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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.

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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.)

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3 Things that Keep Good Speakers from Being Great

If you’re a speaker, or would like to be, chances are you watch other speakers with a very keen eye.

Maybe you scrutinize the bio. Watch the way they carry themselves on stage. Maybe you judge them based on how relatable they are, or how useful their content is. 

And if we’re being honest, you may wonder how we measure up. Could I do that just as well as she is? Could I be maybe even better? Why aren’t I up there, by the way?

I thought the same thing myself, every time I was at an event. Sometimes I was blown away by the speaker. But most of the time, not.

As my own speaking career grows, I have had the opportunity to see and work with even more speakers. And I see the same mistakes over and over again that hold good speakers back from being great.

1 | They underestimate the power of story.

Nothing compels and connects like story. Meaning: narrative examples of other humans. Versus, say, statistics.

If you’re about to get up in front of a group of people, realize, they’re going to pay closer attention to stories, and care more about them than pie chart. Never sacrifice story to put in more information, because stories are what help us digest and interpret information. A bar graph with 12 pt font is the death knell of attention.  

2| They think their topic is interesting (or boring).

Ah! A common mistake that everyone makes. There IS no such thing as a boring or interesting topic.

It’s true.

You can make anything interesting, and anything boring. It’s all in the positioning and articulation of the talk. BUT. If you think your topic is too boring—or already interesting—you’re not doing the work to make it compelling. I’ve seen one person make Excel spreadsheets look like fun, and another make sex toys look like a snooze. 

==> Want to do this yourself? Find out how to develop YOUR TED-worthy talk. 

3| They assume the audience is on the same page.

They are not. Assume the audience has zero context for what you’re saying—even if they’re in your industry.

That doesn’t mean you patronize or talk down to them. But it does mean provide enough context that we can follow you, because we’re really not. In fact—sorry—what were you just saying?

Assume we’re intelligent but are walking in cold (because we are), and we’re also very distracted. If someone stops following you, what you’re saying, or what you mean, they don’t listen harder. They tune out. 

A great talk isn’t one that’s delivered by a sales consultant or a bigger personality than you. It’s one that’s both universal…and uniquely yours. 

This means that as long as you have a very clearly articulated and relevant point and do the work to make it matter to your audience, trust me, you’re doing more than most. Some people stroll on stage and pop open a can of spam. And everyone knows it.

I can’t say it enough: Your stories, your insights, your ideas—not cliche, not motivational mumbo jumbo—has the power to change the way someone sees their work, their job, even their lives. Make it count.

 

Join me for Tapped to Speak LIVE, a transformational, two-day in-person workshop event June 7 & 8, 2018 in New York City, where you’ll learn to develop your TED-worthy talk. Space is limited! Learn more and reserve your seat here.

 

 

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Are TEDx talks played out?

I was at a party last year that was attended mainly by authors, agents, and PR people. And one of the authors heard that I helped people create their TEDx talks.

“Isn’t TED kind of played out,” she said, poking at her gin and tonic with a straw. It wasn’t a question.

“Why do you say that?” I ask.

“Well, because it’s like everyone has one now.”

I paused, then said carefully, “You just published a book, right?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Well….why? I mean, aren’t books played out? Doesn’t everyone have one by now?”

“Good point.”

I tell this story because she’s not alone. With the rise of TED (as with the rise of anything), the more people like a thing or want a thing, there’s always a group of people who now think it’s no longer cool or relevant.

Say, if you were way into the Dave Matthews Band in the 90s, and decided that after “Under the Table and Dreaming” album, anyone who was into them was a chump.

Insert any trend. Skinny jeans. Soy lattes. The list goes on.

Not only do more people watch TED talks, tons of independently organized TEDx events have cropped up all over the globe. TED has become the gold standard for public speaking, and more people not only consume them, but give them.

After the canon of TED talks went globally viral (and anyone you talk to about their fave talks will name one of them), there was an explosion in TEDx talks, and so it’s unlikely you’ve seen them all. And it’s unlikely that they’re all amazing (they’re not).

Now that there is more of an opportunity to give a TEDx talk than ever before, you might think that they’ve lost cache, value, or relevance. Nope.

TEDx talks remain a pretty strong calling card for the public speaking world…and it will work for you IF YOUR TALK IS GOOD. It’s a bigger pot than it was 8 years ago, but cream still rises. 

