Picking Your Lane in Your Speaking Business

By Jane Atkinson

The question does come up quite frequently, “How do I pick my lane?”, a.k.a., “How do I figure out what speaking topic to be known for?” Some of you might have this nailed, and some of you might not. Whether or not you do, this is a good process to go through to make sure you’re still in line with your topics.

The reason someone might want to pick their lane is simple – to make it easier for your buyers to understand how you are going to help them. When you offer seven different topics, it’s very difficult for the buyer to choose. Copywriter Bob Bly always said, “A confused buyer never buys.” And to add icing to that cake, most decisions to offer more and more topics are steeped in fear. And to quote my old boss (who was smart enough to become a multi-millionaire), “Decisions based in fear are typically wrong.”

Picking a Lane In Your Sales Business

Okay, so now that we’re on the same page about why to pick a lane, let’s map out how to do that in four simple steps.

Step 1. Get clear

Write down all of the possible topics you could speak about. Here’s a sample list:

  • Communication
  • Team Building
  • Leadership
  • Presentation Skills

Step. 2. Remove the outliers

See which topics fall into the same categories and which stick out like a sore thumb. On the list above, for example, you might immediately drop presentation skills because it’s not at all in line with the other topics. Sure, maybe you earn some money from this at times, but you have to go all in and be known for just one topic.

Step 3. Rate your topics

Rate your remaining topics on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being high, using our Pick a Lane Focus Form (download your copy here).

We’re going to rate your topics based on several criteria:

-Passion– How passionate are you about this topic? This is important because passion will be what sustains you when times get tough.

-Revenue– Can you get paid for this topic? How much? This is where people in the industry, like me, may need to step in to help. Or you can research it. If you go to one of the speakers bureaus websites, or eSpeakers, you can search topics specifically and see what people are charging. That can help you know whether or not speakers are getting paid well for this topic or not.

-Vision– Can you see yourself delivering this topic five years from now? This may be a non-starter. If you’re already sick of this topic, and you rate this a 2, it probably should come off your list right away.

-Credibility– If you are choosing a topic based on leadership or something of that nature, you have to have the chops to back it up. Have you led people? If so, carry on. Ask yourself, “Am I credible to deliver this topic?”

-Relevant– We really need to be timely with our topics. There are some very fascinating topics about history and travel, but if the speakers don’t align their talks with some sort of business metaphor or lesson for today, it’s less likely they will find markets who will pay.

-Unique– Being unique is almost a given in today’s competitive client. In a sea of speakers for sale, you’ve got to try and stand out. For most of my clients, their personal spin on the story is what makes it unique and that is often enough.Be Unique In Your Speaking

-Talent– Even the most engaging topics need to have some delivery skill behind them or the audience will be lost. We’re competing with handheld devices, so you need to be able to deliver your topic in a compelling way. You may feel you have more skill in delivering some topics more than others.

Step 4Mash-Up 

Once you’ve rated all of these areas, you might see one that clearly stands out as your lane because it gets the highest rating. If there’s a close second, consider a mash-up. A mash-up is taking two of your ideas and blending them into one. With the topics we listed above, perhaps Leadership and Team come out as your top two. You might consider putting them together and coming out with the best material on each to make one new topic on Leading your Team to ______ (insert outcome here).

Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal when picking a lane is to come to the crossroads where passion and profits meet. Without passion, we won’t get very far before burning out in our lane. And without profits, well, what’s the point? We’re in business and businesses are meant to turn a profit. Doing good work in the world does not mean that your mortgage shouldn’t get paid.

See you soon, Wealthy Speakers!

Jane Atkinson