By Michael Levin
The three hottest topics for the world of health and wellness in 2021? According to James Marshall Reilly, author of One Great Speech, and the founder and former CEO of The GUILD Agency, they are stress management, work/life balance, and finding happiness.
“Obviously, it’s been an incredibly stressful year,” Reilly says. “So speakers who can address these topics will be in high demand in 2021. And the speakers aren’t necessarily the people you would expect. That’s the beauty of the speaking industry—it’s your story that makes the difference, not necessarily your resume or the initials after your name.”
Reilly says that while doctors speaking about COVID may not receive too many big speaking gigs, those on the front lines are far more likely to succeed with audiences.
“Most people probably won’t want to hear anything about COVID specifically,” Reilly says. “We’ve all been through it. On the other hand, the emotional experiences of front-line workers will be stories worth telling and worth hearing.”
When it comes to the second topic, stress management, Reilly notes, “Of course you’ll have experts trained in the field, but sometimes speakers have out-of-the-box professional backgrounds. One of our most successful speakers on stress management is a retired U.S. Army General. Being in battle is probably the most stressful experience a human being can have, so who better to talk about stress management than someone who has led troops?”
Regarding work/life balance, Reilly says, the market is jumping.
“Technology has shattered the boundary between your work life and your private life,” Reilly says, “because with your device you are ‘always on.’ There is an expectation among employers that a lot of people are sleeping with their iPhones next to their pillows.
“But the COVID-19 pandemic takes work-life balance issues to an even higher level, since more and more people are working from their homes instead of going out to the office. So we expect speakers with unique perspectives on work/life balance to be extremely popular in the coming year.”
The final area of heightened interest is happiness.
“It’s been a very tough year for a lot of people,” Reilly says. “The stress on individuals, couples, and families has been off the charts. People are afraid of losing their jobs or their businesses, and it’s been very hard on kids who have lost their ability to socialize, play sports, or whatever.
“So if you’ve got somebody whose written a book on finding happiness, or teaches yoga, or has some other kind of guidance on finding happiness, there will be a place for that person on the speaker’s platform.”
While most face-to-face venues remain shut, Reilly says, more and more organizations are bringing in speakers via Zoom or some other similar platform, and usually with excellent results.
“The speakers are getting slightly less money to speak on Zoom than to fly out to an event,” he says. “But for the most part they’re fine with it, because they don’t have to get on a plane and be away from their families for a couple of days. We train them in terms of how to get comfortable with the technology, how to have proper lighting in their home studio area, and so on. The surprising result is a level of intimacy that you don’t necessarily get in a much larger venue.”
Reilly says that in many cases, the speech part of presentations has been reduced in favor of longer Q&A sessions, much to the satisfaction of speakers and audiences.
“A really great speaking gig is one that benefits the speaker as much as it does the audience,” Reilly says. “You have a lot of folks interacting with speakers via Zoom who would not necessarily get out of their seat, walk to their microphone, and then make a statement or ask a question in front of hundreds or thousands of their peers. So the speakers are really happy with the experiences they’ve had presenting via Zoom.”
Reilly runs the speakers bureau for the Innocence Project, which draws attention wrongly convicted inmates in America’s prisons and jails. Reilly books celebrities to speak on behalf of the organization as well as individuals released from prison who recount their experiences after years or even decades of being held wrongly behind bars.
Reilly’s book, One Great Speech, has won consistent praise for its clear explanations about how to launch a speaking career, how to find and work with a speakers bureau, how to plan one’s talks, the financial elements, and other issues. The book could be described as the Bible for anyone interested in launching a speaking career.
“At some point,” Reilly says, “probably when enough people have been vaccinated, traditional speaking venues will open up and we will go back to in-person events. But for the time being, if you’ve got a message related to stress management, work life balance, or finding happiness, there’s an audience waiting for you.”