Don’t Be a “Cover Speaker!” 7 Tips for Finding Your Voice

How can Benjamin Franklin and Lil Wayne teach you how to find your voice and be an outstanding presenter?

There are no cover bands in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Comparably, there are no “cover speakers” in the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame. A “cover speaker” is a speaker who uses other people’s content. They share every idea, but their own.

Cover speakers, like cover bands, are quickly forgotten. You can’t imitate your way to the top.

In this post, I am going to share my 7 tips for finding your voice.

The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Madonna, U2, Heart, The Pretenders, & Public Enemy are just a few inductees of the Rock and Roll hall of fame.

Mikki Williams, Larry Winget, Jeanne Robertson, Jeffery Gitomer, Alan Weiss, and Patrica Fripp are the names of the six inductees in the Speaker Hall of Fame.

Don’t recognize these names? These speakers are all in the top 1% of their industry. Check them out and you’ll discover two things:

  1. They are a cast of characters! A set of misfit toys. There is not a cover speaker among them.
  2. They all have their own voice. It is unique and they are not afraid to share it.

There is nothing wrong with imitation – it’s a respectable training technique to learn new skills, for early development and growth. However, imitation does not lead to mastery. There comes a point when you must stop mimicking others and find your own voice.

Here are seven tips for finding your voice:

  1. Stop Imitating Others. Share your thoughts, your insights, and opinions. At your next opportunity, challenge yourself to present only your ideas exclusively.
  2. Be a Contrarian. Last year, I created a blog post entitled, How to Be a Contrarian Thought Leader. This quote by Christopher Morley sums it up: “Read, every day, something no one else is reading.  Think, every day, something no one else is thinking.  Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do.  It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.
  3. Avoid Sameness. Patricia Fripp says, “Sameness is the enemy of the presenter.” Sameness is when you speak and sound the same as everyone else. I love Benjamin Franklin’s view on sameness, “If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.” The Rap star, Lil Wayne, says the key to his success is, “I refuse to be average.” Don’t be like every body else. Marketing guru Seth Godin, says, “You are either – remarkable or invisible.” You are remarkable when you are original. You are invisible when you imitate everyone else. Refuse to settle for average. Refuse to be invisible.
  4. Quote Yourself. Here is the Ed Tate Sameness speaking corollary: “When everyone speaks the same, nobody cares.”
  5. Write and Speak to Test Your Thinking
    • Blogging is a great way to test your ideas and to find your own voice.
    • Write articles & books!
    • Give speeches & presentations
    • Tweet thoughts other than what you had for lunch.
    • Create your own YouTube channel and create online videos of your thought leadership.
  6. Challenge Your thinking with Questions. Author and blogger Todd Henry, uses the following ‘Voice-Finding’ questions:
    • What have you mastered? Are there tasks, skills, or opportunities that you have simply mastered and can do without thinking?
    • What do you look forward to?
    • As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
    • If you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do?
    • What would blow your mind?  Exercise: Take about an hour to list 40 things that would blow your mind if they happened.
  7. Learn to Co-exist with O.P.J: Other People’s Judgments. The Next Iron Chef is a cooking competition reality TV show. The judges criticize chef’s creations in the “Chamber of Judgment.” You too will be put into the Chamber of Judgment when you find and share your voice. You will be judged and criticized. To get to the level of mastery, you have to learn how to coexist with other people’s judgments and not let it stop you from expressing your voice.  O.P.J corollary- Stop being concerned with what other people think. I call this the lesson of the shoes. I have a pair of distinctive shoes. People either like them or they don’t. There is no in-between. I discovered, years ago, people have an opinion about you, one way or the other. It is seldom neutral. There is no in-between. They either like you or they don’t. Even when you are trying to blend in and you think you are invisible. The way I look at it, I might as well wear the shoes that I like. People are going to talk about me regardless. I’d rather control the conversation and give them something to talk about. Wear your shoes. Find your voice.

I’m Ed Tate and this is my voice. We’d love to hear YOUR voice – share your comments below.

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