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Steve Lowell speaker signature talk

Signature Talks: A Building Block to Your Unique Brand with Steve Lowell

Are you a professional speaker? Or, perhaps you’re ready to move into the world of speaking at the professional level. If you’re in either situation, you probably realize the value of promoting yourself as a professional. Yet, if you want to grow your speaking business, you need to know how to promote yourself effectively and consistently. And, you’re in luck! In this episode, you hear Steve Lowell share his insights on how to effectively drive business through speaking without resorting to manipulative selling tactics. You also get to explore the concepts of creating a signature talk that defines you to your audiences and the importance of being known for something specific.




  • The effectiveness of non-manipulative speaking
  • Apprehension towards high-pressure sales tactics from speakers
  • Building trust with the audience
  • Importance of focusing on solving the audience’s problem
  • The value of a Signature Talk
  • Being known for something
  • Importance of being recognized and branding oneself
  • The desired outcomes of a keynote
  • Developing a process to challenge commonly taught ideas
  • Becoming a category of one
  • Challenging one’s own creations
  • Providing unique experiences for the audience
  • The task of promoting oneself as a speaker
  • Going deeper to promote as a problem solver
  • Asking questions to generate new perspectives for oneself







Peter [00:00:00]:

Steve, welcome to the show.

Steve Lowell [00:00:02]:

Hey, I’m so glad to be here. Thanks for welcoming me in it’s. It’s, you know, it’s always cool to hang out with great speakers and, and great musicians.

Peter [00:00:09]:

It seems we do have that in common. Steve, you’re known as the guy with a hundred K Signature Talk. What exactly is a Signature talk? And why is it so essential to speaker success?

Steve [00:00:22]:

So a Signature Talk, you know, Peter, is a lot like like, well, your signature on anything. It’s something that defines you to your audience, and it gives the audience something to pin your name to. In all my years of speaking and training speakers, I meet an awful lot of speakers who say I can speak on just about anything. I’ll tell you, that is the last person you want on your stage, because they will speak about anything and everything. And what I found is that when your audiences can pin your name to something like you just did just now, you pinned me to the 100K Signature Talk, and that gets around. And so the next audience is going to pin my name to that, and the next audience is going to pin my name to that. And then you become what I call v one. You become the one who speaks about this one thing. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only thing you ever speak about, but it’s something that people can attach your name to go, oh, yeah, she’s the one who speaks about this, or he’s the one who speaks about that. And that gives you some recognition. That gives you a little bit of brand priority in the mind of your audiences. So the Signature Talk is exactly what it says. It’s a talk that people can pin your name to, and it becomes almost as unique as your signature. And I think it’s really important to be known for something in the speaking business, even if you’re not like an out there professional speaker getting on the big stages and making all the speaking fees. If you use speaking to any measure to drive clients into your business or to build your business, it’s so much more powerful when your audiences can attach your name to something, and that way they remember you. They know if you’re doing something like a podcast like this one, Peter, or if you’re doing your own online programs, webinars videos, social media, posts, live events, they have some idea of what to expect when they come to see you.

Peter [00:02:15]:

That makes a lot of sense to me. It’s as easy as the difference between A and the. Yeah, you can be a speaker, a consultant, an entrepreneur, but when you have the before your name or before what you do, that sets you apart.

Steve [00:02:34]:

Absolutely. And Joe Callaway, as you probably know, is a very sought after, famous sort of one of the statesmen in the speaking business. And he had this concept that he called the category of one. And the concept, of course, is, just like you said, Peter, when you are a something or n something, you are part of a category of many. And the issue with that is that people don’t really know how to set you apart from everybody else who does what you do. And even if you are profoundly different and profoundly better at what you do, people don’t know that if you are a member of a category of memory of many because everybody in that category is trying to position themselves and they all do it the same way. But if you become a category of one, if you are the one, then it’s so much easier to get business and to get speaking gigs and to command higher fees because there’s notoriety to being v one. There’s some cachet to being v one. And that’s what your Signature Talk helps you to do.

Peter [00:03:33]:

Now, when speakers strive to differentiate themselves, are there other ways they can do it? Have that signature talk. Or for that matter, do they really need to be different from other speakers?

