Part 2; How to Construct a Compelling Speaking Program

Roger Fisk
5 min readAug 10, 2021

Last week I made my case for Tuesday at 11am being the best window for making news. We walked through why T@11 gives you the best chance for getting word out about your policy announcement, product unveiling, release of a study, or any other initiative that is in search of clicks and eyeballs.

This week we roll up our sleeves and focus on how you can build a speaking program in a way that advances your strategic priorities, including demographic, thematic and commercial.

First, our no-fly zones; no speaking program needs to be more than an hour. Anything beyond that hour becomes a roundtable, symposia, and quickly becomes a front runner for that coveted C-Span real estate of 3–5am. We want something crisp, economic, digestible, to the point, and in prep and follow-up we can provide plenty of context and background material. What happens on stage should really use your brief window of people’s attention to summarize and drive home 1–2 key points.

Second; those key points are best delivered by voices that reflect your target demographic for this announcement. If you want business leaders to respond to your announcement, make sure one business leader or more are in your program. Same for millennials, faith leaders, Moms, etc. People respond to people who look and sound like them, so whoever you are trying to reach, make sure they are represented in your program.

You are telling a story in your program, and there are a couple ways of designing a thematic structure that serves as the vehicle for it. Let’s call the first one Past, Present Future and let’s call the second one Concentric Circles.

Past, Present and Future will be paced exactly like that. Past; your first speaker describes the context and history of the policy issue, the evolution of the technology you are advancing, the purpose of the company when it began or some of the context around the environmental issue your study anatomizes. This builds a thematic framework for showcasing why the larger goals behind your announcement matter; the problem you intend to solve, the demographic you hope to reach, the impact your service or product will have, or the human dimension of the policy issue.

Present; building on Speaker 1, our second speaker talks about now; what is unique about this moment in the marketplace, what consumer trend is suggesting a willingness to change or disrupt, what insights we now have that give your policy proposals a better chance of success, or of achieving the results of the past but less expensively. What is it about this moment in time that makes this possible? Or necessary? Our Present Speaker can also talk about what is not working; what opportunities are being missed, what care is not being administered, what environmental challenges are not being met.

Future; with Past and Present established now we have a solid foundation for the big reveal. Now your study has context and a clear definition of why your insights matter at this moment. Your product rests on the framework provided by Speakers 1 and 2 so you can look forward and your new product can chart a course into waters unknown.

Logistically speaking, Speakers 1 and 2 should do no more than 10 minutes and Speaker 3/Big Reveal should do more than 10 but not more than 20.

Concentric Circles builds in a human and/or geographic way. Here, Concentric Circle 1 would be an individual; a disabled person with a specific challenge relevant to today’s announcement, a resident of the community who lost or found a job because of recent economic trends, or a parent who can speak about their child who got sick after drinking the local tap water. Our point here is human; this isn’t about statistics or trends, this is about a person, a family.

Concentric Circle 2 brings neighborhood or a bit more macro a story. We are growing in context and theme. Maybe this person works at the hospital that treats people with a specific ailment so they can now speak about the care administered to dozens of people or provide some context to what the challenge was like years ago. If we are announcing a product maybe Concentric Circle 2 works in the school system and talks about the students that don’t have access to broadband, or if it is a financial service what the seniors in the area have to prepare for in their twilight years. We are now talking about groups of people, still focusing on the human dimension, but we are growing from micro to macro.

Concentric Circle 3 now goes regional, maybe even statewide to talk about thousands or tens of thousands of people and families, what this product can mean for not only the state now but it’s impact in 5 or 10 years. Concentric Circles 2 and 3 can also talk about why other efforts or products have failed to fix a problem in the region, or fell short of reaching a target demographic.

Finally, Concentric Circle 4 reveals the product, announces the legislation, shares the findings of recently completed study. Our final speaker, the CEO or elected official, Dean or Executive Director, now charts the way forward.

No matter which approach you use, you also want to review remarks and make sure there are common threads through all the stories; lost opportunities. Better care. Cleaner water. Each voice should come from a different angle and perspective, but at the same time you want some commonality running through your program so the fundamental premise of why your announcement matters, who it will impact and how, are driven home.

And to build on our Amplification point of the Tuesday at 11am piece, make each speaker available for interviews and follow-up discussions after your speaking program. Often these one-on-one conversations with reporters and other attendees can greatly enhance the coverage you generate and your ability to reach your target audience, get their attention, and start to persuade them.

There are some exceptions. Clearly, if your friend’s cousin knows a celebrity who cares about this issue and you can include them, we will! One of your speakers can read a statement from the celebrity, you can have them join live by video conference or by phone, you can also have a video clip of them speaking to this issue or better yet have them attend and speak. No matter what form the celebrity participation takes the above models can accommodate someone whose profile will help elevate awareness and coverage. I would put them towards the end of the program, maybe between speakers 3 and 4, so the press have to stay to get to this shiny celebrity object.

These are just a couple helpful tools for building a speaking program that humanizes the issue, highlights the value you are unveiling that day, and does so with voices tailored to resonate with your target audiences.