There’s nothing like getting tapped to speak at an event or conference—it’s not only nice to be asked, but it speaks volumes about what people think of you: That you have something of value to share with their community, and they want it.

That said, there are three questions I ask myself before I accept, let alone begin to prepare, for a talk. And it isn’t, “When, where, and what should I wear?”

Nope. They’re questions that most people don’t ask before they dive in, and I believe you should to set yourself up for success. I like to ask the organizer these questions so I get a handle on who I’m speaking with, but also, I use it to generate my own questions and shape my content and approach accordingly.

(This is part of a live webinar I did recently called “5 Steps to a TED-worthy Talk” and I’m happy to share it with you because attendees found it so useful.)

1. Why are they there? 

There are lots of reasons people take a seat at an event. And they’re worth considering:

They paid to be there. If they paid their own money to attend an event, they want something in return, and expect something, right? What investment are they making—are you speaking at a business seminar or an event that’s more lifestyle focused? Are they there to rally together and change the world? Or is this meeting or community more focused on trying to maintain the status quo?

They paid a lot to be there. Then there’s the next level up—I’m talking not $50, or even $500 to be there, but like $5,000 or maybe more. We’re talking fundraisers, high-profile events. Now, if someone is donating that much money to be part of an event, it’s not because they expect, say $10,000 worth of content.

As Seth Godin says, when people pay to be somewhere like that, they’re saying to themselves and each other, “people like us do things like this.” Think about how what you’re about to tell them affects or touches their vision of the world, and their role in it. Especially if they’re there for a big cause, a pioneering effort, or perhaps something less grand but no less expensive.

They have to be there or else. Perhaps the group of people you’ll address have to be there because it’s their job, their managers mandating it, or it’s part of their own training and required.

I won’t purport to know what every group of required attendees thinks when they walk in a room, but that’s why it’s worth asking. Is this an event that’s highly anticipated, or deeply dreaded? Do they have high expectations or the lowest of low? This is how to gauge your own approach. Often I’ve found people who file in with zero expectations are sometimes the easiest to delight.

2. Why did they pick you?

The people who hired you or invited you to speak have their own goals and objectives, and they’re not necessarily the same thing. Do you know why that is? (And it’s not just cuz you’re awesome, even though you are.) I once spoke at an event of full-time employees in the HR business, and I was told, “We want you to motivate them enough to love their jobs, but not to leave.” Good to know.

Ok, so, do they want you to inspire the people there to be empowered and to create positive change? Or do they want you to inspire…compliance? There is no good or bad here, by the way.

We operate under the assumption that they want what’s best for the attendees and the organization. But what that is something they take the lead on, not you. So ask, and listen closely. Maybe they want you to wake them up—or perhaps, calm them down in the wake of organizational or industry unrest. Good to know.

3. Why are you there? 

I mean, aside from because they asked. Maybe they’re paying you good money to be there, and that’s great. But no matter what you speak about, chances are, you don’t do it for the money; you’re there because you want to exert some kind of positive influence, some change or fresh perspective or compelling information that can change the way they think and live.

So it’s important to be clear on your own intentions. Maybe it is a good gig and you do it every year, end of story. You have some contacts there and you like to keep them up.

But maybe this speaking event presents another, larger or longer-tail opportunity, in which you make inroads to do more work with them or to get a foot in the door in their industry.

Perhaps it’s an event in your own industry, and speaking there gives you a bit more clout and attention, and that’s a real plus. All great reasons! Just be clear when you’re going in. Because the way you approach a talk to people whose business you know is quite different from when you’re an outsider. Both have great advantages, if you know how to use them.

Bottom line, be honest with yourself about what is expected of you here, and also what YOU want to get out of it. The purpose and mission that drive your talk may not change, but the way in which you deliver it does, group to group. And the more mindful of that you are, the more powerful and effective you will be—and the more opportunities will come your way.

Want to learn how to create a stand out signature talk that gets you booked, again and again? Join me for Tapped to Speak LIVE, my two-day, transformational, live event happening April 4&5 in Boston. Click here to learn more!

img_6501I had my first scrimmage of the season yesterday for the touch football league I’m in (yes you read that right). Gorgeous, sunny day in Prospect Park. New team t-shirts. Feeling good.

During one key play (I can’t use football lingo because I don’t speak football), I ran for the end zone. I had that spidey sense that it was coming to me. So I got as open as I could, right in front of the QB. He looked left; he looked right, and then, he shot it like a bullet straight through this converging wall of men who were closing in to block the pass.

It sailed right through—and directly into my arms.

There is no better feeling than that. Why did it work? I was in the right place at the right time, sure, and ready to receive it. And the QB did what a QB is supposed to do: connected with his receiver.

It’s obvious why this works. Seems simple enough. Yet how often do we miss in our attempts to connect with someone directly? Happens all the time.

I’m thinking of a lot of things, for sure, but specifically (and forgive me for mixing my sports metaphors) when we pitch people—our ideas, our businesses, our books, whatever. Specifically, when we pitch the media.

