Part One: The World We Live In

We live in a TED talk world.

What does that means?

Everyone knows about TED talks and everyone watches TED talks. They are the status quo of our intercultural exchange of ideas.

The TED talk culture has had a massive effect on the art of speaking.

In a TED talk world – no matter what your topic, your big idea, your project – it must be able to be distilled down to a powerful, vibrant, and persuasive talk.

No matter how seemingly uninteresting the topic, the TED speakers manage to distill the art of storytelling and persuasion and authenticity and connection into every single talk.

TED talks teach us how compelling and world-changing a speech can be.

Part Two: Your BIG IDEA matters

You have a big idea, right?

Your big idea is something you care deeply about and have built a career and a way of life around, right?

If you were invited to talk on the TED stage, to share your idea with hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, how do you think you would prepare?

You would map out every idea in your speech. You would plan every transition so it flowed effortlessly and clearly. You would craft an engaging and compelling introduction and you would close with a powerful and urgent call to action. You build (or buy) professional and beautiful power points. You would practice for many many hours. You would hire a professional speaking coach. You would get feedback and retool. You would spend all the time necessary to deliver the speech of your lifetime.

WHY-MOST-CHIROPRACTIC-SPEECHES-SUCK-300x300Part Three: What You Do Currently

You are not preparing like that. Not even close.

Right now some of you are saying: No, I’m not preparing like that, but I’m NOT giving a TED talk to thousands of people. I’m just giving my health care class to my patients. It’s no big deal.

Or you might be thinking: I’m too busy for all that. That is not a priority right now. I have more important things to focus on.

Or the worst: But I’m comfortable with what I do right now and people seem to really like it. There is no need for me to work on something that is not broken.

All of this is an unconscious defense mechanism which is telling you that it is okay to set the bar low in your office. I know that is not you. YOU never set the bar low on purpose.

Part Four: The Terrible

This low bar does not just happen in your office. This low bar has been set on many chiropractic stages for years. You are so used to it  – you might not even notice.

[quote_center]This is the truth: The presentations that we see at most chiropractic events (even big, highly produced events) are largely pretty terrible.[/quote_center]

Terrible seems like a strong word. But terrible is the right word and here’s why.

The presentations are terrible because they could be SO MUCH BETTER with a little work and effort.

The presentations are terrible because most chiropractic speakers have been delivering the same way for years and don’t realize they should be improving. They believe that they ARE doing well because they keep getting asked to speak and come to the conclusion that they are doing well enough.

The presentations are terrible because we tell all the speakers that they are great. That false feedback comes from a plethora of miscues. A) We are nice and we like to say nice things to speakers. B) We do like the speaker and their content, even though we know they could be better. C) Maybe, we don’t know any better. We have been brainwashed by so many years of meh. D) Few of us are willing to stand up and say, “It’s not good enough”. Because that might piss people off. E) Most chiropractic speakers are not being paid, and that creates a lower expectation for preparation and delivery.


Let me be clear. I know that most well-known speakers are offering something of value or they would not be asked to speak again. Many speakers are offering great advice and information. The speaker is probably a great contributor to the profession.

I’m not talking about whether the people who speak in our profession are good people and great contributors. I’m talking about the consistently low caliber of the professional speaking.

Our industry standard of a “professional” presentation is rotten. We have been taught to confuse passion for purpose. We have been taught to confuse charisma for content. We have been taught to confuse fame for value. We have been taught that if someone is influential that they deserve our blind admiration from a stage.

Part Five: The Shame

Let’s talk about the screaming and shaming.

Have you had a speaker yell at you that YOU are doing it wrong and the world is suffering because of YOUR failure? Not OK.

Stop yelling at us. You do not win by shaming and insulting the audience.  You will win by inspiring possibility. It is okay to talk about what’s wrong with the world (hey, I’m ranting about what is wrong with chiropractic presentations) but it is not helpful to tell your audience that THEY suck.

All great speeches lift people up. A great speaker should leave us on a high of possibility and inspiration.tg14_100714_rl5d3104_1920

Part Six: More Complications

This article is NOT about Continuing Education (CE) content. CE is a whole different animal. While I believe that speakers who deliver CE should also strive to be the best presenters they can be and should also raise their game, that kind of presentation is in a different category for many reasons.

