September 26, 2017

5 Expert Predictions About the Future of Professional Speaking

BY Caitlin Delohery IN Professional Speaking 0 Comment

As Mark Sanborn, a self-described present-ologist says, “Predicting future is easy — predicting it well is hard.” To stay relevant as a professional speaker, sometimes it feels like you need to be a fortune teller.

We all want to know what’s going to happen next, but anticipating the future doesn’t require psychic abilities. Instead, professional speakers are keen observers of the present. They use their expertise to remain adaptable and on the pulse of their changing audiences.

Here are what our speaker experts have to say about the top trends for the future of their business.

The professional speaking business is going to grow – big time.

To keep up with constantly evolving industries and workplaces, audiences are hungry for the educational opportunities to speakers provide. The professional speaking industry will grow as more speakers are drawn to meet these growing educational needs.

Shep Hyken locates this growth in an increasing number of experts who are searching outside of traditional employment for ways to share their knowledge. “More and more people will get into professional speaking. A lot of people don’t have jobs but have expertise that they can share. And I think that they’ll be able to monetize some of that expertise in what is now considered professional speaking.”

As professional speaking becomes a more crowded space, competition for gigs — and for attention — is going to get more fierce. Your audience is likely watching informative videos, streaming TedTalks, and reading expert articles constantly. It will take more engaging, personalized, and unique information to hold people’s attention. Diane DiResta notes, “I think it will continue to be tough, the bar will continue to be raised . . . It’s a growing profession but it’s a harder profession to break into now. Audiences are more demanding.”

Action will speak louder than words.

With more discerning, savvy audiences, you’ll need to do more than providing great info. You need to give your audience something they can act on — such as educational materials, more professional services, or continued consulting.

Companies will increasingly use speakers as agents of change, says Mike Wittenstein. “Speakers will be chosen more frequently based on their ability to implement what they talk about and more first-time clients will enter the market—desiring business outcomes over topics.”

Joel Bock defines this shift as a move from making money from your speech to making money because of the connections your speech lead to. “This occurs when I go to speak somewhere, and because of that speech, people buy other services from me. People are using speaking to soft sell and make their audience aware of opportunities, problems, and solutions.”

Neen James agrees. When she looks to the future, she sees “demands to make content more actionable and measurable, with more regular follow-up throughout the year.”

Audiences will want more and more interaction.

Your info-saturated, overstimulated audiences are going to be less and less likely to sit through keynotes and one-way lectures. To gain and keep their attention, you’re going to need to bring them into your shows.

Veteran speaking expert Nancy Duarte calls this increasing need for more interaction the “TED Effect.” TED Talks have raised the bar for what people expect in a speech, largely because they are dynamic and conversational. To meet this high level of expectations, you need to top Ted and include your audience in the action.

“Audiences increasingly want to be part of the show,” says Mark Sanborn. “I’ve worked very hard to create interaction with the audience or get the audience involved mentally and physically, asking questions or talking to other people. In this experiential world that we live in, we don’t want to be passive spectators. We want to be more actively involved.”

Christine Clapp, president of Spoken with Authority, suggests brainstorming as a group and sharing ideas aloud as much as possible. “You might also offer a poll to gauge attitudes, a quiz to check for understanding, or a case study or activity so listeners can apply what they learned in a real-life context.”

Multichannel thought leadership will be a requirement for success.

Along with providing actionable ideas and services, professional speakers will need to put their message out on multiple channels in order to gain, keep, and increase attention.

First, speaking itself will be freed from the platform. Hyken reflects on the ways technology has expanded what it means to give a speech. “There are multiple ways for professional speakers to make money in the business. It’s not just getting up on a stage and delivering a message. A professional speaker today can communicate to people in multiple ways: a webinar, a teleseminar, Google Hangout, an online experience, in-person experience, or a streaming experience. Smart speakers are going to exploit different channels to widen their audience and exposure.”

Hyken also predicts that connecting to audiences in between speeches will no longer be optional if you want to succeed. “The top speakers . . . will be open-minded, will try new things, and will find new ways to reach different audiences. Social media and blogging is all part of content marketing, and I think the channels of content marketing are going to expand. It’s all about adaptability. ”

Luckily, you are already a content-generating machine. Your thought leadership is likely what got you into the speaker biz to begin with.

Pay close attention to the kind of information your audiences spark to. Then, tap your existing bank of knowledge on these topics and create the kind of valuable, compelling content that will help you remain relevant. Then, share this info far and wide, repurpose it into different formats, and incorporate it back on the platform in innovative ways.

Seamless tech integration will become more important than ever.

Each of the previous trends is informed by tech-savvy audiences and a digital world that changes faster than trending Twitter topics. To remain relevant, engaged, and top-of-mind, professional speakers will need to be smart about the technology they choose.

And, no tool stands alone. Your tools need to play well with others. James predicts “requests for more integration of technology in speeches to drive audience interaction and share content,” especially when it comes to livestreaming and more video integration to promote wider distribution of content.

Wittenstein says, “Professional speaking is no longer a job for the meek or weak. Why? Because everything – and I mean everything – is in a constant state of flux. Clients’ needs are evolving faster than ever. Technology, with the capabilities and frustrations it brings to your business, demands more care and feeding. You need to stay at the leading edge of your industry and keep up with prospects, clients, and colleagues for your voice to matter.”

Looking for tech that will help you stay at the leading edge? Check out the tech tools professional speakers are exploring.

Caitlin got her roots in inbound marketing before it got its name. As a teenager in the 90s, she promoted her independently published magazines by writing about the importance of indie publishing all over AOL. Now, Caitlin is passionate about moving people and society forward. She follows thought leaders in the National Speakers Association, the staffing industry, and all human rights movements. She loves learning and helping people learn.

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