Conference speakers are typically experts in their fields or are passionate about addressing a particular story or subject.  But when it comes time to develop a new topic or refresh their existing spiel, writer’s block can attack full force. After all, it can be challenging to figure out what will resonate best with fickle conference attendees! It can also be daunting to distill one’s life study into a 250-word topic abstract, commonly required for speaker submissions.  So how do you come up with the next great presentation idea? Think empathetically!

The official Merriam-Webster definition of empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” In other words, when it comes to your target audience – you get them.

Empathizing with your target audience is a powerful tool when creating your next presentation idea. What are the pain points they mention most? What are the questions you are typically asked by new clients or colleagues?  Start there. Write down those challenges and come up with a list of options for overcoming them. Make sure this does not become a list of your company’s products, even if they would solve your target audiences’ problems.  A list of products is a sales pitch, not a way to illustrate your thought leadership on a subject. 

Finally, review your compiled list of obstacles and solutions. Could you expand each one into its own talk? Can you break down the solutions into a process with a few succinct steps? If so, that is the seedling of your next great topic idea. Spend some time cultivating each idea and watch it blossom into the perfect presentation abstract.