Can You Predict What Your Speaking Business Will Look Like in 10 Years?

By Courtney Clark

When you think about the business tools you need as a professional speaker, what comes to mind? A laptop? A microphone? A rolling suitcase that fits in the overhead bin of any airline where you hold status?

How about a crystal ball?

On day three of the National Speakers Association's Winter Conference 2018 in Baltimore, we gained strategies to help us “predict the future” of our speaking industry.

Tamsen Webster kicked off the day by teaching us how to prepare our BIG ideas for small time-slots in TED-style talks. While she acknowledged that it’s more difficult for a professional speaker to earn a coveted TED or TEDx talk, it’s not impossible if you put aside what you think you know about crafting your message. Her advice? Blow up the methods you’ve used in the past to build your speeches, and combine something that people want to know with something they don’t expect.

Chris Penn helped us understand the ways speakers will need to interface with artificial intelligence. The most engaging speakers know what the audience wants, and gives it to them, so wouldn’t it be amazing to recraft your speech on the fly to tailor it to what people are thinking? A.I. will offer us a way to analyze things like real-time social media posts during our talk, to best engage our listeners. Chris’s most provocative prediction for the future? That A.I. technology will allow us, as speakers, to analyze our audience’s emotions live on the spot, as they’re hearing our presentations.

To have maximum impact on your audience, Trish Witkowski taught us that the physical medium always wins, because humans are hard-wired for multi-sensory experiences. Yet only 10 percent of our daily interactions are non-screen based! Trish issued a challenge: Start thinking about your work in three dimensions: the message, the experience, and the exclusive physical takeaways. When you give them something that is real, you’ll leave a lasting impact.

Our chosen “Mystery Speaker” was revealed to be Ian Altman, who only had a day to pull together his presentation! Ian diagnosed us with a contagious – but curable – speaker disease: Axis Displacement Disorder. Symptoms of Axis Displacement Disorder include assuming the whole world revolves around you getting what you want out of a sales interaction with a client. This new “ADD” causes us to follow up with our clients in ineffective and self-serving ways, like the dreaded “I’m just checking in to see if you’ve made a decision yet,” call.  Ian reminded us that as speakers, we think of the finish line as getting the contract, but our clients think of the finish line as the audience result AFTER our presentation. If you can show the value or your impact, clients will see your fee, at any level, as a bargain.

Crystal Washington, CSP, was joined on stage by special guest Blue, a robot. But Blue wasn’t the biggest surprise: Crystal shocked us all by revealing that we’re becoming cyborgs! Yes, our phones have become our appendages. To prove her point, Crystal reminded us of our tendency toward “digital amnesia,” retaining less information because we can rely on our devices. I admit I was recently embarrassed to realize that *I*, a former elementary school spelling bee champion, was relying on spell check to remember my old spelling rules. How did this happen?! The good news? Audience learning can get BETTER using technology. By embracing technology to move into the future, we can all become more than speakers… we can be producers of extraordinary experiences.

We woke Andrew Tarvin up in the middle of a nap to show us how technology can help us be better content creators. Andrew busted the myth that creativity is a freeform, magical essence that’s directly opposite of technology. In fact, Andrew says, creativity BENEFITS from the structure that technology brings. His virtual sidekick – a smart, on-task device that we now ALL wish we could own– walked him through the best practices of creating new content, adding humor, and driving home the intention to the audience. With a single command, his virtual BFF/assistant even generated a list of pull quotes for social media. Maybe in the future we’ll all have Andrew’s helpful creation, and we’ll never have to wait for inspiration to strike.

As we neared the end, we were all left wanting more. But that’s okay, because opportunities for future learning are almost here. Michelle Villalobos, BrandLab co-chair, invited us to join the April event, where you can get live feedback on your brand and your prospect’s perception of you. Then Trinity and Neo – I mean Jill Schiefelbein and Corey Perlman – offered us a red pill that will allow us to transform our businesses by attending Influence 18 in Dallas.

NSA President Brian Walter, CSP, CPAE, refused to be upstaged by John Sileo’s, CSP, CPAE, attempts to hack his computer and reveal the content of Brian’s closing address. Brian welcomed brand-new NSA CEO Mary Lue Peck, MBA, to the stage for a conversation to learn more about the future of NSA. Mary Lue is excited to work with what she calls the “loyal, dedicated members of NSA” raise the bar on the value of NSA membership.

Brian sent us out the door with a reminder that the future of our content may look more like producing and starring in our own reality TV show. But how many people - he challenged us - would want to watch? If we’re able to stay relevant, the future looks…bright.

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