Is the Light On in Your Eyes?

you'll never regret - red rocks - middle

I recently had an opportunity to speak for a national convention in San Diego on the topic of “Is the Light On In Your Eyes?” The conference theme was “Reflections on Success.” I started by saying many of us spend more time reflecting on what movie to watch this weekend than on what we’re going to do with the rest of our life.

Many of the audience members had been running their business for 10-30 years. Many have so many different projects and people counting on them, they feel they can’t take time off. Many work 60-70 hour weeks and haven’t taken a vacation for years. Some are ready to retire, but don’t want to do “nothing” and can’t imagine what they’re going to do NEXT that could be as satisfying and productive as what they’re currently doing. Many don’t have a succession plan in place and don’t want to see the business they worked so hard to build go down the drain.

I told them we were going to spend the next ninety minutes reflecting on what’s working, what’s not and what we’re going to do about it NOW. I shared a quiz to help them figure out in 4 minutes what’s supporting their happiness, what’s sabotaging it.

One of the options we talked about is the value of integrating our passion into our profession so our hobby it’s no longer something we never do because we’re “too busy.” Many people told me they don’t have time to do the recreational activities that used to bring them joy. I told them, they can COMBINE their recreation WITH their career in a win-win way – instead of seeing them as being mutually exclusive.

Here’s what I mean.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, the largest networking organization in the world. After hearing about my full calendar of speaking, consulting and traveling, he asked, “What do you do for fun?”

Long pause. I finally dug deep and came up with “I walk my dog around the lake.”

Please don’t get me wrong. I love what I do. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do work that makes a positive difference … it’s just that I was going 24/7.

That conversation and several other wake-up calls motivated me to set out on a Year by the Water. I didn’t abandon my business … I just took it on the road. As James Taylor said when he took a break from touring for a year to compose new lyrics and produce a new album; “I didn’t quit work – I did a different kind of work.” .

What I’ve learned the past 18 months disrupted everything I thought I knew about what true success looks and feels like: I discovered:

* we don’t have to be torn between two worlds – we can have the best of both worlds.

* hard-work is over-rated – fun is not a four letter word

* it’s not always better to give than to receive

* people can’t jump on our bandwagon if it’s parked in the garage

* change doesn’t require courage – it requires trusting that the only way to know is to go

* to create the quality of life we deserve, we need to stop watering dead plants

* it’s not selfish to put yourself in your own story

* waiting is a prescription for regrets

* we can can combine work and recreation and leverage what we’re good at – for good

* someday is not a day in the week

* we don’t have to put aside what puts the light on in our eyes – you can integrate it into our daily life in a way that makes us even more balanced and blessed.

Want an example of what I mean?

When I lived on Maui, I had a friend named Kathy who was a 4.5 tennis player and a Realtor. We played a couple times a week until the economy slumped and she told me she was “too busy” finding clients to play tennis anymore. I suggested her hobby wasn’t an indulgence she do only when she had spare time – it was a competitive edge that could give her access to ideal clients. I suggested she approach the concierges at the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea Resort (both 5 diamond properties catering to affluent travelers – Kathy’s target demographic) and let them know they could recommend her to guests looking for a good game of singles. They eagerly did this because Kathy had lived on the island for years, was a respected member of the community, and they trusted her to make this a good experience for their resort guests.

This turned into a win for everyone. Within a month, Kathy was back to playing tennis 3-5 times a week AND had several new clients buying houses. She didn’t offend anyone with hard selling. It was natural while sharing an iced-tea after a satisfying match, guests would ask “What do you do?” When they found out she was a Realtor, they’d often ask if she had any properties for a good price. Not only was Kathy back to being outside doing a hobby that put the light on in her eyes – it became an organic marketing tool that kept her visible and became her secret sauce to success in a down market.

Want other ways to figure out how you can be creatively productive? Want to figure out how you can integrate your passion into your profession? Want to leverage your years of experience into a legacy message and mission that make a positive difference?

Check out my SerenDestiny site where I share posts on what TRUE SUCCESS looks and feels like for me and for people I had an opportunity to interview in my travels. Hope you find it inspiring and it helps you take responsibility for creating a more meaningful life now … not someday.

