The secret to a great talk? Follow the grandma rule, remember to 'stick and click' and don't hesitate to repeat your top messages.

I made a mistake last month, (ok, probably more than one), but one that I want to talk about here. I gave a talk at a local company about my new book that kinda bombed. Ouch.

Now that a few weeks have passed, I can look back with a little perspective and I know what I did wrong and sadly, it's a mistake I've made before. I tried to tell the audience EVERYTHING. In an hour. You can see why it didn’t work out so well. I should know better.

Were you one of those kids who always had their hand up in class? Who always wanted to have the right answer? I was. And looking back, I think that's the part of me that showed up that day…that little kid who always wanted to show how smart she is.

Why? Perhaps I got a little nervous because I knew that there were going to be several PhD scientists in the room. Perhaps I got wrapped up in the experts’ dilemma -- knowing so much about a topic you can't teach others what you know. Perhaps it was the fear that someone might question whether I'm even an expert in my topic at all.

It was probably all of those. But what counts now is if I can step back and start over. If I can go back and revamp my talk completely so it doesn’t happen again. If I can focus on finding the core essence of my message so I can share that. 

Just that. 

Not every story and every slide and every nuance and every detail. Not even if I want to. I have to keep reminding myself that the “smartest kid in the room” is not a winning strategy.

Having an audience is a gift and I never want to take that gift for granted. When I can remember that I am there in service to that audience and not in service to selling books or showing how smart I am or sharing every single thing I know, then I will gain their ear…as well as their hearts and minds. 

I am on a mission to create more thought leaders in the world - more people who are willing to step out and claim their expertise and join the broader conversation. More people who see themselves as change makers and are empowered to make that change happen. I can't do that if no one is listening.

So, next time I will do better. I will distill and hone and reframe and refocus to give people the key elements that will inspire and incite them to take action. 

Next time you are in front of an audience, I hope you'll do the same. 


Preparing Your Talk

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you prepare for your next talk:

Less and Less is So Much More: What are the core elements and core takeaways from this talk? Can you write them on an index card? If not, perhaps it's time to rethink.
Stick and Click: Are there one or two easy-to-remember phrases or concepts in your talk that will help your ideas stick and click?
Tell Your Truth: I call this the Brene Brown rule - the value of vulnerability. It's not about publicly hanging out all your dirty laundry but are you showing up as your authentic self?
Repetition is Not a Bad Word: You may think you've already said it before, but just because you've repeated it doesn't mean others heard or remembered it. That takes repetition.
The Grandma Rule: Would someone (like your grandmother) who knows nothing about your topic be able to follow what you're saying? If not, how can you 'uncomplexify' what you're talking about?


Want a really difficult challenge that may help you break through?

Prepare an Ignite version of your talk: 5 minutes, 20 slides and the slides advance automatically every 15 seconds. 

Posts That First Appeared 
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3 Ways to Expand Your Future (Inc.com)
By connecting with people who face hurdles similar to yours, you can vastly expand the possibilities for your own future.

How to Sell Your Ideas (Inc.com)
You've got all your employees excited about your vision. Now, it's time to convince the rest of the world.

Where Are All the Women Entrepreneurs? (Inc.com and Women 2.0)
Sure, women start lots of companies. But where are the big, world-changing businesses run by women?

Additional Blog Posts

How I Learned (Again) That Less Is Really More

Are you preparing to give a talk? Take a few tips from my recent experience.

Write to Change the World!
Is it time to claim your expertise, step into the spotlight and join the conversation?

Is it Time to Lighten Up?
The world of business just might be better off if we encouraged a bit more fun at work.

How Do I Find My Presumptive Bravado?
When is it okay to declare yourself an expert? How do you gain the needed confidence to own your role as a key influencer in your niche?

What Happens When No One is Listening?
Thought leaders are often ahead of their time. They can find themselves ignored, overlooked and even shunned. How do you overcome the naysayers? 

Are You a Boundary Setter?
How do you become a thought leader? Become a boundary setter. 

Sometimes It’s JUST RIGHT!
Keep looking, you'll eventually find your tribe. And when you do, you'll know it.