What It Really Means to Be Authentic (and How to Know If You Are)

We all say we want to be authentic. What does that even mean, though? We seem to think it means “likable” and “down to earth”—which is why we want to be perceived that way. But in fact, authenticity isn’t necessarily good or bad; it’s consistent. It’s real.

You can be authentically warm and funny.

And you could also be an authentic jerk.

Authenticity is like a glass wall; in order for it to work in your favor, you better like what’s on the other side.

A lot of the work I do these days is helping people shape their brand positioning and presence via the talks they give. Because one of the most powerful ways to show who you really are and what you stand for is to speak from the stage.

Far too many people see speaking as a way to transmit information, to educate or inform an audience.

While that may be helpful, it stops short of the WOW factor. The kind that puts great speakers in such high demand.

Yes, it requires authenticity. And authenticity requires a degree of risk (and it almost always pays off).

But here’s the thing: authenticity isn’t something you pursue directly (“I’m going to be authentic today”). It’s the effect of how aligned you, your message, and manner are. If something is “off,” everyone knows it.

In other words, if you “try” to be authentic, then you’re not really authentic, are you? And if you’re one way on stage and another way in person, then that’s not authentic, either, right? Because there’s an inconsistency there. Authenticity is above all consistent—and real.

The reason someone comes off as inauthentic is because either they’re not comfortable with what they’re saying, or they’re trying really hard to impress you.

If you’ve ever watched a speaker (or really, anyone) put on airs, or say or do things to construct a more appealing image of themselves, then you know what inauthentic is. It’s a disconnect between speaker and message, and between speaker and audience.

Authenticity closes that gap. And it’s risky because in being that way, you show who you are, not who you wish you were.

And it’s worth doing, every time.

 

So what about you? Do you want to speak in a more powerful, authentic way but aren’t sure how?

Maybe you feel busy or unfocused and not sure how to start.

Maybe you’re craving feedback, but really haven’t a clue as to how to get what you need.

At that event I told you about, Tapped to Speak LIVE, I made an offer that I’d also like to extend to you: The opportunity to explore your thought leadership by crafting your stand-out signature, TED-worthy talk.

It’s a program called Tapped to Speak INTENSIVE —a premium, highly curated, intimate group experience that starts now and ends with a 2.5-day retreat Oct 11-14, 2018 in New England. (There’s also an option to upgrade for 1:1 support).

You will, in fact, CREATE your talk—with unparalleled support and guidance along the way.

What I’ve found is that nothing distills a thought leadership platform like a talk—it’s got a time limit, urgency, and must be potent to work. THAT is what we’ll be creating during this program. (Read more about it here.)

Check out the video below to learn why these two professionals decided to enroll.


Now, this is not a fit for everyone—it quite frankly doesn’t have to be—I only have a handful of seats left! But I wanted to share it with you in case you or someone you know might be interested in upleveling their content and speaking skill.

See what you think of the program and if it appeals, submit your application! Why not?

Plus, if you’re accepted and enroll before August 15, you’ll get an additional group call with me plus a blueprint for boosting your speaking gigs (thanks to a fantastic program by veteran speaker and coach Patty Lennon).

There are just a few spots left. See if it’s a fit for you.

 

Photo by Mean Shadows on Unsplash

Make Your Talk a Ticket, Not a Brochure

Would you rather be handed a brochure… or a ticket?

On balance, their material value is the same. In fact, brochures are more expensive to create and produce than a ticket (usually).

And yet the inherent value couldn’t be more different. Brochures (most of them) give you a bunch of information about things you could do, or might want to do, at some point, maybe. They give you info. The end.

But a ticket?

A ticket is an invitation.

It’s not what you could do, but what you’re about to do.

And that means the ticket itself implies action. It means you’re going somewhere. Tickets are the currency of travel, of experience, and you can’t usually get where you want to go, whether it’s a flight to Paris or a Broadway show, without one. It represents the journey and the destination. 

A brochure? Hmm. I know it’s around here somewhere. Where is it? Maybe I tossed it.

See? That’s the problem.

Your talk should not be a brochure; it should be a ticket.

That is to say, your talk should take the recipient somewhere. It’s an invitation to go somewhere, see something new, think something new. There’s excitement in a ticket. Someone gives you a ticket for something, or if you buy it yourself, you’re not going to lose it. You’re going to know where that thing is at all times.