I am a woman on a mission to remind people the clock is ticking. Not in a morbid way, in a motivating way.

It is NOT selfish to do more of what matters to you, it is smart. Integrating what’s truly important into each day is not an indulgence; it is an investment in a healthier, happier future.

Stop waiting for the life you want. Figure out what puts the light on in your eyes and start doing it more of it NOW. You will never regret clarifying what true success means to you and integrating more of that into your life … you will only regret not doing it sooner.

– – –

Sam Horn, Founder. CEO of the Intrigue Agency and TEDx speaker, helps people create quality, one-of-a-kind communications that add value for all involved. Her books – including IDEApreneur, Tongue Fu! POP!and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured on NPR and in Fast Company, INC, New York Times and presented to National Geographic, Boeing, Cisco, Capital One, NASA. Want Sam to share her keynote with your group? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com

Start with a Story

A new client told me, “I don’t have any stories.” I told her, “We ALL have stories. Stories are simply the intriguing things that happen to or around us.”
stories-are-simply-the-intriguing-things

She came back with, “But I wouldn’t know how to tell a story even if I had one.”

I promised to share this post which shows how to notice and collect real-life stories and re-enact them so they come alive. First, I’ll start with a story.

Several summers ago, I realized how sedentary I’d become. Like many Americans, I spend 12 hours a DAY sitting and it had taken a toll on my health.

I decided to change things up. I lived on a lake outside Washington DC in a community with 20 public pools. I vowed to swim four times a week and to visit every single one of the pools in my neighborhood by Labor Day weekend.

One sunny afternoon, after a long day of writing, I decided it was time to get up and get moving. I jumped in my van and went “pool shopping.” I noticed a new pool I hadn’t tried before tucked under some shade trees, parked and went in.

As soon as I walked in, I realized I’d found the “family” pool. The place was packed with kids playing Marco Polo and featured one of those mushroom-shaped fountains in the wading pool. It did my heart good to know kids still play Marco Polo.

I found a chaise lounge next to a woman watching her three young kids. Just then, a man wearing a business suit walked in. The three kids bounded out of the pool and ran to meet him, calling out “Daddy, Daddy.”

He hugged them, gave his wife a peck on the cheek and headed to the locker room to change into his swim trunks. Moments later, he was in the pool with his kids. They were diving off his shoulders and proudly showing him the strokes they’d learned in their swim lessons. It was a scene right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

All of a sudden, he paused, looked up at his wife almost in a state of wonderment and said, “Hon, why don’t we make this our default? Why don’t we meet at the pool every night after work?”

I have to admit, I held my breath. I looked at her, thinking, “Please say yes.”

She thought about it for a moment, nodded and said simply, “Why don’t we?”

In five seconds, they abandoned an old default and adopted a new one. Instead of, “Get up, go to work, come home;” it was now “Get up, go to work, go to the pool, come home.”

Who knows, that family may always remember that summer as the one they met Dad at the pool every night after work. Perhaps I”m being a Pollyanna about this, but maybe they will remember that summer as the one everything was right with their world.

So, what’s this got to do with you? Imagine you’re giving a presentation about changing habits. Or you’re talking to your team about the dangers of sitting for hours at at a time, all day, every day.

You could start by sharing research that explains how difficult it is to adopt new habits. You could begin with a study that reveals sitting is considered the “cigarettes of our era” in terms of how hazardous it is to our health.

Or you could start off with a story SHOWING how someone changed a habit that lead to a more positive, productive, proactive life. You could start off with a real-life example of someone who, in seconds, replaced an old default with a new default that immediately benefited them and everyone involved.

Which do you think will be more effective?

In today’s world of INFObesity (information that comes across as blah-blah-blah) people are more likely to relate to and remember real-life stories that show vs. tell.

Are you thinking, “But I don’t have any stories.” or “I’m not good at telling stories?”The good news? Remember, stories are simply the intriguing things that happen to you and around you.