Fact is, the members of the media are also receivers; they’re out there, many of them, hoping to catch a fantastic pass, grab a great idea and run with it. But if the throw is off or not directly aimed at them, it ain’t happening.

Where do people tend to miss when pitching media? 

  • They send a blanket pitch, to everyone, assuming one size fits all;
  • They think about what THEY want to promote, rather than what would benefit readers and viewers;
  • They don’t give enough compelling reasons to consider it, and instead, make the producer or editor jump through hoops or make an extra effort;
  • They are unable to answer the only question that matters to producers: “Why should I care.”

Maybe I got lucky on that touchdown. But I’m far more consistent in my own pitching efforts when it comes to connecting with a prospect, a client, and the media, and I can help you do it, too.

My friend Paula Rizzo, a TV news producer and author, and I have created a course designed to help authors, experts, and entrepreneurs get the media attention they deserve. Why? Because 90 percent of people do it wrong, and end up in the “no” pile, which is not where they should be!

The applications to our course close September 23, 2016, but you can and absolutely should get on our list so we can keep you up to date and send you great free stuff about getting media attention!


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Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 11.31.54 PMThe desire to go big hits people in very different ways.

Some people have always seen themselves in the spotlight and won’t rest until they are on the set of the Today Show.

But for many others it starts smaller, humbler. Like, “I should write an article and pitch it as a guest blog,” or “Maybe I’ll start my own blog.” Or, the big one: “I should write a book.”

It all comes from the same desire—the urge to be heard.

But what do you do? You wave it away, like oh no no no not little ol’ me.

I was that way, too. I would think, oh, I don’t need that much. A little attention would be nice, but no need to go crazy. That was insecurity talking. The fear that I couldn’t possibly be worth that much so I wouldn’t ask for much.

How silly. You could write and self-publish your own book, sure. And no one would read it. And you could tell people you wrote it, and feel good that you checked that box. Ideas like writing a book only happen if the individual is willing to put in the time and work. If not, what’s the point? Even if it starts by getting some writing tips, this could be a start to fulfiling the dream of becoming an author. Not everything happens overnight, but hopefully, it will all be worth it in the end.

But, see, that frustrates me. Because what is the point in all the effort to go big with an idea, if you’re not going to, well, go big with an idea!

I tell you this because I want you to make your effort worth it. And because I’ve had my brain in the media space, what with the launch of Lights Camera Expert, a course I’ve created with my friend Paula Rizzo, to specifically help people do that—snag major media attention. (If you want to learn more about that, and get access to our free 3-part video course, by the way, get on the list!).

And when we asked around about why people hadn’t sought out more media coverage, we were shocked at what we heard.

One small business owner said, “Oh, I didn’t even know you could pitch the media. I thought the powers that be just decided who would be featured.”

And I completely understood how she might think that! But it’s not true!

I’m telling you this now: Please stop underestimating your ability to take what you believe in to the world’s stage. Because media is the only way hear about anything, except from one person directly to another. Or, like, shouting out your window.

Let’s be honest: Even if you do a teensy tiny blog on organic gardening, don’t tell me you wouldn’t want to reach and connect with more people if given half a chance. You would!

It’s not about whether an idea or work is “worthy” in and of itself. Don’t do that. That’s absolutism and it’s stultifying, because then you decide whether to share your idea or business or book, only based on whether it is in itself good or excellent or even genius. When in fact, the way you present a thing is EVERYTHING. And this is how people so often get it wrong. They don’t know how to position the idea to get attention.

You can’t “just” rely on media to grow a business, of course. That wouldn’t be smart. At all. You have to create relationships and network and ask questions and ask for the sale. But that tug, to do a thing and share it from one to many vs. one to one, that’s just another way of saying “the world needs to hear this.” And maybe it does.

All roads lead to media, because in this day and age, we don’t just share one to one. In my mind it’s crazy NOT to take your idea or opinion out there into the world in a big way. Maybe not “everyone” will care. Most won’t. But. Only when you go big will you be able to reach the people who really DO want what you have to offer. They’ve been waiting for it.

(Oh, and yes, if this sounds fun to you and you’re dying to learn how to position yourself in the media, get on this list asap and I’ll be in touch.)

Don't ask.

Don’t ask.

I teach people how to speak in the media, on stage, and to each other with power and conviction. And there’s one crutch in particular I train people right out of: Asking questions. Want to make a stronger impression? Make a statement. Ideally, one that could be argued or flat-out disagreed with. That’s when you know you’re onto something.

Here’s why: Questions make the other person do the work you should be doing. Which is why they have their place in dialogue, to engage the other person directly. But I’m not talking about that kind of question. I’m talking about the rhetorical filler at the start of a talk, or the habitual “You know?” that attempts to win approval at every turn. I’m talking about the questions that keep you from making the stronger choice.

The way I see it, if you’ve got the stage, you should do most of the heavy lifting. The ability to be clear and direct is paramount; questions are a crutch. And you rely on them more than you think.