When you step onto a stage, you have the power to give someone a brochure — or hand them a ticket.

You have access to a world they may not know, ideas they’ve never considered, perspectives they’ve never had. You don’t want to give a talk that gets tucked under their windshield wipers and left there in the rain. You want them ready to take that ticket and go where you’re going.

How you know your talk is a ticket

  • It has a clear destination. Ask yourself, do you know not just where you’re going, but where you’re taking them? What is the itinerary? It has to be purposeful and clear. Not just some thing they “could” do. That means you know what you need them to see, and then you leave most stuff out. A talk, like a trip, is curated, and specific. You don’t go to see all of Italy; you pick a few places. That’s what your talk should do, too.
  • It’s an invitation. Not an “agenda” or “instructions.” The best talks get people excited because they feel they, too, can go where you’re going—in fact, they want to. That means you give them what they need (insights, permission, strategies) to take action themselves; they’re not being told to do a thing. People hate that.

You give people what they need (insights, permission, strategies) to take action themselves; they’re not being told to do a thing. People hate that.

  • It has urgency. Tickets are about now, not later. And your talk must make a case for why now, not five years ago, and not five years in the future. There’s a reason why what you’re sharing with your audience matters right now, and you don’t want them to stuff it away in a file drawer like a brochure (which is what most people do with most talks they hear). You want them to take it—and run.

Want to go deep and work on your TED-worthy talk? Learn more about my exclusive program, Tapped to Speak INTENSIVE, where you’ll get hands-on help as you develop your talk. To learn more and apply, visit territrespicio.com/intensive.

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3 Takeaways from Tapped to Speak LIVE

I hosted my first ever large live event June 7 and 8th in New York City, called Tapped to Speak LIVE. The goal: Give people the insight, tools, and conditions to discover their TED-worthy talk.

And since it was my first time, I did what anyone with big dreams for their first event does—namely, get ambitious with the scheduling and hit everyone with a firehose.

Though it was a fantastic firehose at that, and the program was teeming with speaker talent and tools and there were firecrackers of inspiration going off so much it was like the Fourth of July in there.

And so while I can’t replicate that event here for you, I can give you three takeaways that could be useful as you think about your own work, your own speaking…and reason to join us next year!

1 | Know the real reason you’re on stage 

Attendee John Hagen’s a-ha moment!

And it’s not just because someone asked you to be. It’s also not just because you’re getting paid or you want to look smart or have a bigger career. All those things play into it, fine—but what became abundantly clear over the course of the two days, and speaker after speaker hit the same point:

You are there to serve. Period.

Public speaking is a service, not just a platform. And the speakers who approach the podium that way make a far bigger impact and have better speaking careers than those who don’t.

(P.S. Never use a podium. Seriously. Why would you take your place on stage in full view of everyone, only to crouch behind a box with just your head sticking out?)

2 | You can’t tell a story that still owns you

Sarah Montana on wielding your story responsibly.

You might have a story to tell, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to tell it.

In her session on how to wield your personal story responsibly, TEDx speaker Sarah Montana taught us that the stage is not the place to get to the bottom of your story.

That means while you may have a story, it doesn’t mean you’re ready to share it. Ask yourself, do you feel compelled to share it so that you can get it out and figure it out? Or do you feel ready to share it from a position of having found peace with it? (Guess what the right answer is.)

Serving your audience means NOT dumping unsorted emotional baggage onto them and hoping that in the telling it’ll get resolved (it won’t). You can only tell a story when you own it and it no longer owns you.

(If you haven’t watched Sarah’s TEDx talk, “The real risk of forgiveness and why it’s worth it,” it’s a must. There’s no story so personal and hard that you can’t tell, IF—and it’s a big if—you’ve come to terms with it.)

3 | Public speaking is an exchange of energy, not just information. 

Comic Cam Hebb brings the laughs.

I know. This sounds a little woo-woo. But it couldn’t be more true. When we think about creating “a talk” it’s easy to get hyper focused on “what will I say”—in other words, what information can I impart?

But while content is critical, and has to be good, it’s not just ‘content first, delivery second.’ You must bear in mind what you want that audience to feel, think, and do from the start—and all of that inspires the talk itself.

Think about the last time you were totally turned off, bored, angered, or annoyed by a speaker. It’s how they made you feel, based on how they couched and communicated information, and what assumptions that speaker made about you.

