Speaking is exciting. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to being a rock star. You will be in amazing places and meet fascinating people. Speaking will help you grow as a person (but only if you also listen, not just talk). You (and I!) are so lucky to be doing this, so take every hurdle with a stride. The microphone will break at some point, the power will go out, and the talk before you will run over. S — t happens. Accept it, expect it, and remain committed to the message you bring to the world.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Talya Miron-Shatz.
Dr. Talya Miron-Shatz is a keynote speaker, author, consultant and researcher specializing in health and medical decision making. Talya examines anything from how you choose an OTC for a headache, to how you decide about heart surgery. She consults companies (Pfizer, Samsung, InTouch Solutions, and many more) on changing consumer, patient, and prescriber behavior, and has over 60 academic publications on these topics.
Her book, ‘Your Life Depends On It: What You Can Do to Make Better choices about Your Health’ (Basic Books, Hachette), outlines the barriers to patient involvement in decision making, and suggests ways of overcoming them. Talya speaks about these topics, as well as about her work on happiness, internationally, at Financial Times events, World Health Congress, Connected Health, a keynote at Donate Life America, and more.
After getting her Ph.D. in psychology, Talya completed her post-doctoral research with Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman at Princeton University, and taught consumer behavior to undergraduates and MBAs at the Wharton business school at U. Penn. Now, Talya is a full professor at the Ono Academic College and a visiting researcher at Cambridge University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up as a voracious reader, and an only child, which means I spent a lot of time in my own head — the fact that I became an author did not surprise anyone. However, me becoming a speaker always seems like a miracle to me, as now I share my ideas with so many people.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
You’ll need to read my book to get the personal details! Really, the introduction tells it all. I won’t do a spoiler, but I will say that I went into medical decision-making because I realized how tough it was for everyone, myself included. I decided to do all I can to change this — through my research, book, and through my talks. Everyone who hears me tells me that they learned a lot, but mainly I can tell they are moved. We all get very involved when it comes to choosing contraception, chemotherapy, end-of-life treatments, or baby formula. Just like my audience, I experience my career path as very engaging and rewarding, cognitively, and emotionally.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I gave a talk for the Wharton business school marketing department, at the University of Pennsylvania. I was a post-doctoral student at Princeton then, and I’m a psychologist, so I know my psychology peers, and the judgment and decision-making community. But not the marketing one!
The mistake I made is that I did not prepare in terms of finding out all I could about my target audience — I did not realize that some of the world’s greatest marketing researchers would be in the room! But no pressure, right? Turns out that not doing the audience research worked in my favor. Stephen Hoch was sitting in the front row, wearing a somewhat colorful shirt. He kept asking questions, and I kept answering them, ever so chill, because he was the guy in the colorful shirt, not the legendary marketing professor I later learned he is.
This lack of preparation worked in my favor. I was calm and cool — it also helped that I was presenting my own research and was passionate about it. The next thing I knew, I was invited to teach consumer behavior to Wharton undergraduates and MBAs.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Hands down, it’s my husband, Ariel. He has tremendous faith in me, huge dreams for me, and always tells me that one day Oprah Winfrey and I will be best friends. Ariel is constantly thinking of new ways to spread the word on what I am doing. This is great, because my mission is to reach every health consumer and patient, as well as to every physician, and every healthcare leader. To really drive change, we all need to be involved. I mean, ask Oprah! When she talks, the world listens. And one day, she and I will meet and change the medical world together.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
As you embark on this path, I can guarantee you three things:
1. Hard work — plenty of it. Don’t ever imagine you could succeed without it. Ask any tennis champion, any Noble laureate, US President, or any kid who got 5th place at a swim meet. Accomplishing anything involves hard work. Show up, do the work, and be patient about reaping the rewards.
2. Rejections. On the way to ‘yes’, you’ll hear plenty of ‘no’. If you’re in this path for the ego boost, you may get it, but your ego may also get jabbed along the way. As my yoga teacher, Alice used to say: “All stumbling is part of the game”.
3. Failures. Accept failure as part of the game. As my other yoga teacher, Michael Cremone, used to say: “It doesn’t matter if you fall. We all fall in life. The only thing is to get back up again.” What you don’t always see on TV or read about online, is that you win some, you lose some (hopefully, fewer than you’ve won). If you’re afraid of losing, remember this big and profound truth: if you never try, then you have lost and failed for sure.
What drives you to get up every day and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?
