Extraordinary Team Blog

Trend #1: Definition of “Speaker” is Morphing

Posted by Kristin Arnold on October 8, 2010

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While in Marlow, UK at the Professional Speaking Association convention, I was asked to be on a panel discussing the future of professional speaking.  In preparation for the panel discussion, I scribbled a few headlines about the trends I am seeing as a professional speaker and as President of the National Speakers Association in the United States.

Oddly enough, we didn’t get around to the list until halfway through the panel discussion.  Once we did start talking about the list, the energy went up in the room and we started sharing diverse perspectives. (LOVE it when that happens!).  After the conference, Phil Jones asked me to continue the conversation.  And so, here it is.  I’ll write a trend a day until I don’t have anything else to say.  Feel free to comment as I do NOT have the omniscient view of the world – but I certainly have an opinion!

So here’s my first comment on the future of professional speaking:

1.  The marketplace definition of “speaking” is morphing.  In previous years, the definition of a “speaker” was synonymous with a “keynoter” or “general session speaker”.  Thirty to ninety minutes of your best stuff on the main stage.  I see the demand for this traditional kind of speaker is more aligned with the celebrity/entertainer in an effort to put butts in seats.  They have their stories/entertainment, they share it with the audience, and then they leave.  Today’s audiences (and future audiences) want to be more engaged with the presentation. Yes, they want to feel good, get some insights and feel inspired in that time period.  But it has to be more about THEM rather than about you, the professional speaker.  They are seeking pain relief or to tap into your ability to leverage an opportunity.  This could come in the form of a keynote or general session, OR it could come in the form of facilitation, training, coaching, consulting, or other offline/online delivery systems.  The lines between speaking, facilitating, training, consulting etc. are blurring.  Most “speakers” who are doing really well in this economy don’t call themselves a “speaker”.  They call themselves as experts – who deliver exceptional value to the client.  I am beginning to believe that whatever we, the professional speaker, call ourselves is irrelevant.  The marketplace decides what they want – and we need to be positioned to deliver it now and into the future.