6 Tips For a Riveting Signature Talk

The verdict is in: women of influence love to speak!

There’s not a woman I work with who doesn’t glow at the thought of sharing her story and her wisdom with a group … even if the thought of it also sets her stomach churning.

Women of influence know they have a mission to complete on this planet. That’s what gets them going, and keeps them going through the natural nervousness or even fear that often accompanies public speaking. They are also propelled forward by their signature talk, which never gets old even though they’ve given it hundreds of times.

Many women of influence have asked me recently for pointers in creating their signature talk. Here are my best observations from years of listening to TED Talks (currently the ultimate “signature talk” in our society), writing my own talks and learning from many gifted women speakers:

1. Be clear on your story and your purpose first.

I say this a lot, but only because it truly is foundational. If you’re not clear on your earthly mission, how that mission has unfolded so far, or why people would want to listen to you, you will have a very hard time creating a talk they care about. Your talk will be relatively easy to structure if you are clear on these two items first. If you have to delay taking some speaking engagements to clarify these items first, do it. You will get more mileage out of later engagements if you do the internal work first.

2. Have one overarching takeaway.

The day of the multipoint public speech is over. If you want to sound like a sermon, okay, then go ahead. But emotional connection is rarely forged in five bullet points. Instead, focus on telling a great story that has a big key takeaway. One point, well expounded and reinforced with an amazing story will last far longer in hearts and minds than more points with no connection. Once you’ve identified your key takeaway (which flows out of your purpose and story), you have the “anchor” around which your entire talk can be shaped.

3. Weave your talking points into your personal story.

Getting back to story again (are you sensing a theme?), let’s talk about your talking points. You may have one overarching takeaway, but chances are you’ll have several observations that naturally support this takeaway. Match those observations up to points in your story that show what you are telling. By getting your observations in in story form, versus a more formalized way, you catch listeners while they are “off guard” and immersed in the “what happens next.

4. Identify your “pivots.”

Every talk will go through several stages. Pivots are the ideas or topics that naturally shift your stream of thought from one section of the talk into the next, without an ongoing need for statements like, “And now, Point Number Three is …” If you identify your pivots, you can move seamlessly through your ideas without losing your audience. It’s like a match cut in a film: an editing technique where a similar shape, size or color image from one shot shifts into a new shot with a similar size, shape or color image in a different location.

5. Have different length versions of your talk.

Not every venue or group will want the same length speaking. TED Talks are 18 minutes, so many groups have gone to the 15-20 minute format for their speakers, but others still use a 30, 45 or even 60 minute format. You’re best served having multiple lengths of your talk so you can quickly adapt based on the request that’s come in. Even try having a 5- or 10-minute version for those “lightning talks” you might get asked to do!

6. Use well-chosen “gleaming details” that create pictures in your audience’s mind.

The subconscious is your greatest force for impact, and it relies on images and emotions to communicate. It does not have a capacity for language. Planting a powerful picture or emotion in the subconscious minds of your audience will impact them considerably more than all the words you can say. Throughout your talk, sprinkle in little images or pictures of what’s happening in your story--the color of a dress, the way a sunset looked, the feeling of the wind in your hair--so your audience can grab onto these images and feelings emotionally.


Writing your signature talk is one of the most exciting processes you can undertake as a woman of influence. A simple, gripping talk will do far more than anything complicated to reach the hearts of your audience. Keep these six tips in mind. And don’t forget--if you’re stuck on any step in the creation of your talk, or if you’re struggling with clarifying your purpose and story so you can start writing your talk--I can help.

Let’s chat about your goals and vision for how speaking can expand your career. Schedule your free call here.