Steve [00:03:43]:

No, they don’t need to be different from other speakers, but they do need to appear to be different from other speakers. So, for example, I’ll do a quick exercise with you and your listening audience here. And I do this live all the time when I’m on the stage, and I can do it here just to explain. So when I’m in front of an audience, I’ll often ask the audience this question. I’ll say, put up your hand if you or somebody you know is in the market for a tennis instructor. And I think I did that with the New England group. Did you remember if I did that.

Peter [00:04:16]:

With your group, with NSA New England? Yes, you did.

Steve [00:04:19]:

Yeah. And actually, it rolled out differently than it did everywhere else in the entire world.

Peter [00:04:22]:

We’re different in New England.

Steve [00:04:24]:

You certainly are different in New England because I’ve done it all over the world and to thousands of people. And when I ask the question, put up your hand if you or somebody you know is in the market for a tennis instructor, generally no hands go up. Except there is an enormous demand for tennis instructors, apparently, in New England. So if anybody is listening to this and you’re a tennis instructor, go to New England. There’s lots of business for you there. But usually what happens is no hands go up. And that’s because people generally aren’t walking the earth looking for a tennis instructor. And what our audience needs to know is generally people aren’t walking the earth looking for you either, unless they have a very specific need that you serve. And then what I’ll do with this audience is I’ll tell him about this guy named Brian. And we taught Brian this concept where you don’t actually have to be different, but you do have to appear to be different. So Brian came to me one day and he said, you know, Steve, I’m going to all the networking meetings, I’m shaking all the hands, I’m speaking to all the people, I’m making all the follow up calls. And he says, I’m just not getting the business that I need. And I said, Well, Brian, what do you do? He said, I’m a tennis instructor. So he is a something, just like you said, Peter. So we taught him that principle. Now, if you saw Brian today and you said, Brian, what do you do? He’d say something like this. He’d say, well, you know how sometimes kids have so much energy they’re bouncing off the walls and the parents get so frustrated because they have no idea what to do with these kids? He’d say, well, what I do is I take kids of any age, I bring them on a tennis court, I absolutely exhaust them, and then I hand them back to their parents. And then I ask the audience again, put up your hand if you just might know somebody who just might be in the market for a tennis instructor, and all of a sudden, every hand in the place goes up. And so the way that answers your question, Peter, is we don’t actually have to be different from everybody else who does what we do or other speakers who speak about our same topic, but we do have to appear to be different. And appearing to be different could mean a lot of things, but primarily it’s really based on the experience that you provide for that audience. You see, your audience is going to remember certain things about you, and it’s all part of the experience that you provide. And there’s many ways to do that. But one of the ways to do that is to sort of draw a straight line between you and a problem that the audience has that they never knew existed. Right? And so most people go, I never even thought of a tennis instructor to tire out my kids. It never even occurred to me. And if you can do that with your audience, if you can get your audience to sort of think, you know, I’ve never heard it like that, or, I’ve never thought of it that way, or It never occurred to me, then that’s how you can stand out as a speaker. So it makes you appear to be different, even if you’re not actually different.

Peter [00:06:59]:

And that’s what matters. When they see you being different, they’re the ones with the checkbooks, they’re the ones with the next speaking engagement. They’re the ones who are going to see that you are the person they want to deal with exactly that’s.

Steve [00:07:12]:


Peter [00:07:13]:

Is the objective of a signature talk as obvious as having someone hire you for coaching or buy a book or whatever it might be? Or are there other outcomes that must be achieved beforehand?

Steve [00:07:24]:

