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How a Single Talk Can Boost Your Business Tenfold Ashley Stahl on the art of developing and sharing compelling stories.

By Terry Rice

entrepreneur daily
Photo credit: Nicole Neira

I took a public speaking class in college, and it changed my entire perspective on delivering content to a live audience. I hated the class.

The instructor scrutinized everything. What we did with our hands, our facial expressions, even how — or if — we laughed while on stage. I was only around 20 at the time, but I still knew there was more to being a public speaker than following some ridiculous rules the instructor laid out for us. Plus, he wasn't even that good of an instructor, so why should I follow his lead?

When it was time to do my final presentation, I just winged it. I told a story about how I managed to go out three nights in a row and only spend $20. And during that story, I gave tips on how the other students could do the same. The class loved it — the teacher gave me a C-.

That's when I realized I wasn't concerned with being a great communicator (not by the standard definition, at least). I was more focused on being a great connector — by sharing my experiences with my audience and providing guidance along the way.

And here's something I learned later on in life: People give you opportunities because they feel connected to you.

As an entrepreneur, these opportunities can be life-changing. I once got paid $1,500 to deliver a keynote. But as a result of that keynote, I met one of my future business partners who happened to be in the crowd. That partnership brought in $300k in just 18 months.

Want to see me in action? You can catch a glimpse of me on stage in my speaker reel.

So, how can you deliver a keynote that builds your brand and unlocks valuable opportunities?

Good question. Ashley Stahl has the answer, and she shared it during the most recent episode of the Launch Your Business podcast.

Ashley is a counterterrorism professional turned professional coach, spokesperson and author of the bestselling book You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, Design Your Dream Career.

Through her two viral TEDx speeches, her online courses, her email list, and her show, the You Turn Podcast, she's been able to support clients in 31 countries in discovering their best career paths and upgrading their confidence.

I'll share a few of my key takeaways from our chat below.

Everything you enjoy is not a potential career

Ashley said that too many people fall into the trap of turning their art or their interests into their work. While that can work for some, for many people, their hobbies should be just that – hobbies.

Another common way people get sidetracked is by swinging like a pendulum; if they're in a job that feels miserable, they assume that finding something that is the complete opposite of their last position is the answer.

Ashley's advice for people in both camps: Instead of trying to find your passion, start with the clues about who you already are and how you're wired.

"As far as knowing your core skill set, the message of my book and my work and my podcast, everything I do is: Don't do what you love, do what you are."

Not sure what you should be doing? Ask for feedback.

The end goal is working your so-called "zone of genius" — the work that you're uniquely suited to do. For some, this would be a leadership position. For others, it will be a supporting role or a creative space. Whatever the role, it should fit your natural giftings and the way you're naturally wired.

But some of us have a hard time knowing what we're good at; we're too close to our own minds and work to be objective. While you shouldn't base your entire career on the opinions of others, if you're having trouble deciding where to invest your time and energy, Ashley said that it's a good idea to bring in people you know and trust and ask them this research-backed question:

Where have you seen me at my best?

"You can ask colleagues, friends, even your parents, people who you think have a good sense of you. Or even more specifically, 'Where have you seen me at my best professionally?' People are going to be able to give you feedback on how they've seen you show up and where they've seen you be effective."

How to create a viral TED talk

Everyone wants to go viral, and many people pursue the prestige of the TED stage. Ashley has gone viral for her own TED talk and helped many of her clients get on the stage and make a lasting impression, both in the room and on the internet.

"For everyone, going viral is simple," Ashley said. "Maybe it's not easy, but it's simple: You simply write the best talk of your life."

In the beginning stages, this looks like doing your research well, checking into what topics other speakers have addressed, which talks succeeded and why. Next, you'll need a killer title and opening line — they'll need to draw the audience in, either because it sparks their curiosity or because it promises to deliver the information they need.

Then, Ashley recommends putting a consistent time on your calendar for two or three months to write the best talk of your life and prepare to deliver it.

"My work rides on the message of don't do what you love, do what you are. And for many people they might write a talk and have good actionable tips, but do they have a message? Do they have something that they believe that is clear and coming through in their work?"

Ready to learn more from Ashley?

Terry Rice

Entrepreneur Staff

Business Development Expert-in-Residence

Terry Rice is the Business Development Expert-in-Residence at Entrepreneur and Managing Director of Growth & Partnerships at Good People Digital; an agency that provides marketing and monetization solutions for entrepreneurs. He writes a newsletter about how to build your business and personal resilience and personal brand in just 5 minutes per week and created a revenue optimization checklist to help you multiply your income potential. 

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