Listen to the audio version of this post here.


There’s a lot of reflection going on this week, isn’t there? We’re looking back at 2022, pondering what worked and what didn’t work in our professional life. And maybe in our personal life too.

We’re figuring out how to do more of what did work in the year to come. How to build on our successes. And how not to repeat those experiences that feel like failures.

That might be a formal process, maybe even with the help of a coach, a book, or a workshop leader.

Or maybe it’s just you and a note pad, thinking back over the work you did and the life you lived this year and jotting down whatever comes up for you.

It’s a worthy exercise, looking at the events and achievements that got us to where we are today. And, it’s possible to put this pondering to good use moving forward.

You might want to join me in a get-ready-for-a-new-year project.

Make a list of the things you do for your clients or customers

We’re looking for the attributes that make you excellent at what you do. The qualities people count on when they come to you for help. The skills you’ve mastered along the way, to the benefit of the people you serve.

Is your list looking like a generic LinkedIn profile? You know—you’re creative, efficient, and client-focused. You’re passionate, motivated, and experienced. If that’s what you’ve come up with so far, please dig a little deeper.

It might help to think in terms of verbs instead of adjectives. What have you done, and how have you done it in service of your company or your customers?

Now scratch off all the things that everybody in your field does or says or offers.

If your list looks like mine, there’s not much left.

I’m faced with the reality that there are thousands of speakers in the United States, hundreds here in the Chicago area. And most of them would say they’re engaging and audience-focused. And of course, they offer actionable content.

BFD, right? If everybody in my business can say it, it means next to nothing.

If everybody in your business can say it, drop it from your list.

So, what’s left?

Those qualities that remain on our lists – those are the ones we need to emphasize when we talk about our work. Because those are the attributes, skills, and talents that set us apart, that make us special.

That’s where we’re different from all those others.

And if you remember nothing else about this article you’re reading, hang on to this …

Different is better than better.

We can try mightily to be more creative, passionate, or client-focused. We can even try to be better writers or project managers or accountants. In the end, “better” always lets us down. Because somebody comes along whose even more better. Betterer? Well, you get the drift.

It’s smarter to focus on what makes us different from those other coaches, salespeople, or HR specialists. Those people who have the same label on their business card as we do, but they don’t do the work quite the way we do it.

That quality or experience or you-were-born-with-it gift that makes you different, that’s what makes your talk about your work juicy. It draws people in, makes them want to know more.

What’s on your new, shorter list?

As I’ve gone through this exercise, it’s clear that I’ve never been a give-a-speech kind of speaker. I’m looser than that, more informal. Yes, I’m engaging and audience-focused. And yes, my content is actionable. Huh.

Something that makes me different from other speakers who might use similar language is my experience as a talk show host. There’s a gig that’s all about engaging an audience—making people want to listen and keep listening. And doing it virtually, to boot.

Professional speakers have all kinds of backgrounds. They might have been marketers, managers, or health care professionals before they took up speaking as their career. Talk show hosts? There’s surely another speaker somewhere whose resume includes that, but there can’t be many.

Those years of magnetizing people to call 591-8900 and then dancing with whatever they said … those years are an important facet of my background. They come into play when I interact with an audience. And that’s part of what makes me different as a speaker.

It’s my responsibility to make sure I communicate that.

Now what about you?

After you’ve deleted the blah-blah that anyone in your profession might use to describe their work, what’s left?

What is it that distinguishes you from all those others who do essentially the same kind of work you do?

I hope you’re thinking about your difference, and about how you can highlight that difference when you talk to prospective clients, or possible bosses, or networking partners.

I’ve been working with the Fascination Advantage® to zero in on my own strong suit and to help coaching clients see what gives them an edge. If they lean into their difference.

You’ll hear more from me about that. Meantime, I’m eager to hear from you. What’s left on your list? What describes you, distinct from all the others? I’ll be looking for your comment here.