Yeah. So we’re stepping into the world of the concept of sales now. So let’s start with this. A lot of speakers are really adverse to this scary concept of selling from the stage. And it’s got this negative connotation of when we’re in the audience, the speaker is on the stage, and it’s all this high pressure, high powered, very manipulative type, the type of selling that makes you feel like you need to take a shower afterwards. And it just doesn’t need to be that way, especially for professionals, for coaches, for consultants, for nonfiction authors, for experts in any field. We can drive enormous amounts of business into our business through speaking without all of those things. And it’s as simple as this. The concept is simple, Peter, but the execution isn’t necessarily easy. There’s skill defined in this, but there are outcomes that need to be achieved. And the first thing is this. And this comes from a sales expert in Australia, and his name is Orlando Bowen, and he’s a brilliant sales strategist. So I credit him with these pieces of information. And the first thing that your audience needs to do is they need to feel like you as the speaker, understand them. The audience needs to feel like this. You know what? This speaker gets me. And so many speakers spend all of their time on the stage trying to get the audience to understand them. So it’s Like, If I can get on the stage, if they can see how awesome I am, if they can see my Great Content, my five Pillars to this, my Four Secrets to that, my Three Strategies to this. If they could just see and listen to my testimonials, if they could hear from my clients so they could see that all the great stuff I can do, they’re going to want to hire me and buy from me. And it’s kind of backwards because what we’re really saying there is if they understand me, they will hire me. And really the reverse is true. We need the audience to feel like, you know what, this person understands me. That’s the first thing. Then the next thing that has to happen is the audience needs to feel safe with this speaker. And what that means is if the audience is getting a feeling that your entire mission is to separate them from their money, then it’s going to be a really difficult sell. So you need to get the audience to feel, a, this person really understands me, they get me. B, this person, I feel safe with this person. I think they’re legitimately delivering real value and not just trying to separate me from my money. And that whole real value piece goes down an entire different rabbit hole, which we can chase down if you like. But the third thing that needs to happen is the audience needs to feel like you could actually really maybe help me. Maybe you could actually help me solve my problem. And a lot of the times those three outcomes are very closely related and tied together. Because if I feel like, you know what, you understand me. And I think you’re not just out to take advantage of me and take my money, and I think you actually have the skills you need to help me. Now, I’m going to consider exploring this further with you. Maybe now your five pillars or your six secrets become more important. Now your background becomes more important. Now your testimonials become more important. But none of that matters to me as an audience member until I understand that you understand me. I feel safe that you are not going to take advantage of me. And I feel like you actually have the goods to help me.

Peter [00:10:39]:

As I was taking notes on these three things, I’m looking at them saying it’s like starting a relationship.

Steve [00:10:45]:

Exactly. It’s like starting a relationship.

Peter [00:10:48]:

Now, you said we could go down a rabbit hole if we’d like, what’s that? Rabbit hole?

Steve [00:10:52]:

Okay, so that rabbit hole is this. It’s about value. So the second thing, the second outcome and the second objective is the audience needs to feel safe. And then the third one is the audience needs to feel that you can actually help them. So within those two, there needs to be some value delivered by the speaker. Right. I mean, you need to deliver some value so that they understand, yes, there’s actual real skill and content and depth here. And where we go down a rabbit hole is so many speakers. And I did this for decades. Peter this was a hard lesson for me to learn. I always thought that if I can teach them everything they need to know, they’re going to think I’m awesome and then they’re going to want to know more. And the problem is, I kept teaching way too much when I was speaking. If I’m speaking to try and generate revenue afterwards to monetize, I would teach way too much. And they would walk out the door thinking, this is awesome. I’ve got everything I need. And it didn’t occur to me that they, oh, if they got everything they need, then clearly they’re not going to need me. I thought they would just hire me because I’m awesome, but they’re not going to hire me unless they need me. And that took me a while to figure that out. So the rabbit hole is that we get on the stage in front of the audience, live or virtual, and we just teach and teach and teach and teach and teach. And then they walk away thinking they have everything they need to solve whatever the problem is they’re trying to solve. And we’re doing them an enormous disservice when we do that because there is no way they have everything they need to solve the problem. And so what I found is this two important things. Number one is there’s a tipping point between volume and value. Now, by volume, I don’t mean your loudness right, I mean the amount of content. And as we’re giving content, as we’re teaching our content to our audience, there is a tipping point where we’re teaching it adds value. We’re teaching it adds value. And then we cross this line where we teach more. And now there’s a diminishment of value because the understanding starts to get diluted. They start to have more questions, the confusion gets elevated. And so we need to know what that line is for our audience, where we’re stepping past the line of value into the line of where the value starts to diminish. So a tipping point between volume and value. So that’s the first concept. The other concept is that what I’ve learned is the audience does not expect and nor do they even want their problem to be solved during your 60 minutes, 90 minutes, whatever keynote. What they appreciate more is clarity around the problem. See if you can help them understand why their problem exists. That’s the value. So it’s like you want your audience to do this. Do you want them to sort of think, oh, no wonder my business isn’t growing, no wonder my relationships are in turmoil, no wonder I’m stressed all the time. No wonder, and it’s at this, oh, no wonder this is happening. That’s clarity around the problem. And if you can get your audience to go, oh, now I get it, now I understand why that’s the value. And so now you add this to the equation. So here are the outcomes that we want our audience to achieve in order to drive revenue. Number one is this, you know what? I think this speaker understands me. Number two, I feel safe with this speaker because I now have clarity around my problem. Now I understand it, and I think this speaker has enough skill and knowledge to help me with my problem. And now you’ve got this really great package where when you’re finished speaking, if they’re dead serious about solving their problem, it would be ridiculous of them not to come and talk to you. But they’re not going to do it. It because of your great experience. They’re not going to do it because of your great story. They’re not going to do it because of the great credentials. They’re not going to do it because you’re five pillars, four secrets, three strategies. They’re not going to do it because you’re awesome, amazing, and good. Looking at all those things. None of that matters. They’re going to do it because they believe that you’re the solution. You become the one for a newer.

