Maybe the purpose of my life is to serve as a warning to others
I saw this motto on a joke Demotivation poster some time ago. I laughed at the time, but recently, when conducting a series of interviews with top conference organizers who hire many speakers each year, I decided that, in my case at least, it wasn’t such a joke.
I think I can serve as such a useful example for you if you have ambitions to be a national/international speaker.
You see, I am one curious and restless fellow. I have pursued many interests and spoken on many disparate topic areas during my years as a speaker, starting in 1978. I first had a focus on the work of Dr. Milton H. Erickson and on what was to become NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). I spoke on “Therapeutic Metaphor,” “Patterns of Communication and Change,” “Patterns of Hypnotic Induction and Treatment,” and thing related to those areas.
After I began to travel and teach regularly, often being invited back to the same location and by the same group, they began to ask me to teach about my own ideas, not those of Dr. Erickson and Bandler and Grinder. I did have some of my own ideas and I began to speak about a kind of brief therapy I had developed out of my family therapy studies, as well as my studies of Dr. Erickson and NLP. I called it “Solution-Oriented Therapy,” and I started to teach variations on that for many years. I taught on “Brief Solution-Oriented Couples Therapy,” “Solution-Oriented Treatment of Chronic and Severe Mental Illness,” and other specific applications of the approach.
Then participants started approaching me during breaks in the workshops saying things like, “You are very spiritual, aren’t you?” I would tell them I was but was mystified that they knew that since I hadn’t mentioned a thing about spirituality in my talks. They would just assure me that it was there between the lines.
So, I developed some talks on spirituality and therapy. Then on finding spiritual and personal renewal in one’s personal life.
After writing over 20 books, people were always asking me how they could write and publish their books. I began to teach in that topic area as well. Then about becoming a paid public speaker. The about using the Web to do inexpensive marketing and develop ongoing sources of passive income.
I’ve even left out a few topics, but the point is that I seem to be all over the map. Each of the top conference organizers told me they would never hire someone like me if they were approached by such a person. (They do all hire me, but they knew me when I was more specialized and hired me then; now they know me and know that I will do a good job even with new topics.) They told me they wanted someone who was focused on one topic area and was an expert in that area.
The takeaway for you? Focus. Specialize. Don’t send disparate topics to people who can hire you. Be like a stamp. Stick to one thing.