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I have a question for you: Have you ever had an idea that totally bombed? I suspect that’s kind of an understatement. Because if you’re a business owner, if you’re living a big life, we’re having ideas all the time. And, of course, some of them are failing. Some of them take off with wild success, and some of them totally faceplant.

I’m Johanna Walker, I’m a speaking coach and storytelling expert, I work with emerging speakers to help them develop the confidence and skill to step on stage and step into thought leadership so they can attract more clients and have greater impact in the world.

I’m going to tell you a story about an idea that bombed. I host an online course called Craft Your Talk, where I help my clients go from seed to stage with their talk. We start with a deep dive into what’s your idea? What’s the idea that you want to be known for in the world? What are the stories that, that convey that idea? How do you craft the audience journey? Who’s in your audience? What do they want? What do they need? How do you how are you going to help get them there? How do you become the hero in their journey?

We look at all of that and we craft that journey to take your audience exactly where you want them to go, and exactly where they need to go to get the thing that they want. We do this work together in Craft Your Talk and over the years I’ve helped a lot of people craft fabulous talks, and then the course ends and the talks kind of gather some cobwebs on the back burner and I started to notice the next step wasn’t happening because for a lot of people.

When you step out and say I have something to say of value, I have something to say that I want you to hear then it’s like…all the gunk comes forward to say, no you don’t. What are your thinking? Sit down. You know, it happens, I witness it over and over again. And then this brilliant talk comes out when you meet that gunk and transform it, it becomes your power. But here’s the thing, a powerful, brilliant talk that shows your expertise and your heart and your passion and your humanity and that reaches your audience right in the place where they need to go, doesn’t do any good if you don’t have a stage to deliver it on.

So I’m gonna say a little aside here, I said it doesn’t do any good and actually, I believe it does do good – just the process of going through that. So many of us have so much stuff tied up in our voices, we didn’t get the support we needed to take a stand for our ideas, to take up space in the world. We didn’t get the support we needed to really inhabit our full humanity so when we step up to do that. So much energy gets freed up during the process, we have energy trapped in our voices, when we take on the project of reclaiming our voices and stepping into authority so much gets freed up. So I think there’s a lot of good just in the process of crafting your talk, regardless of what you end up with.

But that said, that amazing talk, it wants to be spoken. It wants to be spoken on stage. It wants to be given as a gift to the audience. There are people out there waiting for your message. They want to hear your heart, they want to hear what you figured out. They need your expertise. So that brilliant talk sitting on your back burner while you update your website and send another email and write a gazillion social media posts and kind of hide behind your busy-ness, the people that are out there are not benefiting from your genius. So we got to get those talks on stages.

So, here’s what I did. I created a programme called the Visibility Lab that was a follow-on programme to my online course Craft Your Talk. And it was to really dig into the marketing, the speaker sheet, the website, how do you pitch those? How do you find the stages? How do you pitch those stages? How do you hone your talk? It’s like, Okay, we’ve got the talk written, how do I hone it, tweak it, tighten it up? So the Visibility Lab was to really look and go deep into the next phase. Once we’ve got the talk written, how do we actually step into visibility with it? And I even talked to my clients, current clients, former clients, and people said, “Yeah, that sounds great”. When I put it out there, not a single person signed up.

Not a single person signed up.

It was going to be an ongoing monthly membership because pitching your talk, being a speaker is a long game, you’ve got to have support all the way along the way. So I had this idea that the monthly membership would be that ongoing support, and not a single person signed up. There’s my failure – this brilliant idea that I thought I had, totally bombed.

So I took a step back to figure out why. And what I realised was that programme, the Visibility Lab was not in alignment with my genius. It was what I thought I should be doing. I saw a need and I was like, Okay, I gotta meet that need, I should be doing this because this is what people need. But it wasn’t in alignment with my genius. My genius is in helping people craft that talk, find the story, bring the story to life. My genius is in helping people bring their full heart and body and voice and confidence to the stage and deliver it with confidence and gusto. That’s where my genius is.

But here’s my secret, I’m kind of terrified of pitching. And I don’t really do it very much. I host a live storytelling event in Boulder that puts me in front of 250 people every other month. So I have a lot of regular visibility through that, I have enough speaking gigs land in my lap that I am out there speaking, I have enough word of mouth business that my business stays full. But pitching myself to speak, reaching out for those bigger stages, expanding my reach, growing myself as a speaker by pitching bigger stages, that’s kind of scary. That’s my edge. So I have not done that in a big way.

And that’s what was out of alignment with the Visibility Lab – I needed to take the Visibility Lab, I needed to participate in the Visibility Lab to get that kind of support. So here’s what I did…I created a weekly, free accountability session called Shut Up and Pitch. Because it’s not complicated. Pitching is not complicated. I have the tools, I know the tools, I teach the tools, I just don’t practice them. It just wasn’t a regular part of my daily operations.

