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It's Not Like TED: Tips On Crafting Your Signature Talk

By Dr. Steven Hayward

There are a lot of misconceptions about what a “Signature Talk” is, so let’s start by clarifying how it’s different from, say, a TED talk--and also why it’s important to take the time and craft yours to make it as effective as possible.

Put simply, a Signature Talk is the talk you’ll give whenever you're invited to speak or present. This might be a one-to-one exchange, as in that mythical elevator where everyone makes pitches, or it could be in front of hundreds at the annual meeting of the professional society from which you draw most of your clients. It could be 50 minutes long, or five, or anything in-between. High impact, easily customizable and designed to move people to action.

If you’re reading this you’ve probably been asked to step up on stage more than once, and for that reason it’s crucial to take the time and craft a Signature Talk that is unique and powerful. Maybe you’re just starting to think about it, or maybe you’re looking to tweak one you’ve been giving for years, but whatever the case, here are a few key pointers about how to approach the Signature Talk and how to make it most effective.


1. Connect  

The most common mistake people make when getting their Signature Talk together is to lead with that one thing that is most unique about themselves, a particular skill set or that one thing that sets them apart from everyone else. 

That’s crucial, but it’s not the way to start your Signature Talk. Instead, do the opposite and start with a story that establishes a common ground and use that to communicate the fact that you are a person to whom people can relate. 

Think of Spiderman. If he had a signature talk it wouldn’t start with the radioactive spider who bites him in a once-in-a-lifetime crazy random event; it would begin with the fact that he began--and, despite his powers, remains--an ordinary person (teenager) like everyone else. 


2. Provide Value

Since you’re here, chances are that you are an expert of some kind, have a set of insights, some clear value proposition that can improve the lives of others. This will be the body of your Signature Talk. Probably this is at the core what you do for a living, and is also one of the reasons for you deciding it’s time to craft an effective Signature Talk--it is, after all, the single most effective way to position yourself as an expert.

Which brings us to another of the mistakes we see people make in their Signature Talks--the instinct to keep that expertise to themselves as much as possible. In a way, it makes sense. If one of the goals of the talk is to get folks to invest in you, why would you give anything away for free?

The fact is that we are more likely to want to work in the long term with the people who have taught us something, who have helped us already, so solve a clear and tangible problem. It can be something small. What is a step (or 3) that people can take to change their lives, or grow their business, or heal, immediately? Make that part of your Signature Talk. If you help someone get started, you’re the one they’re going to want with them when they cross the finish line.


3. Point the Way

What is the action that you want people to take after hearing your Signature Talk? This might be something as simple as contacting you and continuing the conversation. Make that part of your Signature Talk. The reason why people tend to leave this out is because it seems straightforward, like something you can google. But a lot of people don’t, or hesitate, or don’t want to seem “salesy”. Make it as easy as possible. No matter what next step you want your audience to take, tell them exactly how to do it. Hand over the map and point the way. Do you have an event coming up where you can add even more value? Can they bring you to speak at their next event? Then before you close your talk, come back to connection. Something that brings together the emotional side of making the decision to take action on the value you’ve just provided. 

Whether it’s to one person or hundreds, your Signature Talk is an essential aspect of your communication strategy. Take the time, make it as effective as possible, the return that investment provides will make you glad you did! 

If you're ready to develop your signature talk, schedule a brainstorming call with us here. 

- Dr. Steven Hayward is our head writer at GoodOne Co. He is an English Professor at Colorado College, bestselling author, renowned filmmaker and has a great head of hair. 


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