To think you’re just teaching or giving info to your audience is to undermine your value as a speaker. You’re not there to dispense words. You’re there to change the way they feel about a topic, an industry, an issue, themselves. If you haven’t done that, you haven’t done your job.

Are you ready to craft your powerful signature talk?

At Tapped to Speak LIVE, I announced something very new and very exciting: Tapped to Speak INTENSIVE for people who are serious about crafting their TED-worthy talks.

The highlight of the Intensive is a fall retreat in New England, Oct 11-14, 2018, where we’ll be diving deep and actually writing and sharing our talks in a small, focused, intimate setting.

We’ll stay on site in a private home with chef-prepared meals and use the Gateless approach to writing and content development—which I’m certified in—to help you get to your best, most powerful ideas and stories right then and there.

Also included in the Intensive are three group calls, where we’ll start our work and set us up for success on the retreat.

This is a highly curated experience with only 10 spots available, and I have a few spots still available. If this sounds exciting and relevant to you, go here to read more and apply.

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5 Things You’ll Discover at Tapped to Speak LIVE

At some point, your career is going to include standing up in front of people and talking to them.

Maybe it’s happening right now — you’re crafting a keynote, or a signature talk to support the launch of your book or your business.

Or maybe you have your sights set on a TEDx talk this year. Or someday. Or you’re already booked to do one!

Or you’re not yet sure what your stage will be — and the thought of it scares you — but you know that’s where you’re headed.

Whatever your situation, you want your ideas, your story, your work to mean something. And at Tapped to Speak LIVE, happening June 7 & 8 in NYC, you’re going to get the tools and insight and ideas and emotions and confidence and power to do just that.

In other words, it’s two days of personal and professional discovery to change your career AND your life.

At Tapped to Speak LIVE  you’ll discover…

1. How to tap your genius.

You can’t always “think” your way into a powerful talk. Because if you get too in your head about it, you get stuck. Blocked. You might think you’re out of ideas. But you’re not! At Tapped to Speak LIVE, you’ll learn one of the most potent practices for freeing up your creative mind from Suzanne Kingsbury, the creator of the Gateless Writing Method. It’s extraordinary what you discover when you can surface your most vibrant, creative self quickly and powerfully.

2. How to land on your TED-worthy idea — the one that only you can tell

To land a TEDx talk, and to craft any talk that makes a big impression, you need to land on an idea worth spreading. This is my sweet spot! I’ll share what makes a TED-worthy idea—and a TED-worthy speaker—and how to start finding what makes your idea universal and uniquely yours. And you’ll start working, right then and there, on the key ideas to fuel your signature talk.

(Psst. Interested, but you’ve got questions? Register NOW for my FREE online training, “5 Steps to a TED-worthy Talk,” Wednesday, May 30, 2018 @ 7pm ET. )

3. Which stories to tell (and which to save for another day)

The most extraordinary talks include story, and often it’s your personal story. And sharing it is nothing short of brave! But how personal you get depends not just on the purpose of the talk, but how ready you are to tell it. TEDx speaker and screenwriter Sarah Montana will teach you how to know which stories to tell—and not to tell—and how to tell the story you’re dying to tell in a way that makes you both relatable and strong.  

4. How to get booked

Patty Lennon, a veteran speaker and business coach, built her speaking career one event at a time — because speaking begets more speaking. Patty will help you figure out how to give yourself more of the right kinds of opportunities, so you can go all the way up to 50 gigs in 50 weeks, if that’s what you want!

5. How to be fascinating on stage, ALWAYS

How you communicate your message on stage is the difference between a speaker who can say a thing, and a speaker who moves the audience—and gets booked again and again. And there are specific tools you can use to do just that (and they’re a lot more useful than “tell a joke here”). The award-winning director and writer Tricia Brouk will teach you how to use objective and action, just like she does with her actors on stage and screen to breathe life into you and message and keep you fresh every time. (Btw, Tricia is the executive producer of TEDxLincolnSquare, too!).

This is just the tip of the incredible ice cream sundae that is Tapped to Speak LIVE. We’ve got more top-of-industry speakers and sessions lined up to get your TED-worthy ideas out of your head and into the world.

But grab a seat now — Tapped to Speak is NEXT WEEK, June 7 and 8 in NYC!!!  Learn more and reserve your spot at tappedtospeaklive.com.