Peter [00:14:55]:

Speaker or even experienced speakers who haven’t looked at it this way, how do they come up with clarifying the problem or clarifying the problem that the audience doesn’t even know they have?

Steve [00:15:05]:

Yeah, there’s a couple of things around that. First of all, that is the task. It’s not a simple thing. It’s a very big thing. And it requires us to look at the nature of our content from an entirely new perspective. So I have this system, this process that I created over many years, and I created it for myself to try and grow my business. And then when that started to happen, I looked back and I said, okay, what did I do here? So I have this process that I created called I call it Deep Thought Strategy. And what it means is we go through our content at a different level than we’ve ever gone through before. And what we’re looking for is this line between, you know, how we draw the line between Brian, the tennis instructor and the rowdy children? That’s a line that is not an obvious line to people who have rowdy children. So we need to find that line. What is it that I offer that solves a problem that the client has that they may not even draw a connection with? And now you position yourself now as saying, I have this, that I do this thing, but this solves a problem you never knew you had. So when we help the audience get clarity around their problem, they think they have the problem of not enough sales. But at the end of it, if they can think, oh, no wonder I don’t have enough sales now. I need this speaker. So they’re not going to hire you to help them get more sales. They’re going to hire you to help them solve the problem that’s causing the lack of sales, you see? So what we need to do as speakers is go deeper. If you’re a sales trainer, let’s say your objective is not to promote yourself as somebody who helps people sell more. Your objective is to promote yourself as somebody who solves the problem as to why they’re not selling more. And that takes some really deep thought, and it takes going through your content and challenging everything you do. Here’s how I do it. And this is just sort of a few little tips. Anytime I get a concept that I think is good for my content or my business, I challenge it in these ways. I ask myself these questions what if it were untrue? How can I disprove it, first of all? And then what if I say it backward? What if it’s the other way? What if it’s backwards? What if it’s incomplete? And I try and prove all these things not for the purpose of disproving the idea, but for the purpose of going through the exercise of disproving or finding if it’s incomplete or finding if it’s backwards. Or like, I just look at it every different angle, not necessarily for the purpose of defeating the idea, but for the purpose of generating a new perspective on the idea. So I’ll give you a couple of examples. You’ve heard, you know the old adage that people buy from those they know like and trust you’ve heard that?

Peter [00:17:50]:


Steve [00:17:51]:

Okay, so that’s a common knowledge. That’s a common thing. Every salesperson knows these things. And so what I do is I try and disprove it. How can I prove that to be either incorrect or incomplete? And so I have a little process I do that proves it to be incomplete. And so I take these common things that are taught in my world, in my business, and I try and position myself in a contrary position if I can. And it’s great. And it causes you to go through your content at this tiny little level, right at the granular level. And the ideas that come up from that work can astound you and it can give you an entirely new set of thinking and a new set of content. And what I tell speakers is you need to go through your content until your content comes through you. And so when we do this work and we question everything and we challenge everything and we research everything and we try and take a contrary position on everything, then what happens is we go through our content at such a deep level, all of a sudden our content starts to come through us. So that’s the work.