I speak in front of so many forums, and I wrote “Your Life Depends On It: What You Can Do to Make Better Choices about Your Health”, because I know that people need help in making medical decisions. They experience difficulty as individuals, but the fact is that this difficulty is shared by many. I can teach them some tools for dealing with medical decisions, and I can teach their doctors and healthcare systems how to do things better, in a way that benefits satisfaction, health, and ROIs.
So, I care. Which means I never stop trying, speaking, writing.
To recap my message: I can help empower your medical journey. And you need it! We all do.
Can you share with our readers a few of your most important tips about how to be an effective and empowering speaker? Can you please share some examples or stories?
- Be real.
- Be personal.
Don’t use SAT words. The audience knows you are the expert, there is no need to “prove” this by speaking above their heads. Plus, in my case, that would be ridiculous, because I push for making medical information accessible.
Talk about things that matter to people! Someone met me and said he’d heard me on the radio ten years earlier! I wondered how he remembered, and it turned out that this was the day before his scheduled prostate cancer surgery. What I said made him question this decision, and he opted for watchful waiting instead. He said he thanks me every day for it. So how can I not go out there and speak, even if there’s only one person listening?
Wear comfortable shoes!!! This message is mainly for women — we sometimes tend to prefer fashion over functionality, but when speaking, you need to be focused on your audience and message, not on your sore toes.
As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?
I would say that practice makes perfect. But that would imply that my speaking is perfect.
Let’s say instead that public speaking is like a muscle. If you exercise it, it’ll grow with time. My first international talk was at a conference in Zurich. A friend who was attending it with me proposed to help me prepare. I arrived in her house, and she sent me to the balcony, to give a practice talk to her plants (!). Then to her and her partner. At the talk, my friend and colleague, Austrian scholar, Eduard Brandstatter sat in the front row and smiled at me encouragingly.
He is the one who also said that professors (in our role as teachers) are constant public speakers.
After thousands of talks and classes, speaking became second nature, and I no longer give practice talks to plants.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Speaking is exciting. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to being a rock star.
- You will be in amazing places and meet fascinating people.
- Speaking will help you grow as a person (but only if you also listen, not just talk).
- You (and I!) are so lucky to be doing this, so take every hurdle with a stride.
- The microphone will break at some point, the power will go out, and the talk before you will run over. S — t happens. Accept it, expect it, and remain committed to the message you bring to the world.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
The most exciting thing is my book — Your Life Depends On It: What You Can Do to Make Better Choices about Your health’ (Basic Books, Hachette) is coming out in September (and you can pre-order it!).
This is what Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman said about it:
“People who expect to stay healthy forever need not read this wonderful book. The rest of us should. With a fine combination of humor, compassion and vast knowledge, Talya Miron-Shatz offers clear and useful guidance for the hardest decisions of life.”
He also added that I write beautifully!
It’s the culmination of everything I did and learned, and my hope is for it to get me to even bigger boardrooms and audiences, achieving greater resonance, helping and inspiring many more people: patients, physicians, and leaders.
Can you share with our readers any self-care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
I could work for two months in a row, without ever leaving my computer. And now, with the pandemic making physical location irrelevant, even more so. This has, of course, opened up amazing opportunities. But, remaining chained to one’s computer is ill-advised. To remain centered, and to lead the well-rounded life I need, I like to stick to some self-care practices:
- I exercise at least five times a week: yoga, Pilates, and swimming. It makes no sense to write about health and not keep healthy.
- People come before work. People = family, spouse, and friends. Don’t neglect their feelings because you’re so busy at work.
- I read a book before going to sleep. Non-fiction. It’s like a chiropractor’s treatment for my brain.
As a speaker, you are the enterprise. Take good care of it!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The sun’ll come out tomorrow
So you gotta hang on ’til tomorrow
Come what may.
This song, from the musical “Annie” makes regret and self-doubt irrelevant. Don’t get me wrong, I live an amazing life, and I’ve accomplished things way beyond what I knew was possible when I was growing up. But dreams and expectations tend to grow over time, and you cannot let challenges and setbacks get you down.
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
It’s unbelievable that you ask that! A few days ago, someone told me that my ideas should start a movement. Amen to that! The movement would be named after my book: ‘Your Life Depends on It’. It will encourage people to understand the barriers that they encounter when making medical choices and to take steps to overcome them. To make it even more effective, I want to help doctors improve patients’ decision processes, and I want to drive healthcare systems to take an active part in making this happen. My book is full of takeaways for patients, doctors, and healthcare systems, so the movement can begin!
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Oh yes! The one and only Arianna Huffington. She has built a media empire based on the desire to change the world and inspire people into positivity. It would be amazing to have her by my side in the effort to empower people’s medical journey, and in the call to healthcare systems to assume responsibility for making this happen.
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!