Ask yourself, “What point do I want to make in my presentation or in this meeting?” Or, “What is the SHIFT I want my listeners, readers, employees to make?” Then ask yourself, ‘Where have I seen someone DO that, LEARN that, EXPERIENCE that at work, at home or in my community?”

Now, all you have to make that story come alive is to “put people in the S.C.E.N.E” by re-creating what was said and done. Re-enact that experience with these five tips so people feel it’s happening to or around them, right now.

The key to making a story believable and relatable is not to make it up. it’s to re-enact something that actually happened so people trust it and you.

When you put people in the S.C.E.N.E., you’re not “telling a story,” (which some skeptics may suspect you got off the internet); you’re sharing a real-life example that shows what you’re suggesting has worked for others – and how it can work for everyone listening and reading too.

TIPS FOR SHARING A STORY BY PUTTING PEOPLE IN THE S.C.E.N.E.

S = SENSORY DETAIL: Describe the time, place and location with just enough vivid sensory detail so we feel like we’re standing or sitting right next to you. Describe what it looked like – maybe even what it smelled like, tasted like, felt like, sounded like – so we’re seeing it in our mind’s eye.

C = CHARACTERS: Who is in the scene? Describe the individuals involved so we can picture them and so we know their MOOD. Are they busy, frazzled and stressed? Happy? Angry? Excited? What’s his/his name? If you want us to CARE about your CAREacters, flesh them out so we feel we know them.

E = EXPERIENCE IT: Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” I think, “No epiphany in the speaker, no epiphany in the listener.” This may be the hundredth time you’ve told this story, but if you mentally put yourself back in the scene, re-experience it as if it’s the first time, and re-enact it as if it’s happening NOW, you will feel what you felt then – and we will too.

N =NARRATIVE: Why can we read novels for hours at a time and it’s not hard work? It’s because authors use narrative – e.g., “He said, She said” – so we feel we’re right in the middle of the conversation. Simple said, narrative is a non-negotiable if you want your story to come alive. Include who said what with comma/quotes “(i.e., “He said, “Why don’t we change our default.” She said, ”Why don’t we?.”) so your story is organic, original and REAL.

E = EPIPHANY: What is the lesson-learned, the happy ending, the problem that was solved, the shift that occurred, the aha where the light comes on, the band plays and it all makes sense? Every story needs a “moral of the story” so it achieves a purpose and the audience gets the point. What’s yours?

A mantra of the speaking profession used to be, “Make a point, tell a story.” That advice is outdated. In these days of short-attention-spans and INFObesity, if you take too long to make your point, people will never make it to the story.

As John Steinbeck said, “If there’s magic in story-telling, and I’m convinced there is, the formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge to convey something you feel is important.”

If you START WITH A STORY and put people in the S.C.E.N.E of a true experience that’s important to you and that illustrates your idea … it will eloquently make your point for you.

Better yet, if you relive that experience in your mind and vividly remember what it felt like, your audience will feel what you felt. That is connection, and that is the point of all communication … to connect, always to connect.

– – – –

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency and TEDx speaker, is on a mission to help people create respectful, one-of-a-kind communications that add value for all involved. Her work – including IDEApreneur, Tongue Fu! POP! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – has been featured on NPR and in New York Times and presented to National Geographic, Boeing, Cisco, Capital One.

Reporting in from United Nations

Thanks to Kunal Sood for giving me the opportunity to be a delegate at the inspiring Novus Summit at the United Nations this past Sunday.

Here are just a few of the many highlights of that incredible day.

One of the speakers talked about there being two types of people in the world – those who wear a red cape and “fight bad things”- and those who wear a blue cape and “grow good things.”

The speaker who originated this insight (and I would love to attribute this to the right speaker – so if you know who said this, please contact me so I can give credit where credit is due) claims we NEED BOTH red cape people and blue cape people.

We need people who are willing to step up, take on the dark forces and do something about them.

And we need people who initiate and create positive breakthroughs and technological advances that benefit us all.

(Personally, I think there is a third kind of person. Black cape people who choose to rant and rave or complain about what’s wrong. It’s tempting and oh-so-easy to do that. Especially when we watch what’s happening on the news and are outraged, worried or discouraged by it. But .. it … doesn’t … help. It only adds to the darkness – only amplifies what’s wrong.)

