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The Trap of Trending Topics

Why the top five in-demand speaker topics don't actually matter.

7
minute read
Published on
June 10, 2024

Maybe you’ve noticed this too…

Over the last five years, there seem to be five in-demand speaker topics all the event planners want for their events.  

And it’s the same subject matter. It’s always topics like: 

  1. Leadership and change management
  2. Sustainability and corporate responsibility
  3. Digital transformation and technology
  4. Mental health and wellness 
  5. Diversity, equity, and inclusion 

These are all really in-demand, trending, hot topics. But are they just trends and fads? Should you focus your attention on these top five, or is there a better way to choose a topic for your speech? 

Trends vs. Fads

When it comes to speech topics, some are trends and others are fads—but only one is beneficial for creating a sustainable speaking business. 

Choosing a topic from the “10 hottest speaker topics for this year” or the “most popular topics right now” might work for your speech in the short term, but this strategy will quickly leave you empty-handed in the long term. Why? Because most of these lists are full of fad topics. 

You see, fads are only popular for a short period of time. They rise intensely and fall quickly. That’s why you want to avoid speech topics that are based completely on fads. 

Take crypto, for example. The early craze attracted a lot of attention, but its time in the spotlight was brief. Crypto’s popularity was unsustainable, and speakers who focused their speeches on the future of Bitcoin or cryptocurrency in general had to quickly change gears before becoming obsolete.  

Trends, however—they stick around. In fact, trends get stronger over time and are more predictable because they are fueled by audience needs. They extend and evolve throughout the years.

Sometimes fads become trends. 

Artificial intelligence might be a fad, or perhaps it’s the very start of a trend—how people use it and the very technology that drives it are constantly evolving and hold promise for the future. Some speakers have been talking about AI for five years and for them it’s proven sustainable. Although AI has sparked more than a few controversies, the world is anxious for more, and it’s likely here to stay. 

Stop chasing trending topics. 

Everybody wants to go after in-demand ideas and concepts. But the truth is, the specific topic doesn’t matter as much as you think. While trends are better than fads for long-term sustainability, chasing trending topics can be impractical and unproductive. 

In fact, spending time chasing trending topics isn’t just counterproductive, it actually leads to an ultra-overcrowded field of speakers with a very similar message. 

This year alone, I’ve been to 25 events and heard around 15 change-management speakers. While this is a trending topic, these speakers all seemed to say the same thing. Standing out as a professional speaker takes much more than just choosing a popular topic to speak about. (The same goes for many of the AI sessions I’ve seen.)

You see, what truly matters is your ability to address a pressing issue in a unique and effective way. 

That’s right—what really sets you apart as a speaker is discovering and solving the core problems an organization faces. If you can focus on a timeless challenge that a business consistently faces, you’ll be able to speak on a topic that’s always in demand.

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worry too much about what’s in-demand or trending now.
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create something new and unique that solves a timeless problem companies, organizations, and individuals have.
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Instead, find a timeless challenge.

If you can conquer a timeless challenge businesses and organizations face, you’ll be able to stay in-demand for years and years to come. Why? Because these topics never go out of style. 

Businesses, organizations, and individuals are constantly looking for new, innovative ways to solve perpetual dilemmas like generating revenue, reducing costs, increasing employee retention, and transforming regular employees into effective managers (and those are just a few topics, there are so many more).

Focusing on enduring issues like these will bring you more stable and long-term speaking opportunities. 

The topics that event organizers, planners, and CEOs book all solve a real problem they’re facing. When you can present the problem in a way that makes them feel its relevance, importance, and urgency, and then present your visionary solution, you can get booked easily. 

You see, C-level executives aren’t really looking for a “diversity, equity, and inclusion” speaker. They’re looking for someone who knows how to increase the company’s bottom line with new ideas that help them sell more by having access to more diverse voices and experiences.

They’re not looking for a “future trends” speaker or an AI speaker. They're trying to truly understand how to leverage new technology to beat the competition and earn market share.

They're not looking for a “company culture” speaker. They're aiming to reduce turnover and attract the best talent—so they can reduce their costs and keep the best employees longer.

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get caught thinking that event organizers want a specific topic speaker.
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make event organizers feel the problem, then show them your unique solution.

So sure, you can look at all those lists and try to fit in, or you can find a problem the executives want to solve and help solve it.