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10 Real Things that Resulted from my TEDx Talk

There are lots of great reasons to do a TEDx talk: It’s instant cred, a powerful thought leadership platform, a public speaker’s calling card, a way to reach and inspire millions. All great reasons.

But what really comes about as a result? There is no direct TEDx-to-sales conversion, nor is that the reason to do one (actually, that’s the worst reason). And yet, if you’re going to invest your effort into doing something, you should know if it’s worth it.

Fact is, if it’s an idea worth spreading and a talk worth sharing (and it must be both those things), pretty amazing things can transpire as a result.

Here’s what happened to me since giving my first TEDx talk in 2015. It didn’t happen magically, of course, and not overnight. But it 100 percent has changed my life.

#1 | I started commanding a 5-figure speaking fee.

I mean, let’s get down to brass tacks, right? No one gets paid to do TEDx…but the right talk can put you in high demand. I used to charge between $2500 and $5000. Not anymore. And it’s not just the speaker’s fee, either. In the past three years I’ve upleveled my business in a big way. High-level clients pay a premium to work with me. That is a serious game changer.

#2 |  I’ve gained recognition as a top-notch speaker.

I was named rated the #1 speaker by attendees my first year at How Design Live (and have been invited back every year), and at the Barron’s Top Independent Women Advisors Summit, and then was invited to present a keynote at their flagship event for the nation’s Top Advisors.

Could I have done those talks without having done a TEDx talk? Sure. Maybe. But that talk put me on the map. It’s what made it an easier decision to hire me. Speaking begets more speaking. The more you do, the more you get to do. I went from 1-3 events a year to dozens.

#3 | I had lunch with Seth Godin. (This should probably be #1.)

Now, to be fair, Seth had not seen my TEDx talk before we met. Here’s what happened: After my TEDx talk, I was invited to speak on a panel at a corporate event. Seth Godin was backstage, too, about to give his keynote. I fumbled through a hello, feeling like an ass in front of this famous man. Then I went out to do my panel.

Afterwards, he approached me and said—and I will never forget it—“You are a rockstar. Would you like to keep in touch? I’d really like to know what you’re up to.” Mic. Drop. A month later, I kid you not, Seth Godin made me gluten-free samosas in his kitchen, and it might very well be one of the best days of my life.

#4 | I was invited to do a second TEDx talk.

When TEDxStLouisWomen saw my original TEDx talk from TEDxKansasCity, they said, “Hey, come speak at our event.” So I did! I spoke about what I wish all women knew: That just because a relationship ends and you happen to be single does not mean something is wrong with you. (Watch that TEDx talk here.)

#5 | I was approached to write a book.

A publisher from the UK saw my bio in a program for an event, looked up the TEDx talk on passion, and seems to think the talk would make a great book. I happen to agree. Stay tuned.

#6 | Hubspot named me one of the “Top 15 Female Motivational Speakers Who Are Killing It.”  

It’s true. I came in #2…and Oprah is #8). I’ll take it.

#7 | I was cited as one of the world’s leading creatives by Creative Boom magazine. 

This list includes Elizabeth Gilbert and David Kelley of IDEO. I don’t even know what to say to that, except…thanks TEDx! The piece is called “The Secrets to Success: Incredible Career Advice from Some of the World’s Leading Creatives.”

#8 | I was published on Business Insider.

I contributed a piece on the biggest public speaking mistakes.

#9 | I was featured as an expert on Inc.com.

Alison Davis interviewed me for Inc.com column for a piece called “Best Presentation Ever: How to Elevate Any Talk to Make it Motivating, Meaningful, and Memorable.” Having TEDx cred means getting cited and interviewed in media, too, and there have been lots of these kinds of opportunities—including podcasts, tons of them.

#10 | I do this for a living now.

To be very clear, I am not employed by the TED organization. But because so many people have TEDx, and speaking in general, on their bucket list, I have made it a big part of my consulting business, and the demand tells me this was a good decision. Fact is, a TEDx, or any, talk, is a critical part of your brand platform, and so it works really well with what I already do.

was hired as the TEDx coach for TEDxStLouisWomen.

I was asked to emcee TEDxLincolnSquare in Manhattan.

And now I work privately with high-profile entrepreneurs, executives, and experts of all stripes on their talks for industry events, national conferences, and have helped many of them land their own TEDx talks. And the TEDx organizers I know ask me for speaker recommendations—and have booked many of the people I sent along.

