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Interview with Marian Salzman

In this interview with A-Speakers, Marian Salzman opens up about public speaking, her overall message, trends and tendencies. Read on below.

What is the message you hope people take away from your presentations? 

My presentations are meant to provoke business and thought leaders to think differently, to let their brains zag as well as zig, because that kind of disruptive, creative, load-it-on brainfood can lead people to see the big world and their business challenges very differently. I typically talk about near-term business and consumer insights trends: What can you expect in the next three to five years, and how can you see the world differently so that you can spot opportunities on the horizon and hijack the waves of change, so that you can surf these waves masterfully and enjoy the journey as well as your success when you land at your destination? I have specific topics I often talk about (trends in social media, what the millennials mean for the workplace or commerce, how communities are being reorganized around a 24/7/365 always-on mindset), but these are backdrops for inspiring audience members to unleash their inner trendspotters so that they can enjoy the ride—and make it profitable.

How do you prepare for speaking engagements? 

I immerse myself in my audience, their topic, the social media chatter around related issues … anything and everything I can tap to get comfortable with what’s happening in the zeitgeist that is making the topic fluid. I never present an off-the-shelf presentation, although there are a few presentation rituals I do like: Find a few YouTube clips that are relevant and edit them to be hyper-appropriate, write some powerful slides and visualize them, search out some surprising data points, do a few Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn interviews to have new fodder, identify unexpected experts. I love the learning side of my preparation, so I’m the woman who spends way too much time preparing for the one hour. I have a lust for learning the esoterica that contributes to the themes I ultimately incorporate into the trends.

What are some of the most important changes you have seen over the past 5 years? 

TMI. Too much information, no filters, unbelievable sharing, zero editing—which makes it great to get insightful information, but it means that everything I undertake comes with way too much emo drama. A simple question like “Is outsourcing off-trend in a U.S. presidential election year?” opens me up for tales of terror about how someone’s father-in-law cheated because he felt less masculine when he lost his job because his manufacturing plant relocated to Southeast Asia. TMI is not good for any of us. Filters help. I’d like a bit more information, but not the full monty.

Immense emphasis on everything brainy, from brain health (are cellphones frying our skulls?) to conversations about constant education for personal and professional enhancement to trends that explore the future of American football (how many suicides will it take before we put the sport under the ultimate spotlight and decide it is just too unsafe?) to examinations of the real cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their hidden injuries (traumatic brain injuries and PTSD).

Real-time newscrafting. We’re all making news as we’re consuming it, and this makes for an adrenaline-rushed world of all news seems to be breaking, even if it’s hard for everything to be happening simultaneously, in a frenzy, with epic implications for the masses. We’ve also all become narrowcasters, sharing the news we care about with the people we touch, our fans, friends and followers. I call this mycasting.

Local is the new global. Global is a given, and we take it for granted that we are exposed to inputs and implications from across the world all the time, everywhere. Instead, we are hunkering into our local communities and trying to make sense of our lives in very small geographic ranges. We want to eat locally grown food and we want to patronize local stores and we want to engage in local volunteerism. It’s as if we finally realize the ties that bind us are twofold: virtual, through all those aforementioned fans, friends and followers, and with our real neighbors, who are really right there.

The last big shift I will flag is the pressure of the underlying fear that seems to pervade everything. I’m afraid of the dog food (it’s been recalled), I’m afraid of my commute (we’re on constant terrorist watch, and what better target than a mass transportation center), I’m afraid of the country going broke (Greece has gone broke, so it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the dominos fall). Part of the problem of the always-on news environment is that we are always aware of the bad things that can happen in a blink, and we spend our lives preparing for the other shoe to drop. And real-time news coverage means we are there, live, when it does. Did I mention information overload? Time to take a nap. 🙂

Who or what inspires you? 

I am inspired by the desert, by dogs (especially retrievers who are single-minded about retrieving), and by people who have a passion and a skill and pursue it relentlessly. My work is inspired by that always-on news that makes my life bountiful and tense, abundant and scary.

How is social media changing consumers? 

We are all connected and live in a world where everyone and anyone is only X number of connections away. There is no limit to the number of conversations you can have in a day, and with Google and Wikipedia and YouTube and Twitter, the great encyclopedia of life is just a series of searches from your desktop, making life one big classroom. I can’t even imagine how we filled time before we started collecting textual experiences that almost resemble real ones: I almost talked to someone, I almost read a book, I almost researched a paper. SoMe is about a life of great instant almosts. Fabulous. Fast. Fun. Free.

How are your keynote presentations unique? 

I am unfiltered, overly prepared and terribly accessible. There is nothing boring, staid or straitlaced about my take on business, and I realize that life can’t be taken so seriously that you don’t stop and ponder the bigger questions. So it’s a mix of the obvious, the obscure, the random and the randy, bundled into a socially acceptable package that educates, entertains and expands the horizons of the audience.

What made you want to become a public speaker? 

I never wanted to be a public speaker, in fact. When I found myself speaking, I had to pinch myself and say, Keep going, they won’t know you are shy. I do enjoy sharing what I know and my take on the near future, and this gets me through the shy and awkward moments of standing in front of thousands when I am having a bad hair day or when I can’t pronounce an essential word. I’ve had an insanely lucky and lovely life of travel and fabulous business experiences, and these tales are easy to share even if you (me) are slightly unsure of what’s interesting. I’ve discovered that provocative, humorous and thoughtful go a long way and that making people smarter is as good as feeding them a nice meal (and I am a terrible cook).

Can you give three tips for today’s business not to fall behind? 

  • Anticipate the worst, plan for the best, have three or four scenarios in mind, and always be gaming around the what-ifs.
  • Know your consumer—not what they tell you, but what’s really keeping them up at night—and how your competition sees them and their challenges and advantages. What would your consumer/customer whisper in your ear if he were your lover?
  • Failure is character building, so plan to fail often enough that you don’t get stuck in any one rut.


Click here to see Marian Salzman’s profile!

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