And no, not all TEDx talks are amazing just because they’re given on a TEDx stage. It’s a real mixed bag. Because TEDx events are independently organized, what you’re seeing online is the result of one person or team’s decision and curation. Period.

There are lots of factors at play as to why some get viewed more than others. But it’s safe to say that the good ones get shared, and the views mean something.

Think of it like book sales. Sure, there are also lots of bad books out there that were published by mainstream publishers. Some you don’t like will sell a ton and garner millions of readers. Others won’t.

(Dying to give a TEDx talk and want to learn how to do it? Join me in NYC June 7 & 8, 2018 for Tapped to Speak LIVE.)


Bottom line: A TEDx talk is still worth doing—and that means it’s worth doing well. Here’s why:

  1. It’s instant cred. Like it or not, having a TEDx talk matters. I’m not saying you have to be the next Brene Brown to give one, but fact is, the TED brand connotes value, even if your talk doesn’t set the world on fire. What do they say about what you call someone who graduated at the bottom of their medical school class? Doctor.

    TEDx is a media brand—and to get on that stage, you have to have passed someone’s test. Just as you must to gain the approval media gatekeepers to get booked for this or that show, or have your book put out by a major publisher.

    My life changed after my TEDx talk, no doubt. Even before it had millions of views. Having it, and having that thing to share, mattered. Especially when people were wondering if they should have me speak at their event. I don’t even have a speakers reel yet, and I have kicked myself for that for years. And then I realized–that TEDx talk is all people needed to see.
  2. It’s a powerful thought leadership platform. If you want to be known for what you think, for your story, your idea, the TEDx stage is a great place to share it. Why? Because when you’re on that stage, it’s not about your business or brand or what you’re selling. It’s all about the IDEA. Thought leaders are known for how they think about the world, and if you want to change the way people think, the TEDx stage is the place to do it.

    Not all TEDx talkers are thought leaders, and not all thought leaders have TEDx talks. But if you see yourself as a thought leader, you’d be nuts not to consider doing one.
  3. It forces you to get to the heart of your message. It’s easy to get caught up in jargon, in industry language, to get “small” around your idea because you’re used to talking to a specific group of people most of the time.

    But a TEDx talk requires that you think bigger than your brand or your business. You need to have an idea that people who do not know you or your industry can relate to and take something from.

    A TEDx talk is its own animal. Chris Anderson does an amazing job of explaining that in his book, The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. He is the man behind TED as we know it today.

    Giving a TEDx talk requires that you share an idea. NOT just that something happened to you or that you did something good once. It requires that you extract meaning from a situation, a story, a truth. And when you do that? You can change everything. You could land on your idea for your next book, your next business even. You can reach people who want to meet you just on the basis of that idea.

I’ll tell you what IS played out: Cliche.

Now that there is a body of TEDx work out there, the onus is on new speakers to innovate, to share fresh ideas, or fresh takes on old ideas.

If you’ve heard it done a million times before, then you need to dig deeper into why this matters most. I’m not saying you can’t do a talk on a similar subject as another speaker; you just can’t brush up against easy platitudes and same-old advice.

In my experience, it’s not that someone doesn’t have a good idea; it’s that they don’t take that idea far ENOUGH. They stop short of meaning and originality, and settle with what’s familiar and easy. That’s cliche, and it won’t work.

Instead, your job as a TEDx speaker is to challenge an existing idea, to question the way we’ve always thought about things. To put something into our heads that gives us a new tool for thinking and perceiving the world.

Played out? Not a chance.

Want to up your speaking game in a big way, and maybe even craft and pitch your own TEDx talk? Join me in NYC June 7 & 8 for Tapped to Speak LIVE, a transformational two-day event where you’ll learn how to turn your ideas, expertise, and personal story into a TED-worthy talk. Space is limited! (Trust me! I saw the room!)

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5 Branding Rules That Won’t Steer You Wrong

There are lots of people out there with lots of opinions about what a brand is and should be. Ask a handful of them what the answer to better branding is, and you’ll hear basically the same advice:

“Stand out!”

That’s like a swimming instructor telling you to stay afloat; it doesn’t help you if you don’t know how to swim.

For the record, I am one of those people with an opinion about branding. And that means I have the double task of not only making sure I have a viable brand, but that my MESSAGE about branding is different than what other people say about branding, too. (Anyone else getting dizzy?)