Set yourself apart with a unique angle.  

Now, you can’t present a problem without a solution (or a hypothesis)—and the more unique, unconventional, and uncommon your solution is, the better. 

To truly set yourself apart from the rest of the speakers out there today, you must step outside of the traditional thinking box, challenge conventional wisdom, and come up with something new. 

Your idea needs to be visionary. 

This is where the idea of thought leadership comes in (in fact, visionary ideas are one of the things that make a thought leader a thought leader). Most of the speakers out there are experts in their field—and instead of sharing visionary ideas, they share how-to speeches filled with practical tips and tricks. 

They blend into the crowd of speakers who share expert advice. They’re stuck in Expertville. And while they’re always striving to find more strategies, tactics, and tips, their speeches always sound similar to everyone else’s. 

What’s your speech’s lifespan? 

There are lots of topics that five or ten years ago were really hot—Social Media in Business, The Mobile Revolution, Millennials in the Workforce, Big Data. Everyone wanted to be that speaker, talking about that topic. 

But even if your speech is focused on a trending topic, if it’s stuck in Expertville, it’ll be short-lived. If you’re lucky and the topic evolves, you might be able to stay on stage for two or three years. But most of the time, these topics become obsolete or oversaturated before you know it.  

Today, those same topics that were popular not too long ago are nonissues. Almost every business uses social media, even the smallest business understands the power of a mobile-first strategy, millennials outnumber other generations in the workplace, and big data? Well, it doesn’t seem so big anymore. 

When you focus on broader themes rather than trending topics, you’ll be able to share a message that impacts a larger audience for a longer amount of time. At the end of the day, trends can make for juicy examples that fit well into a broader speech topic. But a trend doesn’t make for a great topic in and of itself. 

To stay on the keynote stage year after year, increase the lifespan of your speech. How? Well, it all starts by choosing a timeless problem and coming up with a visionary idea or unconventional way to solve it. 

A case study about an AI speech…that’s not really about AI.  

Almost a year ago, I started my AI speech as a speech about how businesses can leverage the power of AI to earn trust with consumers instead of destroying it. The speech was called “Artificial Influence.” 

While it started off as focused on a trendy topic, it didn’t stay that way for long. Month by month the speech evolved, and it transformed into what it is today: Digital Doppelgänger(s): How savvy teams are augmenting their unique talents using the magic of AI.

Today, it’s not a speech just about AI, it’s about how to handle disruption in business—AI just happens to be the juicy example. The timeless idea is that with every technological change, the secret to leveraging it is to understand its true superpower. Disruptive technologies come around all the time. Today it happens to be AI but tomorrow? Who knows! The solution? A new framework for thinking through any type of disruption in your industry. 

And it’s worked. Audiences, event planners, and CEOs have loved the speech because it solves a timeless problem companies, organizations, and individuals face. 

Solve bigger and bigger problems (and you’ll never go out of style). 

In the end, you don’t have to worry about which topics are in-demand or trending now. No matter what you talk about, there’s an opportunity for you. 

Solidify your place on the keynote stage by solving an important and pressing problem organizations, businesses, and individuals face. Infuse your speech with potent examples, a new framework, visionary ideas, and contrarian solutions, and you’ll earn the applause of audience members, event planners, and CEOs. 

When you position your topic as the solution to a big problem, you’ll create a speech that’s sustainable, referable, and transformational. One that takes your speaking career to new heights, regardless of tomorrow’s trends and fads. 

Focus on the broader themes and continually try to solve bigger and bigger problems. And together, we’ll change the world, one speech at a time.  

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Instead, find a timeless challenge.

If you can conquer a timeless challenge businesses and organizations face, you’ll be able to stay in-demand for years and years to come. Why? Because these topics never go out of style. 

Businesses, organizations, and individuals are constantly looking for new, innovative ways to solve perpetual dilemmas like generating revenue, reducing costs, increasing employee retention, and transforming regular employees into effective managers (and those are just a few topics, there are so many more).

Focusing on enduring issues like these will bring you more stable and long-term speaking opportunities. 

The topics that event organizers, planners, and CEOs book all solve a real problem they’re facing. When you can present the problem in a way that makes them feel its relevance, importance, and urgency, and then present your visionary solution, you can get booked easily. 