Last year, I launched an online course called Tapped to Speak to help people craft their stand-out signature talks, and this year I’m running my very first live, in-person workshop event, Tapped to Speak LIVE, in New York City, June 7 & 8, 2018. So excited.

So did a TEDx talk change my life? You bet. And it can change yours, too.

Join me for this workshop! It’s going to get you fired up and focused on your stand-out signature talk.  Learn more and reserve your spot at tappedtospeaklive.com.

How I Got a TEDx Talk

Click to watch "Stop Searching for Your Passion"

Click to watch “Stop Searching for Your Passion”

The only thing more stunning than walking into the Kauffman Center in Kansas City when it’s full of people is when you’re the only one there.

That’s where I stood, slack jawed and awestruck on Saturday afternoon, August 29, 2015, hours before the thousands descended for the annual TEDxKC event. The pale wooden panels of this huge vaulted space gave the whole room a warm, golden cast. I felt like I was in the hull of some monster ship, or a cathedral, or tucked right inside God’s ear. I stepped up onto the round red carpet, the x-marks-the-spot for TED presenters.

And Then…

And I thought what anyone else would think: WTF am I doing here? Impostor syndrome is like psychological herpes—it’s far more widespread than you think, and while it may be inactive or latent much of the time, an outbreak can be easily triggered, and there you are with a full-blown case. It doesn’t go away, and you basically hope that it will go back to wherever it spends most of its time hiding.

Why wouldn’t I feel like an impostor? I, like you, have been watching TED talks for years. I even bought a book this summer, How to Deliver a TED Talk, downloaded it on my Kindle on a Sunday in Central Park, and it made me feel worse, not better. Because the author had watched and analyzed a zillion TED talks and had come up with a formula, and the whole thing made me tired. His analysis was interesting in part, but didn’t inspire. That wasn’t how this would happen.

(Psst. Interested in doing your own TEDx talk? Join me for my live, two-day workshop in NYC, Tapped to Speak LIVE June 7 & 8, 2018!  Learn more and reserve your spot at tappedtospeaklive.com.)

So How Did I Get a TEDx Talk? 

I’ll answer this question for you now, since it’s the one I get asked the most.

I am sure there’s a more standard way (research which TEDx events are happening, apply to their call for speakers, etc). But that’s not how it happened for me.

Rather, a contact of mine, Chuck Brandt, a skilled and gifted app developer at VML (the agency that runs the TEDx event), reached out. He had kept me on his radar since my days at Martha. And I hadn’t heard from him in years. Until one day in July he messaged me on FB, asking me if I wanted to do a TED talk in Kansas City. Someone had dropped out. It was less than a month away.

Um. Yes?

I love when people drop out. Seriously. It’s my jam. Nature abhors a vacuum, as do I. It’s how I got a spot at How Design Live last spring, when someone dropped out. You snooze, you lose! I was so grateful for that opportunity, and it showed—I was ranked the #1 speaker at that event. So this year, I’m going back, but not because someone else couldn’t make it.

But trust me, I in no way had this TED thing in the bag. Hardly.

TEDx director Mike Lundgren agreed to get on a Skype call with me, and asked, “The question is, do you have a TED talk in you?”

Yes, I said. And here’s what I did: I pitched. But not like sales-pitchy. I talked to him about some ideas I’d been kicking around for some time, issues that made me curious, frustrated, things that I’d thought long and hard about and thought other people would connect with.

We talked about career and relationships, wrongheaded ideas we’d fallen prey to, or that had been swallowed whole by our culture, and yet didn’t sit right with me.

And THAT was what led to the subsequent Skype call the next day, and the day after that. I talked to Mike every day for nearly a week, and I wrote more every night. We were approaching an idea.

This was the leading one: My belief that the “search for passion” is a bunch of navel-gazing garbage, and wasted effort at that. And that it’s a question people ask when they don’t know what else to ask, and we fill in answers that we think sound good. And that there’s more to a passionate life than having the single best answer to that question.

My Best Advice

Opportunity favors the well prepared, right? So my advice is this: Always be chewing on something—an idea, a thought, a question, something that eats away at you and pokes holes in the platitude-laden universe. These are the ideas that fuel your best work, writing, business ideas, blogs, products, events, and yes, TED talks.

What’s that little grain of sand working at the soft body of your mind and heart? The more you struggle with it, the more luminous the pearl.