CE is about measurable education to please governing agencies. CE is for state boards. CE is not about your practice growth or success or motivation or new ideas, really. Because, boards.

I think that trying to qualify for CE credits is part of the problem. We want it all. Valuable content. Great speaking abilities. Nobody selling anything. CE credits.

Seriously? You are very unlikely to have all of that in one speech.

Part Seven: The Event Organizers

People who organize chiropractic conferences are trying to do the right thing. They are booking speakers who have some kind of positive track record in the profession and have been booked elsewhere. They are trying to find free or affordable speakers. They are trying to maximize your CE credits. They don’t have time or money to take a risk on newbies and the unproven. Mediocre is a safer bet than the unknown.

Therefore organizers to choose the same speakers we already have heard a zillion times. And those speakers will deliver the same untrained and ranty, disorganized speeches with terrible power points.

How do we seed a new generation of great speakers and reward new ways of thinking? If we keep sticking to the old model, we will only get to hear the same type of speakers who know the right people and who are selling the same tired spiels. We need a new model.

How can event organizers find the up-and-coming speakers who are building great original content and doing the work of learning to be truly professional speakers?

Being an event organizer is insanely complicated. You have to please so many people and still come out ahead financially. I greatly admire the organizers who are placing value in finding new talent, mentoring new voices, and rewarding high caliber performers over those with a recognized name.

But it is rare.

Chiropractic audience

Part Eight: Why it Matters

The big idea of chiropractic deserves our very best efforts.

The 7.5 billion people of the world need to hear our message.

We aspire to have more influence. We need to do the work that will get us there. We need to be relentlessly putting our best foot forward every time, no matter how accomplished we have become. We need to value those who put in the work of become the very best communicators in the business.

We need to value and reward great speaking, great stagecraft, great power points and great inspirers.

The chiropractic profession has set the bar too low.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, really) our clients and our community have a different bar and we are most likely not meeting that bar. Which means that the world is not impressed and is less likely to buy into your big idea. And that lack of buy-in is hurting your ability to help people.

Part Nine: What Can You Do

Here’s some action steps that we can all use, whether we speak from a big stage or only talk to our patients.

  1. Don’t expect CE credits and inspiration and practice success all from one speaker. It is possible but uncommon. When speakers try to be all things, they fail.
  2. Stop telling speakers their speech was great when it was not. This doesn’t mean we don’t like them as human beings, but we need to stop rewarding mediocrity.
  3. If you are a speaker: get a coach. A speech coach. Or go to Toastmasters for free. Anyone can benefit from this kind of training.
  4. Does your staff deliver content? Have your staff train in speaking too.
  5. Stop accepting (or using) the excuse that you are “letting innate flow” when you don’t adequately prepare! Innate can still flow in a trained and prepared individual. Innate is the special sauce, not the meat of your presentation.
  6. Get feedback. Get professional feedback. Practice some more. Practice one more time. Do the work.
  7. Stop yelling at me and trying to make me feel bad. Inspire me. Lift me up. Help me to see what I can do without shaming me.
  8. Reward (with your business) the event organizers who take a risk and bring you fresh voices and top-notch speakers. Trust me, they worked hard to make that happen. Go again. Invite your friends.

Part Ten: The Future

The good news? We have so much opportunity. Really. That’s not spin.

As chiropractors, we already have amazing content. The chiropractic story is the greatest hero’s journey ever told. We have content that would rival any TED talk.

Chiropractors are great connectors. Chiropractors love to work really hard at being excellent. Chiropractors care deeply about the big idea and spreading it to the world.

We can fix this, by becoming aware, caring about it, and raising the bar together.

Let’s take action. Do something (see list above) today!



PS If you are a chiropractic speaker and you don’t think this applies to you, you might be right. I don’t know you and your habits and your process. I am commenting on what I experience in an audience.

I have the utmost respect for the many chiropractic speakers who deliver amazing work (often for free) from their hearts and souls.

I want to see the great speakers be the norm, not the exception in this profession. I look forward to seeing all of us doing the work to get better and better at it, all the time.


maryFlanneryMary is obsessed with STORY. She loves learning about stories and how to tell them better. She wants to help you do the same. She feels like she should tell you a really good story here but there is not enough room. Dr. Flannery is the Dean of Enrollment at Life West Chiropractic College and founder of ADIO Radio.