You see, C-level executives aren’t really looking for a “diversity, equity, and inclusion” speaker. They’re looking for someone who knows how to increase the company’s bottom line with new ideas that help them sell more by having access to more diverse voices and experiences.

They’re not looking for a “future trends” speaker or an AI speaker. They're trying to truly understand how to leverage new technology to beat the competition and earn market share.

They're not looking for a “company culture” speaker. They're aiming to reduce turnover and attract the best talent—so they can reduce their costs and keep the best employees longer.

X Mark icon
Dont
get caught thinking that event organizers want a specific topic speaker.
Check mark icon
Do
make event organizers feel the problem, then show them your unique solution.

So sure, you can look at all those lists and try to fit in, or you can find a problem the executives want to solve and help solve it.

Set yourself apart with a unique angle.  

Now, you can’t present a problem without a solution (or a hypothesis)—and the more unique, unconventional, and uncommon your solution is, the better. 

To truly set yourself apart from the rest of the speakers out there today, you must step outside of the traditional thinking box, challenge conventional wisdom, and come up with something new. 

Your idea needs to be visionary. 

This is where the idea of thought leadership comes in (in fact, visionary ideas are one of the things that make a thought leader a thought leader). Most of the speakers out there are experts in their field—and instead of sharing visionary ideas, they share how-to speeches filled with practical tips and tricks. 

They blend into the crowd of speakers who share expert advice. They’re stuck in Expertville. And while they’re always striving to find more strategies, tactics, and tips, their speeches always sound similar to everyone else’s. 

What’s your speech’s lifespan? 

There are lots of topics that five or ten years ago were really hot—Social Media in Business, The Mobile Revolution, Millennials in the Workforce, Big Data. Everyone wanted to be that speaker, talking about that topic. 

But even if your speech is focused on a trending topic, if it’s stuck in Expertville, it’ll be short-lived. If you’re lucky and the topic evolves, you might be able to stay on stage for two or three years. But most of the time, these topics become obsolete or oversaturated before you know it.  

Today, those same topics that were popular not too long ago are nonissues. Almost every business uses social media, even the smallest business understands the power of a mobile-first strategy, millennials outnumber other generations in the workplace, and big data? Well, it doesn’t seem so big anymore. 

When you focus on broader themes rather than trending topics, you’ll be able to share a message that impacts a larger audience for a longer amount of time. At the end of the day, trends can make for juicy examples that fit well into a broader speech topic. But a trend doesn’t make for a great topic in and of itself. 

To stay on the keynote stage year after year, increase the lifespan of your speech. How? Well, it all starts by choosing a timeless problem and coming up with a visionary idea or unconventional way to solve it. 

A case study about an AI speech…that’s not really about AI.  

Almost a year ago, I started my AI speech as a speech about how businesses can leverage the power of AI to earn trust with consumers instead of destroying it. The speech was called “Artificial Influence.” 

While it started off as focused on a trendy topic, it didn’t stay that way for long. Month by month the speech evolved, and it transformed into what it is today: Digital Doppelgänger(s): How savvy teams are augmenting their unique talents using the magic of AI.

Today, it’s not a speech just about AI, it’s about how to handle disruption in business—AI just happens to be the juicy example. The timeless idea is that with every technological change, the secret to leveraging it is to understand its true superpower. Disruptive technologies come around all the time. Today it happens to be AI but tomorrow? Who knows! The solution? A new framework for thinking through any type of disruption in your industry. 

And it’s worked. Audiences, event planners, and CEOs have loved the speech because it solves a timeless problem companies, organizations, and individuals face. 

Solve bigger and bigger problems (and you’ll never go out of style). 

In the end, you don’t have to worry about which topics are in-demand or trending now. No matter what you talk about, there’s an opportunity for you. 

Solidify your place on the keynote stage by solving an important and pressing problem organizations, businesses, and individuals face. Infuse your speech with potent examples, a new framework, visionary ideas, and contrarian solutions, and you’ll earn the applause of audience members, event planners, and CEOs. 

When you position your topic as the solution to a big problem, you’ll create a speech that’s sustainable, referable, and transformational. One that takes your speaking career to new heights, regardless of tomorrow’s trends and fads. 

Focus on the broader themes and continually try to solve bigger and bigger problems. And together, we’ll change the world, one speech at a time.  

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