Don’t attempt to neutralize the ideas that feel controversial. Kick the tires, honk the horns. Open them up like a speed boat to see how fast they go. Question everything. And—be willing to be vulnerable, to share a story, to tell the truth. Even if you fear others won’t like it.

I didn’t get invited to present at one of the biggest and most prestigious TEDx events in the country because I’m a “good speaker.” There are plenty of good speakers, but not nearly enough challenging, brave, risky ideas or people willing to champion them. So make it your business to cultivate those juicy ideas, and share them, any chance you get.

Join me for Tapped to Speak LIVE, June 7 & 8, 2018 in NYC! It’s going to get you fired up and focused on your stand-out signature talk.  Learn more and reserve your spot at tappedtospeaklive.com.
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Why You Should Stop Trying to Inspire People

I work with people of all backgrounds and businesses who have something to say and are dying to say it.

They want to do media and launch podcasts, give TED talks and write books. They want to “put themselves out there.” If there were two words that literally every person says to me, it’s that they want to “help people.” That’s not unique, but it’s a good direction to head in.

There’s another thing they want to do: “inspire people.” In a post-Oprah world, it’s no wonder that this is a common goal. They see authors and thought leaders and everyone else signing copies of their books and strutting around the TED stage, and it looks like those people are up there with a single goal: to be inspiring. That might be the effect, but I don’t think that’s why you get up there to begin with.

It’s not a bad intention, don’t get me wrong. But I think when we set out to inspire, we’re missing a step.

I’ve wrestled with this for a while—why it sticks in my craw, why it bugs me, why I feel like even though it seems great it’s the wrong goal. And the reason is this: It presumes I need inspiring, and that only you can fix my lowly, sordid self.

I don’t believe that’s what moves people.

When I teach people to craft their killer talks, I beg them to NOT to try to be inspiring. Be the opposite: Be vulnerable and honest and self-deprecating and real. Be willing to show how you struggled and messed up and why you’re no different from the rest of us. 

(Psst. There are still seats available for my transformational, two-day, in-person workshop event, Tapped to Speak LIVE June 7 & 8, 2018 in NYC. Learn more and snag your seat here.)

In his (amazing) book, The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, Chris Anderson talks about how the pursuit of “inspiring people” is a little too on the nose:

“Inspiration is like love. You don’t get it by pursuing it directly. In fact, there’s a name for people who pursue love too directly: stalker.”

And there it is. The reason “I want to inspire people” doesn’t work (in a talk, but really, anywhere) is because it’s more about what YOU want, not what I need. And if you assume I need what you want, you’ve jumped a few steps, and you’re no longer leading with message, but agenda.

I think of inspiration as a little like self-esteem: You can’t give it to someone; it must be earned. It’s a byproduct of vulnerability, wisdom, courage. Your willingness to take a risk will inspire us far more than anything you do “to” inspire us.

When I had the opportunity to pitch my TEDx talk idea (“Stop Searching for Your Passion”) to the organizer of TEDxKC, I never, not once, said I wanted to do it to inspire people. Are people inspired by TED talks? All the time. The good ones, anyway. But it’s not because people got up there with the sole purpose of inspiring you; they had something they wanted to say, some truth they’d come to, some struggle they’d had, and wanted to share it.

The last thing I wanted to do was “inspire people to follow their passion.” I’d always felt that “follow your passion” was unhelpful advice, and I knew I couldn’t be the only one who rankled against it. I didn’t go in to “inspire” people with my brilliance, but to share how I’d struggled with an idea, and how I’d ultimately come to terms with it. I had the sense I wasn’t alone, and I was right.

So? Don’t go in to inspire. Instead, make it a point in all that you do, whether it’s writing, speaking, leading, managing, delivering, to tell us the truth, to show us the work. To change the way we see a thing. Share your own contradictions, complexities, and struggle. Take us with you down the path of your own discovery, so we can see how you got there, what decisions, and mistakes, you made.  

That, to be sure, will be the most inspiring thing you can do.

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What’s actually missing from your talk (just ask Sarah)

I was giving a presentation the other day to a roomful of authors and people who work with authors. The topic? Why every author needs a TEDx talk. (Because they do.)

One woman raised her hand and said she’d been having trouble getting her own TEDx idea accepted. She assumed it was because she didn’t have a book. (Actually, you don’t need a book to give a TEDx talk.)