Closing speaker Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation and co-founder of Singularity University, is a walking-talking example of a blue caper-talking example of a blue caper.

peter diamandis

Whether it is his book on Abundance; or his passion and purpose for leveraging innovation in the various X Prize competitions; he is a model for how we can choose to allocate our time, attention and resources to creating initiatives that proactively address issues and add value for all involved.

As Peter says, “Lots of people dream big and talk about big bold ideas but never do anything. I judge people by what they’ve done. The ratio of something to nothing is infinite. So just do something.”

Peter is a 100% blue cape DOER – as was every single one of the thought-leaders featured on Sunday including:

* Peabody winner and former head of the CNN International desk Parisa Khosravi, who asked the provocative question, “What if were to COME BACK to earth? Would we see it with fresh, more empathetic, proactive eyes?”

* astronauts Anousheh Ansari, Dan Barry and Scott Parazynski, who all made good on their childhood dreams of going into space and who are now leveraging what they’ve learned “up there” by applying it “down here.”

* Maysoon Zayid, who has the most watched TED talk of 2014 with more than 7 1/2 million views. Within the first two minutes, we all understood why. Maysoon, an Arab-American actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for the disabled, is a force of nature. As she says, “I’m like Shakira meets Muhammad Ali. I shake all the time. I have 99 problems; cerebral palsy is just one of them.”

* Martin Seligman, often called the “Father of Positive Psychology,” who gave this piece of deceptively simple – yet profound – advice.
Before you go to bed tonight (and every night), ask yourself, “What are three things that went well today? How did I contribute to that?

I love this idea because it’s a way to “blue cape” our perspective.

Think about it. When we reflect on our day, we have a choice.

We can focus on – and rant and rave about or be discouraged by – what went wrong (a black cape).

Or we can focus on – and celebrate, appreciate and elevate – what went well (a blue cape).

Choosing to focus on what went well renews our appreciation keeps our blessings front and center and top of mind.

Perhaps even more importantly, thinking about how we might have played a role in what went well helps us understand and own the fact that we can – in fact, we are – contributing to the well-being of ourselves and others’, right here, right now

We don’t have to be a thought-leader at the UN to be a blue caper.

That’s wonderful and welcome. But on a daily basis, every single one of us can choose to focus on growing good things. And when we do, everyone benefits.

Thanks again Kunal – and kudos to you and your team – for creating an event that focused on and grew good things – not just for everyone in that grand hall – but for everyone who will be positively impacted by what was shared and initiated on Sunday.

sam novus

Want more insights from Sam’s conferences, travels, and connections?  Visit www.SerenDestiny.com and her LinkedIn blog.

Got Focus?

Do you know one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a result of researching, writing and speaking about attention, concentration and focus?

If we want to truly FOCUS, we must first truly SEE.

Yet, to really SEE someone – or something – takes time, attention and intent.

Yet, as explained in Got Your Attention? … goldfish have longer attention spans than we do.

I’m not making that up. That’s from research by Harvard professor Nancy F. Koehn. Goldfish = 9 seconds. Human beings = 8 seconds.

What that means is we tend to rush through life distracted, impatient, perpetually on to the next thing.

At work, we’re constantly interrupted and besieged with conflicting priorities.

We rarely really focus on anything. As a result, we don’t really engage, we don’t really connect.

The good news? There’s an antidote to this.

Three times a day, take three minutes to do this simple ConZentration exercise:  stop what you’re doing and really SEE who you’re talking to, SEE what you’re doing.

As soon as you do, you will feel a newfound appreciation for that person or activity. You will find yourself really listening to that person. You’ll find yourself more deeply engaged in that task.

It’s amazing how accessible focus, engagement and connection are. They are, literally and figuratively, a moment’s NOTICE away.

I’ve collected my six favorite quotes about seeing – with some added comments – and share them here. they’re excerpted from Got Your Attention? on how to connect with anyone, anytime, anywhere  … and ConZentrate, a book I wrote about how to stay focused in an unfocused world.