I saw this first hand in an improvisational acting class I took (one of many) at the Magnet Theater in Manhattan. (Improv, by the way, is excellent training for being in front of people, because you essentially walk out onto the stage with no clue what’s about to happen.) The instructor and Magnet cofounder Alex Marino gave us a challenge: Do our scenes without asking a single question.

I lasted less than 30 seconds.

It’s a lot harder than you realize. I was shocked at how bad I was at this.  “Questions are reflexive,” Alex said. “We use them to blunt statements and figure out what’s going on.” Which, in improv, is part of the problem: No one knows what the F is going on. That’s the game. But questions stall the scene and detract from the action. They soften and qualify and weaken. They rely on buy-in (“You know I mean?”, for example). When you rely on questions, you fail to create the scene—or anything interesting. Instead, you shift the burden to the other person (“Can YOU tell me what I’m doing up here?”)

It made me realize how often I use questions instead of statements in general, and how, in so doing, I compromise my own conviction. And so do you. It keeps improvisers and presenters and people in general from making something far more powerful: A choice.

(Want to listen instead? Be my guest.)

Women do this far more than men, by the way, because we’re raised to think that way: Be agreeable. Please people. Make nice. Asking questions is an outgrowth of that urge. It makes you tip-toe instead of stomp.

So whatever it is you’re doing, or trying to do more of, whether it’s TV, radio, web, seminars, or just growing as a professional in your industry and having people take you seriously, take a good look at where you’re relying on questions instead of making statements. Where you’re hedging and qualifying, instead of owning your shit. And where you’re leaning on your audience/user/reader to fill in the blanks instead of taking the lead.

You can’t afford to sacrifice directness and power when you’re building a brand. It’s what the strongest brands are made of. No questions asked.

Watch the segment on this very topic. Click my face.

I help people become better presenters of their own ideas. It’s what I do. And the brunt of that work has less to do with technique (saying “um” too much for example) than it does psychology. Because once you feel more confident, it’s amazing how all the stuff that falls away.

I know this for sure: What keeps you from owning the crap out of your brand in the media is a twofold fear:

  • You’re afraid you don’t know enough.
  • You’re afraid people won’t agree with you.

You know enough. I promise. In fact, you may know too much (talk to me about coaching doctors who know way, way too much). And you should always be learning more. But this idea that your head is a big bag you haven’t jammed with enough stuff yet? That is not true.

As for whether people will all agree with you? Yeah, that’s not happening. And let me save you some time: If you are seeking to build a media brand for THE sole purpose of getting people to like, approve of, and agree with you, then GET OUT NOW.

Look, I want people to like me, too. I feel all the feelings. But the way to get past the fears (which hinder your message), you have to make some mental and behavioral shifts. Here’s what you’ve got to do to kill it in the media.

Don’t have time to read? Listen instead (and subscribe to my channel on Umano).

1. Tap your inner expert.
Don’t be cowed by the idea of being an expert. Because if you have a demonstrated area of expertise, you are an expert. There will always be others who know more, are more accomplished. But there’s only one you. To be an expert, you need to start acting like one.

You may be a very bright and successful physician, but if you can’t nail the skills it requires to be a media personality, it doesn’t matter what letters you have after your name. That means you need TWO skill sets: Demonstrated expertise, plus the ability to distill and communicate it in a simple, compelling fashion. And by the way—there are more experts than there are folks who can kill it in the media. And producers are always looking for great new talent.

You have no letters after your name? So what! Neither do I, and I’ve been on Dr. Oz more times than I can count. I’m a known entity there and someone they trust to present information well, period. The media is an echo chamber and so that lady talking about how to pair a shirt with dress slacks is an expert because she decided she was. That’s it. The challenge isn’t what you know, but how you communicate it that makes you media material. You want to be an expert? Start acting like one.

2. Care more about changing people’s lives than their opinion of you. When I started doing more media, Gail Blanke, an in-demand author, speaker, and expert I admire said that the key to communicating powerfully was to focus on the message. Many of the schoolteachers I know are shy, and hardly spotlight seekers, but not in front of a classroom. That’s because they’re driven by what they want those children to learn, more than anything else.

I tell my clients: If you’re not out to change my life in some way, you’re wasting your time and mine. Focus on that urgency, on that mission, above all else. And so will they.

3. Don’t just give information; stand for something. My colleague Hank Norman, cofounder of 2 Market Media, is a real hothead about this. If you don’t have an opinion, than nothing you have to say matters. Because information is so accessible, I don’t need just more info—I need to know why I should care. So if you keep striking out with all your statistics, it’s because you’re not giving the media enough to bite into. You’re soft-pedaling, trying to “appeal” to the most people. You want more attention? Alienate a few. Trust me.

So, raise the stakes. Tell me what happens if I don’t do what you think I should. Take a counterintuitive position, and avoid saying what everyone else says. (See how I did this and turned the tables in a recent interview on CBS). Great ideas are worth fighting for. And if you aren’t willing to put skin in the game, then why are you in this to begin with?

(Watch my video on some key pointers for speaking in the media.)

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