Peter [00:18:57]:

It makes a lot of sense. When you were talking about getting to the cause of the problem and not treating just the problem, it made me think of what we talk about with medicine. There are doctors who treat the symptoms right. We still have the cause remaining, right? And then there are doctors who want to get to the cause and help with that.

Steve [00:19:18]:

Yes, exactly right. And so let’s say, for example, that you’re a physician who deals with, let’s say, depression. So I have a client from Australia who is a 40 year veteran as a GP and also 25 years as an acupuncturist. And so he’s got this very unique method that he’s developed to serve depression, anxiety through acupuncture. And he’s the only one in the world who does this particular method. So what he does now is when he’s speaking about his business, he shows here’s the common knowledge about the treatment for depression and anxiety. And everybody looks at that and goes, yes, I understand that. That’s the common knowledge. And some people might say, oh, I didn’t know that, but it all makes sense. And then he’ll say, this is the treatment, here is the cause. And people go, oh, no wonder I can’t get over my depression. No wonder I’m anxious all the time. No wonder I’m an antidepressants. And then they go to him and say, I want to solve the cause. So most people think they want to solve depression, but they don’t. They want to solve the cause, and they just have never heard of this before. So they go, There it is. That’s what I need to solve. So when we put ourselves out there, we need to start with the familiar or the common sense and guide the audience to the unfamiliar or the uncommon sense. And the unfamiliar. The uncommon sense is the piece that we need to find, and it’s not something we can reveal in a podcast. This is the work. This is deep, deep, deep work that is challenging. And a lot of people don’t go through that level of work, either because it takes too much time or they don’t know how to do it, or it just never occurred to them to do it.

Peter [00:21:03]:

I’ll go with the last one. I think a lot of us it just doesn’t occur to us to go that deep.

Steve [00:21:07]:


Peter [00:21:08]:

And how you say to get there, start with the familiar before you start to move to the other.

Steve [00:21:13]:

Yeah. And the first thing to do is that I would recommend is ask the question, how can I disprove this? How can I make this common knowledge? How can I prove that it’s false? And again, that’s not the objective. Right. And this is where people get tripped up when I talk to them about this. The objective is not to prove it false. The objective is to do the work, to try to prove it false, to uncover different perspectives that you may not have considered before.

Peter [00:21:38]:

Well, that deep thinking. Coming at it from a different perspective, I think that is where you unearth ideas that you might not have noticed before.

Steve [00:21:46]:


Peter [00:21:47]:

Steve, what’s your final piece of advice that you can give to my listeners?

Steve [00:21:51]:

Wow. I mean, there are so many of them, but I think based on what you and I have talked about, I think that the final piece of advice would be don’t get so attached to your content, to all the things you’ve created, to all the things you are emotionally attached to and the things you’re proud of. Don’t get so attached to that content that creativity and inspiration is not permitted to descend. So open up your mind and look at everything you’re doing and just ask yourself the question, what if? What if it’s incorrect? What if it was incomplete? What if I could disprove it? What if I made it backwards? What if? And just be open enough to detach emotionally from that which you have created. Because, you know, Peter, we get so attached to the things we’ve created, right? Because we love them and we’re proud of them, and there was so much work to create this, and it’s so awesome, and it identifies me, and it’s so cool. Detach for it in private or detach from it in private and challenge it. How can I disprove it? How can I prove it to be incorrect? How can I prove it to be incomplete? What if I do it backwards? What if I do it sideways? What if I turn it around? What if I change this and just ask what if? And see what happens?

Peter [00:22:56]:

Great advice, Steve. Thanks so much for being here today. It’s been a pleasure having you on. I appreciate the knowledge you shared with me and my listeners.


Steve [00:23:05]:

Well, it’s always a privilege to get on these podcasts with great people, and I want to congratulate you, Peter, on the work that you’re doing. You’re pumping out some amazing content. You’re changing lives, and you’re a true credit to the business, and I’m just a privilege to be here with you.


Peter [00:23:21]:

Thank you, Steve. I appreciate that.