Hope you find them thought-provoking. You might even want to post a favorite where you’ll see it every day as a reminder to stop and really SEE who you’re talking to, SEE what you’re doing.

Really seeing is the first step to being IN your life and truly experiencing and appreciating it – rather than rushing through it,  missing it and wondering what it was all about.

It’s the first step to staying focused at work instead of feeling constantly frazzled, frustrated and frenetic.

Six Quotes on How to SEE Your Way to Improved Focus and Connection

1.  The first words of our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, are, “Oh, say, can you see…” The real question is, “Oh, say do you see…”

2. “Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small, we haven’t time, and to see takes time.” – Georgia O’Keefe As mentioned, to see takes time and intent. We must give our mind an order and decide to focus our attention on THIS thing for THIS amount of time.

look closer

3. “Develop interest in life, in people, things, literature, music. The world is simply throbbing with rich treasure, beautiful souls, fascinating people.” – Henry Miller There is no excuse, ever, for being bored. That is simply a lack of imagination.  Give your full focus to what you’re doing. Instead of doing things by rote, NOTE. Remind yourself what a miracle it is that you’re seeing, breathing, thinking, hearing, moving, feeling.

4. “Life is postponed until further notice.” -Sam Horn The quality of your life and work are directly proportionate to the quality of your attention and connection. Notice someone or something NOW.

5. “When the eye wakes up to see again, it suddenly stops taking anything for granted.” – Frederick Franck The second you really SEE someone or something; you’re flooded with renewed appreciation. Attention = appreciation.

6. “The whole of life lies in the verb seeing.” – Teilhard de Chardin Every time I see this quote, something deep within me says, “YES, emphatically YES.” Not seeing = not connecting.   Fully seeing = fully connecting.

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Want more? Check out Sam Horn’s books –  Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? which Marshall Goldsmith calls “a must for every leader” and  ConZentrate which Dr. Stephen Covey ( 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) endorsed as “Remarkable, fascinating, thought-provoking, motivating.”

Or, contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to arrange for Sam Horn to present her GOT FOCUS? keynote to your convention or corporate meeting. Discover for yourself why her programs on how to focus and concentrate have received excellent ratings from NASA, been featured on NPR; and how they can help your employees be more focused, mindful, connected and productive at work.

Turn a NO into a YES

“If you stick to what you know; you’ll sell yourself short.” – singer Carrie Underwood

If you stick to what you know … you’ll get a no.

No

Instead, ask yourself, “Why will my decision-makers say no?” and say it first.

If you don’t, they won’t be listening; they’ll be waiting for their turn to talk so they can tell you why what you’re requesting/recommending won’t work.

Here’s an example of someone who did this brilliantly.

Several years ago I went to BIF – Business Innovation Factory – in Providence, RI for a fascinating couple of days with leading-edge innovators from around the world, (e.g.,  Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Alan Webber of Fast Company).

The most impressive speaker was a surprise. She walked to the center of the stage and waited until everyone was quiet. Then, with a big smile, she leaned out to the group and said …

I know what you’re thinking. What’s a 13-year-old going to teach me about innovation?”

She paused for a moment, and with a twinkle in her eye said, “We 13-year-olds know a thing or two … like how to flip our hair.”

In 30 seconds, Cassandra Lin had won everyone’s favorable attention.

Why? She read their mind.  She realized these global thought-leaders might be a wee bit skeptical that a 7th grader would have anything to teach them. She anticipated those objections and brought them up first. In doing so, she turned their resistance into receptivity.

By the way, Cassandra continued to earn our respect by describing how she and her fellow 7th graders had taken a field trip to the sewers of Providence and discovered they were filled to bursting with F.O.G. – Fat, Oil and Grease.

Cassandra thought, “Somebody’s got to DO something about this.”  She realized SHE was as much a somebody as anybody, so she and her classmates founded T.G.I.F. – Turn Grease into Fuel. Every Saturday, they collect F.O.G from restaurants and industrial parks, recycle it and donate the money they receive to needy families. Go Cassandra.