Her topic? Choosing the right career. She says that the world of work has changed dramatically, and you can’t choose the right one if you don’t know yourself.

Ok, fine, I said. But we were missing something: Her story.

That’s when she told me she herself had had SEVEN careers. Aha!

Then I said, “Does that mean you as a person kept changing, or did you not know yourself until now?”

She dismissed it quickly: “I don’t think my story would be helpful to anyone.”

Wrong, I said.

The fact that she doesn’t think her story matters is the very reason this talk hasn’t found its heart yet. She has a topic, but she has not tapped her own story yet.

So, what role does personal story play in your talk?

HUGE. Talks without story are dry as a bone, and leave no impression. But when you share something real, it changes everything.

I think of story, anecdote, examples, scenes as the FAT of a talk—an essential fat. Ideas and data are like fat soluble vitamins—you can’t digest them without the fat. And that’s why story-less talks slip right through your system, undigested.

You can also have a story—an amazing, terrifying, moving, amazing story—and not have much of a talk. Because a talk isn’t just storytelling, either—you must extract meaning. You need both if you’re going to knock it out of the park.

Sarah Montana (below) is a writer and performer. She does not yet have a book. She does have one hell of a story, though, and it took her years to be able to tell it.

In the TEDx talk you absolutely must watch (“The Real Risk of Forgiveness—and Why It’s Worth It”), Sarah tells the story of how two members of her family were murdered in their home.

It is, hands down, one of the most powerful talks you will see.

But it’s not JUST “hey this happened and it was terrible” (which of course it is). It’s about how you wrestle with forgiving the unforgivable.

She challenges the very notion of forgiveness, and changes the way we see it. Do you have to have endured traumatic loss to tell a worthwhile story? Wrong again. You just have to have lived on the planet a while and experienced something, anything. (Seriously, watch it.)

So, how does YOUR story challenge how we see things? Think about it.

The reason I mention it is not just because it just went live…but because who ELSE to teach the power of personal story than Sarah?

Which is why I’m thrilled to announce that Sarah Montana will be one of the featured presenters at Tapped to Speak LIVE, the live in-person workshop I’m hosting in NYC June 7 & 8.

You’ll not only start writing your talk right then and there—you’ll learn how to wield your own personal stories responsibly (and how to know you’re ready to tell them).

(Learn more about that event here.)

The key to partnering with other humans

If you think that being a successful person, professional, entrepreneur, or human requires that you “do it on your own,” boy are you making life hard for yourself.

I’ve been on my own for almost 7 years now—7!—since I was laid off from my magazine job. And people always say, “Wow, you went out on your own. You built this on your own.”

Kinda. And kinda…not.

I wouldn’t be anywhere without other people. And if we’re being honest, NONE of us would. It’s a misnomer, the idea that you have to do it all on your own.

Being independent does NOT mean you seek no help from anyone. What it means, to me anyway, is that you’re resourceful, capable, and not able to do everything, but that you know how to enlist the support of those who can.

I’ve had some very successful collaborations with other people. Some are long-term, like the business partnership I have with Paula Rizzo, cofounder of Lights Camera Expert (who was a friend for years before we started sharing a bank account).

In fact, people ask Paula and me all the time how we made, and continue to make, our partnership work. Granted, some people are JUST business partners, meaning all biz all the time, and they don’t have a friendship outside of their work. Fact is, Paula also happens to be one of my very best friends, too. That means there’s some balancing to do.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR PARTNERSHIP ALIVE AND WELL

1 | Know your roles

I know what I’m good at, and what she’s good at. And most important, we agree on these things.

If I’m going to benefit from Paula’s gift for creating spreadsheets and general order out of chaos, I have to admit that that’s not my jam. And while Paula is a published writer and is quite capable of drafting copy, she knows that’s what I do really well (and really fast) and so she lets me do that. If pressed, either of us could do the other thing of course! But we move more quickly and efficiently if we allow each other to do what we’re best at.

2 | Keep romance alive

To be clear, Paula and I are not romantic partners. But when I say “romance” I mean the part of us that keeps us connected as humans, keeps us in love with what we do and if we’re being honest, in love with each other (albeit in a platonic way).

If all we do is email, we will lose that. We make it a point to have dinner, to hang out, sometimes drink aperol spritzes on the roof of her apartment building—and not talk about work. We need to remember that we are people and friends, and to laugh at stuff and have fun. NOT just worry about our email funnel. The minute Paula and I have nothing but email funnels to talk about, it’s over.

