I see a lot of coaches, consultants, and experts obsess over finding the right “idea worth spreading,” title, and persuasive presentation description.
And that’s not a bad thing.
But first, if we want to get booked to speak (or train), we need to ensure that the underlying speech topics we are building our presentation on aligns with our business goals AND is relevant to the audiences of the people we are pitching.
Not sure what speaking topics and trends are catchy right now with meeting planners, event organizers, and corporate leaders?
Here are 4 timely speech topics that associations, conferences, and companies are eager to book.
1. Speaking Your Truth/Finding Your Voice
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had half a dozen clients in very different industries than mine show up to a coaching call and share, “X company/conference wants me to turn my keynote into a Step into Your Moxie® presentation.”
While this might be a smidge dramatic, the long-term impact of movements like Me Too and Black Lives Matter is that events and organizations are tapping into the energy of the current historical moment and eager to provide programming to attendees/employees about how to (re)claim their voices and speak up and out in their careers, businesses, and home life. You don’t have to be a speaking, leadership, diversity, or women’s empowerment consultant to integrate this theme into your spotlight presentation.
2. Innovation and Design Thinking
The most basic definition of innovation, thank you, Merriam-Webster, is “the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value for which customers will pay.” Innovation is a hot topic in organizations (where companies are desperate to appear innovative to stay competitive in the marketplace and attract and retain top talent). Embracing innovation is equally important to schools, colleges, utilities, and even the military – entities that are often seen as “traditional” yet are often making the speaking, sales, and human capital investments to shift their image and culture.
Design thinking according to IDEO (a leading design firm and a pioneer in the field of design thinking) is the “process for creative problem-solving.” It empowers companies, schools, and other institutions to “focus on the people they’re creating for, which leads to better products, services, and internal processes.”
While both of these speech topics are not areas you simply read about online and brand yourself an expert in, if these happen to be your zones of genius, put them front and center in your speaking titles and descriptions. And if you have an innovative approach to your area, unapologetically highlight it!
Which brings me to the third hot topic.
3. Unique Approaches to Leadership and Employee Development
Leadership and employee development are two of the most timeless and relevant topics that groups engage speakers and trainers to address. The key, if this is your sweet spot, is not getting lost amidst the thousands of other experts in this area. To stand out, get super-duper clear on your approach, the results it’s generated, and why it will allow the audiences who listen to you speak and/or work with you to achieve the results that have thus far eluded them. (Also, consider titling your presentation something that suggests your point of view is novel, unorthodox, and maybe even radical!)
4. Family Well-Being
If you are a therapist or parenting expert, you likely just did a happy dance and shed a tear of delight. Or relief! Yes, family wellness is hotter than Sriracha on a habanero pepper right now. And not only in the obvious way – at women’s and mom conferences.
More and more schools and corporations are bringing in speakers for parents and employees, respectively. If this is your jam, be sure you are presenting yourself on your website and in your speaker marketing materials not only as someone who provides direct services to families but also as someone who empowers larger organizational audiences.
This will ensure you not only get the low-hanging speaking opportunities at local family and religious groups but also the more lucrative ones in school parent/professional development educational programs and for corporations looking to invest in their employees’ wellness (which family health, of course, is a huge component of).
Now, on the flipside, some speech topics have already had their moment in the limelight.
Here are 4 speech topics that have outlived their relevance (like the man bun!).
1. Social Media 101
While presentations on specific social platforms, algorithms, or ads are still popular, particularly at tech, content marketing, and of course social media-specific conferences, audience members in these sessions usually know the fundamentals. If this is your area of expertise, go deep into strategy or best practices on a particular social media topic – or consider a more disruptive presentation on how what we think we know about a facet of social media is wrong or outdated.
2. Lists, Rules, and Best Practices
The top 5 ways to cure sugar cravings for good. The 7 rules for engaging employees. The nine billion best practices you have to do daily to stay healthy during cold and flu season. Each of these could (maybe?) make for an interesting blog post or instructional YouTube video. However, prescriptive recommendations do not make the foundation for a compelling, transformational (or bookable) presentation. You can have moments in your presentation dedicated to how to’s and specific action steps, but decision makers do not usually book these kinds of topics for high-profile speaking spots.
3. Happiness and Joy
People don’t want to be happy and joyful, dammit. Okay, we totally do, but that’s not the conversation in most of our heads. And they’re certainly not speech topics most event bookers are looking for. Happiness and joy are byproducts of speaking our truth in the world. Meaningful work. The right partnership. Very few motivational speakers focus on happiness and joy, and it’s rare that event organizers will book this subject for their attendees. Even if you are a psychologist or life coach and happiness and joy are your thing, if you want to get booked, you want to frame your presentation on the source of happiness and joy as you see it – rather than on happiness and joy themselves.
4. Anything with a buzzword from one of Brené Brown’s books
Okay, hear me out on this one. While themes like vulnerability, shame, and courage are still very much in-demand, when they are front and center in a title or presentation description, it’s likely your speaking pitch will elicit an eye-roll from a decision maker. Your presentation can explore these themes. But when a theme has become a buzzword or is enmeshed with a notorious speaker and thought leader, best to refocus the presentation (and title) on the outcome of your speaking rather than on the process you will take audience members through.
I’d love to know how you can leverage these insights as you sculpt (or refine) your speech topics, signature presentation, pitch, and speaker marketing materials.
Please let me know in the comments below.