Want to Turn Resistance into Receptivity?

“Let’s address the elephant in the room. ‘YO ELEPHANT!'” – Gene Weingarten

When and where will you be making a request or recommendation?

Want to increase your likelihood of success?

Ask yourself, “Why will my decision-makers say, “You’ve got to be kidding?!”

Ask, “What’s the elephant in the room?” and address it … first.

elephant in the room text image

If you’re chairing a meeting at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, anticipate that everyone will be wondering how long this will take and will have one mental foot out the door.

Say, “I can only imagine you’re thinking about rush hour traffic. I promise you we’ll wrap up in twenty minutes so you can be out of here before 5 pm.”  That will pleasantly surprise everyone and help win buy-in.

Perhaps you’re proposing an expensive program and anticipate your boss will be sitting there with his mental arms crossed thinking, “We don’t have any money in our budget for this.”

Start off by saying, “You may be thinking we don’t have any money in our budget for this. If I can have your attention for the next three minutes, I’ll point out where we can find that money, how we’ll make it back in the first three months, and turn it into profits from then on.”

Imagine you’re suggesting a new membership recruitment program to your association board. You predict push-back because a similar program failed last year.

Open with, “You may be thinking we tried this before and it didn’t work. You’re right, and I’ve identified three mistakes we made last time and have ways to prevent those from happening again this time.”

Are you pitching a book to an agent or editor and predict they might reject it because there are a LOT of books in your genre on this topic?

Lead with, “You may be thinking this is a crowded gene. You’re right. That’s why I introduce a contrarian, first-of-its-kind approach people haven’t seen before that has produced proven, bottom-line results. Several top experts in our industry are ready to endorse the book and have committed to buying several thousand copies for their companies upon publication.”

THAT will get their attention:-)

Remember, if you don’t voice nay-sayers’ objections, they won’t be listening; they’ll be waiting for you to stop talking so they can tell you why this won’t work.

If you want to INTRIUGE decision-makers and win their favorable attention; start with with WHY they might say NO, bridge with the word AND (not but), and then ask for three minutes of their time so you can show how what you’re suggesting will be a win for them.

This can help you turn a NO into a YES … sometimes in 60 seconds or less.

Want more ways to turn resistance into receptivity and get a YES to your ideas, products, services, company and cause?  Click here. 

7 Steps To Delivering a Mind-Blowing TED Talk

TRANSFORM YOUR RUN-OF-THE-MILL PRESENTATION IDEAS BY APPLYING THE “SEVEN CS OF ORIGINAL MESSAGING.”

BY SAM HORN

It’s been said that there are no original ideas. But what may seem like old hat to you could become the next compelling TED talk.

You can transform your presentations by mining your expertise, experience, and epiphanies. Start by writing down things about your work; your best practices, non-negotiables, and the things you’d like to pass on that you think would open people’s minds and get them talking.

Next, take those ideas and run them through the “Seven Cs of Original Messaging.” These criteria can be used both as a guide and a litmus test to come up with a big idea that pops you out of the pack.

1. CLEAR

A Hollywood producer once told me that directors can predict when their movies will make money. How? Simple. Do people walk out of the theater repeating something they heard word for word? If so, they become word-of-mouth advertisers. When people ask, “Seen any good movies lately?” they’re talking about your movie and marketing it to profitability.

The same applies to your TED talk. Can listeners repeat your big idea word for word? If they can, they’ll become your advocates. If they can’t, your big idea will be in one ear, out the other.

Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement speech for Philadelphia’s University for the Artsshows the payoff of distilling your big idea into a crystal-clear sound bite. “Make Good Art” resonated so powerfully with the initial audience of hundreds, the video went viral within days and was turned into a best-selling book.

2. COMPELLING.

You’ve got 60 seconds to capture an audience’s attention or else they’ll start checking email.

No perfunctory opening. No, “I’m glad to be here today and want to thank the organizer for inviting me.” That’s predictable, and predictable is boring. Pleasantly surprise everyone by jumping right into your origin story or into a compelling, counterintuitive insight that flies in the face of current beliefs.

