The Challenges of Going Public with an Idea

Or, Just Shoot Me

I'm starting to do public stuff around the content of my forthcoming book, Breaking Out: How to Build Influence in a World of Competing Ideas. Speaking, teaching-like gigs, interviews, and the like. Much shooting of video is involved.

Here's the thing I would like to say. My book talks about the trials and tribulations of going public with an idea, and, even though I have written about them and see them coming, I am having trials and tribulations just like the other authors, idea entrepreneurs, and idea-driven people I work with. These include:

  • Trouble with the sentence. Boiling the content down to the perfect pithy summation. This is very hard to do. You have to keep working and reworking it. If you're lucky, somebody ELSE will come up with it for you—off the cuff, in a question, or whatever. Listen for it. Embrace it. Going public is much easier if you have that one-liner everyone can walk away with.
  • Personal narrative squeamishness. One of my main observations regarding idea entrepreneurs is that they link their personal narrative to their idea. Going public effectively means talking about yourself: events in your life, screw-ups perhaps, moments of revelation. Not everybody is naturally inclined to reveal themselves in public, and I'm finding it tough, too.
  • Conversion of written content to spoken content. A book is one thing and a talk is something totally other. After spending about four years in the writing phase, it is a tricky transition to the talking activity. Words flow differently. Structure is different. More story-telling is required. Writing is fixed; talking requires constant adjustments throughout.
  • Audience expectations. And then there is the audience. Sitting there, looking at you. You have a few nodders and note takers and smilers. You naturally point yourself toward them. Then you have the stone-faced ones, whose reactions are impossible to read. And, of course, the Tweeters and texters, who are in seven places at once. Sometimes a person in the audience gets in your head, as a guy did at a recent talk I gave. He seemed to be smirking at me. I began to think he represented the whole audience. No, people came up afterwards and said, "Great!"
  • How you look on video. Then there's the obvious and unavoidable issue of your affect on video. A big part of going public is feeling okay with your visage representing your idea, which can be nerve wracking. In one recent shoot, my bald head reminded me of the surface of a road on a sunny day. You know that "sea of mica" look? Where was the make-up artist for that one? Shooting is mostly fun, but sometimes you would prefer just to be shot.

It's all part of going public, or so I tell my clients.

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