So I started this free, accountability session, Shut Up and Pitch that invited all of my clients, people who had graduated from Craft Your Talk, people who had done my one on one programmes to come every week. We start with me giving a little inspiration, sometimes a teaching nugget, just something out of the gate to help you in the next hour of work. And then each person identifies what it is that they’re going to work on for the next hour – it’s actually a little under an hour because we have a check in and check out and then at the end we come back together and celebrate.

The other great thing that I have done is I’ve made it a lead magnet. So I invite people who are not my clients yet to come have this accountability. What are you going to pitch today? What’s your edge? How are you going to put yourself out there today? So they get a taste of me, I have pulled out the getting booked module from a big course Craft Your Talk, I’ve pulled out the module on getting booked that gives you the nuts and bolts of what are the steps you need to take. So those people come in, they purchase that module, they enter my world.

The third and possibly most valuable piece of this idea, Shut Up and Pitch is that it gets me pitching regularly. So I have the weekly pitchfest, the weekly Shut Up and Pitch and it’s gotten more into my daily operations where I am putting myself out there and finding the stages, I’m putting them out there. And that is worth a million bucks. Right?

So what I want to ask you, what I want to offer to you, is think about an idea that you’ve had that bombed or failed. You had this brilliant idea, maybe an offering that you had, something you put out that you thought was going to fly, that was going to take off, you were so excited and nobody signed up, or a few people signed up but it didn’t bring you the profit. I want you to go back to the seed of that idea. You had that idea for a good reason. You wanted to meet a need. What was at the seed of that idea? Go back to the seed and see if you can turn the idea on its head.

I had this idea for this membership programme, this big Visibility Lab, membership, ongoing support. When I turned it around, and just took out what it really needed. What my people really needed was just accountability. So I shaved away everything and thought about how do I build accountability? How can you take that idea that failed, and turn it on its head? How can you take that idea and make an idea that meets that need and actually works and is actually sustainable?

The second thing I want to ask you is or offer to you as we use this as a learning tool, is think about the big goal that your clients have. What’s the big goal? So my clients want to get on stage and step into thought leadership and have a talk that can amplify their message and expand their reach. I help them craft that talk. I’m a master at helping them craft that talk, at finding the story and crafting that journey. I’m a master at helping them own that talk in their body and voice with confidence. That’s my genius zone. That’s not enough. The pitching and getting on stage is absolutely essential for achieving that goal. It’s not my genius zone. And it’s actually an edge for me, it’s a place that I need to grow and learn. So what can you find when you think about the big idea? The goal that your clients have? What are they after? Here’s your genius zone but what’s over here that might not be your genius zone? You know how valuable it is, you know some things about it, but can you turn that into a lead magnet? Can you turn that into some way that’s going to push your edge, get you closer to the thing that you need, so that you can give that value to your audience so they can get that goal.

So those are a couple of things to think about as you look at the ideas that didn’t fly. Look at the ideas that didn’t fly and turn those failed ideas into brilliant ideas.

I want to invite you to Shut Up and Pitch – come pitch with us! Just bring what you need to do, we show up on Zoom and like boom, let’s just get something done. A lot can be done in an hour when you’re really clear about what you’re doing.

The second thing I want to give you, if speaking is on your list for this year, if you are a speaker or you’re wanting to speak on bigger stages, you have the idea that speaking is going to serve your business, you’re passionate about something you want to say and you haven’t figured out how to say it yet. You want to give a TEDx talk. I want to invite you to take the Craft Your Talk quiz that looks at your skill set, and where are the gaps? Where are the gaps in you reaching that goal? Because when you know where the gaps are, you know what you’re really good at, you know where the gaps are, then you can do what’s necessary to fill those gaps. So craftyourtalkquiz.com check it out, take a look, I’d love to hear from you. And I look forward to hearing about your ideas that fail. I look forward to hearing about your big ideas that you want to communicate in the world and get them on stage and I would love to help you get them there. So reach out to me let’s have a conversation. This is a great opportunity to share ideas and share your genius in the world in big and beautiful ways. So thanks so much for being here, see you out there.

Take the Craft Your Talk quiz here.


Johanna Walker, Speaker Coach and Storytelling Expert

Johanna Walker is the fear-blasting, storytelling maven for coaches, consultants, leaders and change-makers. (also known as a public speaking coach) As a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator, she has presented for corporations, non-profits, start-ups, community organizations, and the TEDx stage, helping audiences develop authentic presence as speakers, find the ideas they want to be known for, and craft those ideas into compelling presentations.

Johanna is the founder of Craft Your (uniquely-you, client-attracting, change-the-world) Talk, a transformational speaker coaching program for leaders & change-makers, and leads The Speaker’s Playground, an ongoing practice group for new and seasoned speakers. She is the founder and host of Boulder’s Story Slam, Boulder’s popular bi-monthly storytelling series, where people from the audience come to the stage and tell true stories about their lives based on a theme for the night.

In addition to her work as a speaker and coach, she has written and performed solo theater pieces that she’s toured throughout the US and Canada.

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