3 | Don’t get it twisted. I love texting, and I do it ad nauseum. But. Sometimes texts can be taken out of conTEXT. They can be misread, or misunderstood. They hit the wrong tone, by accident, and before you know it, one of us is thinking that the other is mad or isn’t listening. Bad news.

So what we make regular practice of now is voice text. Meaning: You leave a message via text using your voice (sorry Android users, not sure how that works in your world).

This makes all the difference in the WORLD. Because then you hear the message and the tone, and this prevents anything being taken the wrong way.

I make sure I do it particularly when talking about things that could easily be misunderstood, or when I want her to hear the tone, and warmth, in my voice. She does the same. It can also be really fun.

AlSO, SEE OTHER PEOPLE

Paula is very important to me. She’s a long-term partner. Others are short-term, meaning we partnered for a few successful one-off projects, and we keep looking for ways to do more stuff.

Take Tricia Brouk, and we come from different industries, with different backgrounds. Tricia is a force. Choreographer, director, podcaster, coach, writer, artist. TEDx curator and producer. She’s really something to behold. (And I like being around people like that. So I make sure I’m around her as much a I can be.)

We have similar interests. We even offer some similar services in the speaker consulting business.

In the short time since we’ve met, we’ve gone to and supported each other’s shows. We’ve asked for each other’s opinion and given honest feedback. She wrote me into a screenplay she was working on. If you look closely at a video she did to promote her fitness business, I’m in the background doing deep knee bends.

She produces TEDxLincolnSquare, and I will send people her way whom I think could be a great fit for her show. The first year, she booked me to do standup comedy at her TEDx event…and then the following year, invited me to host the thing!  

Why does this work? Because Tricia and I know the difference between managing and collaborating. We trust each other to do our thing, and create safe containers in which to do it. THIS IS KEY if you want to do more stuff with more amazing people.

We recently did a FB live together to discuss the art of collaboration, to promote the premiere of a mini-doc she directed and produced, called “Just Enough” (more about it here).  

Our next step together as collaborators?

I’ve invited her to be a featured speaker at my first live, in-person workshop, Tapped to Speak LIVE, where I’m helping professional speakers up their game and create their own TEDx talks. Remember, Tricia and I both work with private clients to do this.

But she not only offered to come help my attendees learn to deliver with power from the stage…she is promoting the event to her OWN list as an affiliate and has already sold a bunch of tickets! Now that’s pretty stellar collaboration.

PRACTICE COLLABORATING

So how to do you invite more short term opportunities and feel out potential longer term partners? You need to date them. Here’s how:

Show up to—and support—the people you admire. As you meet new people, and separate the ones you like from everyone else, take an interest in them. Show up to their shows, their events. Buy tickets, reserve seats, opt-in to their lists. Share their stuff on social media. Take them out to lunch. Show an interest in what they’re doing, not just how they can help you.

Don’t push to get “married” too soon. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you’re looking for a long-term partner, you need to start with short-term. Paula and I didn’t start our business on day 2 of our friendship. We had had a long time observing each other at work and play before we made that jump.

Plus, if you push for something with high stakes and big commitments before you know who they are or what they value, you not only risk a potential partnership, you could ruin the relationship.

Take some low-stakes gambits, and find out what they’re like stressed. Dream big, sure. But start very small. Rather than attempt to collaborate on a 2000-person event with someone, start with a little workshop. Or a webinar. Give yourselves each a chance to try taking risks and even losing a little together.

It’s like what they say about picking a life partner: Seeing them at their best is easy. What you need is to see them at their worst. Make it a point to be around them after they’ve been drinking too much, or had no sleep, or under a lot of stress. THAT is the person you’re dealing with.

You can’t change a person, but you must know what you’re getting involved with. That goes for marriage, and business partners, and friends, too. The best and most successful partnerships will be those with a capacity and real interest in knowing and working with the other person as they are, not as you wish they could be.

…Pssst. Is giving a TEDx talk on your bucket list? Join me for Tapped to Speak LIVE, a transformational two-day in-person workshop in New York City on June 7 & 8. Walk in with a bunch of half-formed thoughts, walk out with your TED-worth idea. To learn more and reserve your seat, visit tappedtospeaklive.com.