I walked into my first National Speakers Association annual conference in the summer of 2008 and met Jane Atkinson in the lobby. I was deep into a solid career in advertising with an executive-level agency job and a strong desire to get out. I hired Jane to help guide my journey and never looked back. Her book, The Wealthy Speaker 2.0, became my playbook for navigating the start of my business.
Five years later, she invited me to write the foreword for her new book, “The Epic Keynote.”
Relying on her own experience and insight from some of the best keynote speakers on the planet, Jane applies her unique blend of art and science to help speakers hone their craft. This book is not only a must-read for the speaking pro, but is relevant for anyone hoping to improve their presentation skills and move an audience to action.
I recently caught up with Jane and asked her about the new book.
Ryan: You’ve worked in the speaking industry for the past 25 years. What changes have you seen?
Jane: There have been a lot of changes in the past 25 years. Before the recession, companies spent big money on keynote speakers. When the economy crashed, everything changed: Budgets shrunk dramatically and meeting planners started paying a lot more attention to ROI.
Companies need to see the value for their audience from every event. No one wants to hire a speaker who’s just going to rattle off platitudes. Speakers have to lead with expertise and lessons they’ve learned from their experiences.
And, the content of great keynotes has changed. Over time, the style in the speaking industry has evolved. Fifteen years ago, most speeches were focused entirely on stories. Audiences didn’t walk away with practical ideas they could start using right away. Now, the pendulum has swung in the other direction. Because audiences and meeting planners are looking for value, speakers give a lot more tangible takeaways.
Who should read this book?
I wrote the book to help anyone who speaks raise their game. The book is full of tips and experiences from successful professional speakers, but it’s a great reference for anyone who presents in front of groups. That could be the executive who presents to groups of clients. If she decided she needs to brush up on her storytelling skills or learn more about adding humor to her presentations, she can go back and read those sections to prepare for her next speech. This book is designed to be a guide that people can refer to again and again.
What can readers expect to learn?
The book covers basic elements of speaking: What types of presentations will you give? How will you create your speaking formula? And, we dig into more advanced tips you can use to improve your speaking, like how to include stories, how to make the audience the center of your story, how to use technology effectively, how you should practice, and what you should know about your voice and body language.
Give me one valuable tip from the book that can immediately improve a presentation.
If I had to share one tip from the book, it’s this: Focus. If you’re trying to be all things to all people, you’re likely to fail. As a speaker, narrow your topic area. Ask yourself: What is my one core message? Don’t try to give your audience too much. The more focused you can be, the better.
To learn more about improving your presentation skills, check out Jane Atkinson’s book, “The Epic Keynote.”
Ryan Estis & Associates is a training and development organization helping companies, leaders, sales people and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance in the new economy. We offer keynotes, live classroom training and online learning that blends interaction, energy and actionable content designed to elevate performance. Contact us for programming inquiries and assistance determining the curriculum that could best support your learning and development objectives.
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.