks about personal finance. Who do you recommend?”
And the speakers bureau would then be able to kind of be that middleman to say, “You have an event that you need a speaker for. I work with a bunch of these speakers who talk about these certain subjects and topics. So let me connect the dots for you.”
So that’s basically what a bureau is. If you go to some different speaker bureaus’ websites, there’s different search and browse capabilities and functions on most of their sites, and you can begin to kind of browse through and find other speakers who are speaking on your subject and topic.
There is a list of literally tons and tons of different subjects and topics that you can look up on a bureau website to see what some of the subjects and topics are that some of their speakers talk about. Like all different, crazy types of things.
But once you begin to find what some of those subjects or topics are, then you can begin to narrow down what some of your options might be as a speaker. So this is not overly difficult, but it’s important that you do some homework, you’ve got to do some research.
You’ve got to actually be digging around to figure out that balance between what it is that you want to talk about and what it is that people will actually pay you for. What is it that people are actually interested in hiring you to speak about?
Again, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you know, “Okay, I know exactly now what it is that I’m supposed to speak about for the rest of my life.” No, no. Maybe you’re still trying to figure it out. That’s okay. Don’t worry about that. It’s always going to be a work in progress.