How I can talk branding to bankers or bakers—and make it work

The big breakthrough for me was when I realized that the best branding advice is industry agnostic. It happened when I started working with, and speaking to, groups with very specific goals.

I’ve found there are a few core branding tenets that work for just about everybody—whether you’re launching a new business, shining up an old one, or trying to craft powerful messaging to promote this product or that service.

These days I might speak to a roomful of professional organizers, and the next, 100 of the nation’s top financial advisors. On a Monday, a conference for professional photographers; on Wednesday, a group of health coaches.

It really doesn’t matter how different they are—they are all trying to be better, or at least distinct, from the next guy. My job is to draw out their brilliance and put it in a bottle so they can see it for themselves, and share it with everyone else.

And I’ve found there are a few core branding tenets that work for just about everybody—whether you’re launching a new business, shining up an old one, or trying to craft powerful messaging to promote this product or that service.

I’ve tried very hard to make sure they’re not glib or vague. It is not helpful to you for me to scream, “Stand out!” and “Swim harder!” as you splash around.

Here we go:

5 branding tenets that apply to you—no matter your industry

1. Your brand is not a website, a logo, or a tagline.

I know it seems like it is! But it’s not JUST those things. Sure, you need them, but they don’t mean much on their own. I know people who want to pay $50 for a tagline or even $5 for a logo, and they’re essentially treating those things as commodities, like shaving cream or shoes. You can do that if you like.

But anyone can do that! And if anyone can, then it’s not necessarily worth it. Even $5 isn’t worth spending if what you get doesn’t reflect your unique brand, and if it doesn’t communicate that value to others.

2. There is no such thing as a boring topic.

Oh, this is a big one with me. It makes me nutso. This tendency to assume that some things are interesting and some aren’t is a doomed conclusion—and either way, it makes you lazy. Why? Because you’ll assume what you’re doing is boring and limited and you won’t even try. Or, you’ll assume that what you’re doing is fascinating or meaningful in and of itself without you having to work very hard to communicate it.

Lazy either way.

Accounting software can change lives. And sex toys aren’t necessarily riveting. If there’s a reason to buy what you have to offer, it has the potential to be a brand that people love. Your job is to tap that thing.

(Consider Simple, a bank which plenty of people found so compelling, as a brand and business, that they, including me!, gave up the brick-and-mortar option to get what they had!)

In fact, every topic is neutral (your own emotional triggers around sex toys notwithstanding). What makes anything interesting is your take on that topic, and the precision with which you can create relevance and urgency to me, your customer, client, or fan.

3. Authentic is an effect, not a goal.

Authentic is an effect; it’s how you come off, no matter what your brand is. You can be an authentic or inauthentic sneaker salesperson or business coach. Just because you want people to like you doesn’t mean you’re authentic and vice versa.

You could say that the moment you “try” to be authentic, you cease to be authentic because you’re not being, you’re trying.

I’ll even go so far as to say that you don’t get to decide what’s authentic; we do! If you ping our BS filters, it doesn’t matter what you say you are. Any more than I can call myself an armadillo and assume that makes me one.

Instead of trying to “seem” authentic, align your efforts and actions with your beliefs—and get busy doing, making, and offering something of value to others.

4. It’s one thing to be passionate; it’s another to be compelling.

The word “passion” raises a flag for me. Not that I don’t believe you can’t be or shouldn’t be passionate—but your passion does not give me a reason to care. Should I hire you to exterminate my home because you’re passionate about pest control? Do I hire you to consult on my business just because you like doing it? No. The world does not owe you its attention because you care about a thing. It’s your job to give them a reason to care.

Instead, take it one step further. Channel all that passionate energy into something that matters to me, not you.

5. Pick a fight with old ideas.

I’m convinced that your creativity is largely determined by how willing you are to challenge existing ideas. Stop assuming people already know what you know (what I call the curse of knowledge), and start upending old assumptions.

Ask yourself, what do you hate about this? What bothers you about that? What do you think is the status quo for your business, and why do you think it can be different, better? Try the opposite game: What if the opposite of what you believe were true? Even if that isn’t the case, what if it were? See how challenging assumptions, even small ones, can breathe new life into your work.

Pick more fights with ideas—yours and others. Though, be careful about doing that at Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve made that mistake. More than once.