Time to Reboot the Speaking Industry in the Human-to-Human Era

by Ayelet Baron

Some people believe that when you are invited to give a talk or a speech, you are expected to entertain an audience. I have experienced speakers who post on their social media updates that they are off to be the opening act at a company conference.

It always makes me think about the missed opportunity in having this limiting belief. If this is true than what it means is that most organizations are simply hiring speakers to entertain their people. Another fleeting entertainment show that could be broadcast on a television channel to be consumed and forgotten when we get back to our emails and jobs after the celebrated event. We’ve all seen how this movie plays out, and too often, its sequels as well.

In a world where we manage change in business instead of embracing it, it is not surprising that fear produces predictability and cookie cutter expectations at events. It is part of the current transactional nature of business that needs a reboot to match the 21st century human to human era.

Got Purpose?

A recent study by Imperative found that 28% of the U.S. workforce—42 million out of 150 million people—is purpose-oriented, while the rest, well, they’re just going to work every day. While some people see work in their lives as solely a source of income or status, less than three in ten are oriented to see work as primarily about purpose: personal fulfillment and helping other people. The rest of the world is probably in the same boat.

Getting to clarity about an organization’s purpose is the journey we are all on and making sure everyone understands and lives the shared purpose is the goal. Isn’t communication about making sure that people have the information they need to deliver on the company’s purpose? We have over complicated business and at the same time, standardized what success should look like without taking the time to make it our own.

Take the Time to Connect with A New Generation of Storytellers

Most 21st century speakers spend time asking questions and understanding the purpose so their talks can have a business impact. As a former theatre major, I know the difference between entertaining an audience/performing and connecting deeply with people. If everything becomes an act in business and your employees are entertained, how do you shift their hearts to find that purpose that motivates us to do great work together?

In the human-to-human and experience driven era, our opportunity is to share stories and ask new questions that drive something deep inside of us.

It’s time to up the game and create conversations

We have an opportunity to fundamentally change the game today by redefining both storytelling and speeches with a 21st century mindset. Too many organizations are still stuck in the last century mindset of fear, scarcity and competition, which guides them to believe that events should have keynote speakers who entertain. This fundamentally misses the new world opportunity of sharing in conversation and setting a new foundation that is grounded in 21st century mindfulness and purpose:

21st century talks connect people and ideas. They make us think by posing questions, not the same old burned out 20th century 7-steps to success formulas.

21st century interactive keynotes spur meaningful change in people, while 20th century speeches are the warm up act for the one way messages of an organization.

21st century talks plant the seeds of possibilities to help people spark their imagination and ability to create, while 20th century speeches are the “rah rah” cheerleading banter of yesterday.

It’s always a choice, You can bring a big name celebrity or speaker to your organization to just motivate and entertain people or you can spark meaningful conversations that live on beyond an event. It all depends on the outcome you seek and how you measure the long-term impact. If you hire an entertainer, you will get that real time high. If you hire a sharer and a storyteller who asks profound questions, you will spark connections and conversations. It’s a choice of how you want to invest people’s imagination and ability to create and co-create beyond your event. Isn’t it time to capture the hearts and minds of people and bring in some fresh air?

P.S. Just because this is how everyone else does it, does not mean that it’s the best path for you and your organization. In the 21st century, the opportunities are on the edge. What’s your edge?

image credit: speakersbureau.com

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Ayelet Baron is a global futurist who speaks and writes about the future of life and work, and a co-creator at CreatingIs. Her upcoming book, Our Journey to Business Common Sense, is a journey of possibilities for the 21st century leader. Ayelet was chief strategy and innovation officer at Cisco Canada, taking Canada from #6 in revenue to #2 globally. She was also an Innovator in Residence at Roche/Genentech and part of the senior leadership team of its Strategic Innovation in Product Development. Follow Ayelet @ayeletb

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