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How to know if your speech topic fits

Have a few speech topic ideas but unsure which is the best fit?

Or perhaps you want to learn what the current hot topics are for a certain industry?

Knowing which topic or topics best fit a particular organization or industry is crucial for your speaking business. You won’t be hired to speak if your speech isn’t relevant for them. Make sense?

Even if you’re submitting a Call for Programs, your program won’t be selected by the planning committee if your speech topic isn’t applicable and pertinent to their issues they are facing.

I encourage you to read my recent blog about how to properly submit a Call for Programs, because you’ll understand that submitting Call for Programs at conferences is one of the best ways to get PAID speaking gigs.

So whether you are just starting out in your speaking business or you are wanting to get more serious about your speaking and take it to the next level, knowing you have a great topic is vital as a professional speaker. Yes or yes?

But how do you know which topic is best? This is key.

First, here’s a little back-end story to how I learned this …

When I first started speaking, I focused on the collegiate industry. Because I worked in Student Affairs, I understood not only the collegiate speaking market but also the issues facing college students. As a Director of Student Activities, Fraternity and Sorority Life Advisor, Orientation Director, and Dean of Students, I designed a keynote speech relevant for each “type” of college student. I didn’t know it at the time, but this strategy was key to my success.

When I first started speaking to professional groups several years later, I wasn’t even sure who my target audience should be. I was all over the place in terms of industries, audiences and topics.

Fortunately, being coached through an intense reflection process by my speaking mentor, I was finally able to identify that employee engagement, workforce culture and leadership development were topics that I wanted to focus on in my corporate speeches. I knew I could bring value in these areas.

My speaking mentor recommended I investigate human resource professionals and associations those professionals belong to in order to deliver my speeches. Specifically, my mentor directed me to focus on training events and conferences where speakers were needed by these associations and individuals.

Neither myself nor my mentor knew exactly what I’d find, but it felt great to at least have a focus where to start.

I went to my friend, Google, and started researching the human resource industry. I nearly filled an entire memo pad taking copious notes gathering all the information I could to understand their issues, hot topics, buzzwords, and common phrases.

I remember being at a coffee shop in Greensboro, NC for nearly an entire day doing nothing but research. By the end of that day, I remember feeling like a ran an emotional marathon. I was exhausted.

But by the end of that day, I had clarity. I also had motivation because I felt progress. And when you feel progress, you are excited because you know you're on the right track.

My mentor was right. Human resources was an ideal fit for the type of topic I wanted to focus on.

Cutting the onion further though, the association within the human resource industry that seemed to provide the events and conferences for speakers was called the Society for Human Resource Management, better known as SHRM.

Keeping my momentum, the next full day I went to another coffee shop and did nothing but continue my research on SHRM. By the end of the day, not only did I discover that SHRM had an international and national structure, but also a local statewide structure. Within my home state of North Carolina alone, there were 13 different chapters, each hosting monthly meetings where they brought in speakers. Each state also hosted an annual conference.

This is how I identified my “Association Model” that comprises Module 3 in my book, PAID to SPEAK: How to Become a Professional Speaker. In the book I share examples of my discovery in more detail and share templates how I reached out to chapters and event organizers in SHRM.

I also studied past year’s SHRM conferences to learn specific presentation themes, titles, and current trends. These were easy to find on the internet. Again, Google was my best friend once I knew what to look for.

After studying past year conference presentations, I became clear on hot topics and current issues amongst the SHRM association and HR profession. Not only did I feel affirmed my program content was a great fit, but I learned how to tailor it to “speak” to the specific SHRM industry.

Important: I recently received an invitation at one of the conferences I spoke at several years ago. Receiving that invitation was the catalyst for writing this post! Click here to take a look at the conference as an example of what I’m suggesting to you. If human resources is a potential industry for your speech topic, or if you’re considering it, then I most definitely would encourage you to study the link.

Within six months from that exhausting day in the coffee shop, I had 11 keynotes lined up. Most were not paid. Instead, I was paying ... my dues. This type of grit and perseverance is a common denominator amongst all professional speakers. I wrote about it in a recent blog – click here.

If you think speaking is easy, then you’re wrong. It’s going to be the most difficult obsession you’ll ever fall in love with. Will it be easy? No. Worth it? Yes.

*** One year after those 11 keynotes, I was not only a featured keynote speaker at several state conferences but also a featured Mega Session keynote speaker in between Hillary Clinton at Daniel Pink at the SHRM Annual Convention.

The following year, my speaking grew to over $100,000.

I'm not writing this to impress you. I'm writing it to impress upon you the results you can have when you know what you're doing by applying strategy and process in a speaking business.

So if you’re exploring speech topic ideas or you now realize that you need to better understand the hot topics of a certain industry, this blog outlines several tips to help you get started.

Contact me if you’d like some help to talk through this. I know it’s quite a bit of information and it can feel overwhelming. But don’t let it feel overwhelming. Do what I did back then by finding a speaking mentor.

If you feel I can help and guide you to get to where you want to be, I’m a simple email away. Contact me by emailing Ball’s in your court.

I wish you speaking success!


Desire to become a professional speaker?

Not getting the speaking business you had hoped for?

In addition to my own speaking business, I have a passion for helping and coaching speakers develop their own. Whether it's in crafting a speech, identifying target groups who can pay, and/or how to get the speaking gig itself, I can help. I've keynoted over 1,150 presentations in practically every industry you can imagine. My book, PAID to SPEAK, outlines a proven model for speakers. If you are serious about becoming a professional speaker, contact me for a free consultation. I don't want you to flounder like I did and be frustrated. If you're not a subscriber to these speaker articles, submit your email today!


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