Test your premise beforehand with colleagues. If they say, “I already know that,” it’s back to the drawing board. Or, as comedian George Carlin said, “What did we go back to before there were drawing boards?” Keep tweaking your idea until people’s eyebrows go up (a sure sign of curiosity) and they say, “Hmmm. That’s interesting. Tell me more.”

3. CURRENT

The keynote speaker at a recent conference used the often-referenced “Pygmalion in the Classroom” study of how teachers’ expectations affect student performance as the basis for her presentation. Really?! That study was done in 1989! She couldn’t find any current studies to make her case? Referencing such an outdated source undermined her credibility.

Recency = relevancy. What just-released report can you reference to prove your point? Recent research will get their attention, and respect.

4. CONGRUENT

After you’ve come up with a big idea, run it by your gut. Ask yourself, “Is this congruent with my voice, my vision, my values? If someone suggests a topic, but it doesn’t feel right, it’s wrong for you. A TED talk is your point of view, not someone else’s. What do you passionately believe? What is a heartfelt legacy message that sums up what you’ve learned from life?

An executive called me a week before his program and said, “I hope you can help. I’ve been traveling almost nonstop, so I asked our company speechwriter to help prepare my talk. It’s well-done, it just doesn’t sound like me.”

I told him, “You’re right. A TED talk has got to be your voice. Get a recorder and ask someone to take notes while you read the script. Every time you read something and think, ‘I would never say it that way,’ say out loud how you would say it. Don’t censure or second-guess yourself, don’t try to be eloquent, and don’t overthink it. Just keep moving forward, rewording it into your natural voice. Ask your assistant to integrate your phrasing into a new version and then read it out loud again until you wouldn’t change a word. Now, it’s your talk.”

5. COMMERCIALLY VIABLE

The purpose of a TED talk is not to sell your products or services, and it shouldn’t be your first concern. The fact is, though, an excellent talk will scale your visibility and viability. It will drive business to you.

Witness what’s happened to Brené Brown. Brené was a professor when she spoke for TEDx-Houston. She was popular at her university, but hardly a household name. Her talk on vulnerability was so evocative, it was quickly uploaded to the TED.com site and has since received 11 million views. Her resulting Oprah appearances have made her an international fan favorite, generating lucrative book deals and high-five-figure keynotes.

6. CONSISTENT

It’s important for your TED talk to be consistent with your brand positioning and primary focus. Ask yourself, “What do I want my next one to three years of my life to look like?”

For example, a colleague was asked to give a TEDx talk about bullying since she’d had a horrific experience being bullied at work. She feels strongly about this issue, and has a lot to say about the importance of speaking up instead of waiting for HR to rescue you (not going to happen). But she is a management consultant. She doesn’t want to keep reliving that negative experience by speaking, consulting, and doing media interviews on it. It wouldn’t serve her goals to drive demand that’s inconsistent with her priorities and the quality of life she seeks. It’s smarter to select an idea that’s in alignment with what she wants to accomplish the next few years.

7. COMPETITIVE EDGE

I had an opportunity to hear the Physics Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather speak recently. Following his talk, I asked him, “What’s your next “big idea?” He said, “I’ve got one, but I’m researching to see if anyone else has gotten there first.”

Exactly. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead said, “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do; you must be perceived to be the only one who does what you do.” Once you have a clear, compelling, current, consistent, congruent, commercially viable idea, Google it to see if anyone else has gotten there first. If they have, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should abandon the idea; it just means you should design a provocative premise around it that hasn’t been shared before.

For example, watch Sir Ken Robinson, the most-watched TED talk of all time. Certainly, other experts have talked about the need for creativity in our schools, but no one does it quite like Ken.

Does your big idea meet all seven C criteria of Original Messaging? If so, great. If not, invest the effort to craft an original idea worth repeating. Your audience, career, and legacy will thank you.

This Article by Sam Horn Originally Appeared in Fast Company

Sam Horn is on a mission to help entrepreneurs create more compelling presentations, pitches, and proposals. She is the founder and CEO of the Intrigue Agency, where she writes, speaks, and consults on strategic communications.