A week ago, I attended a conference. Like most networking events, you meet people from various fields, geographic regions and social/economic castes. I asked a group of people why they decided to attend this particular conference. One person responded, “Well, I want to stay relevant.” I quickly asked, how does attending this conference make you relevant? The person replied, “I can tell people I was here and they will think I have grasped new concepts presented at this conference.” I then asked him if he did grasp new concepts. He replied, “I have no clue what anyone was talking about, though it seemed interesting. But, my clients and bosses don’t know that.” I smiled inside and walked away. This is an example of perceived relevance, as his bosses will believe he is connected to the information simply because of his attendance at the conference. However without being able to demonstrate his connection (remember he stated he did not grasp the information presented), his relevance will be short-lived.
In order to command an audience, but more importantly, elicit respect from an audience, one must possess something the audience finds valuable. Whether you are a parent or CEO, scientist or author, your relevance is defined by your audience. And whether it is a child looking to you for answers or an auditorium full of people who have traveled from all over the world to hear you speak, relevance allows you to have a direct impact on every person in your audience. Relevance isn’t regurgitating facts and proof of attendance to superficially impress peers. Or to pretend to grasp new concepts. Relevance is reality. You can’t fake it. You don’t get to decide if you are relevant or not, the world does.
Pick something, anything you want to be an expert at. Then along your journey of becoming an expert, learn how to communicate, either on a personal level or on a stage size of your choice. After you have developed your craft and refined how you communicate with people, put yourself out there. It’s that simple. It’s that simple because the majority of the people, like the person I met at my conference, fake being relevant. They fake their expertise. They fake their connection to the information. And as long as you can find something you unequivocally can call your expertise and as long as you can communicate that expertise, you can obtain relevance.
Relevance is relative. And whether you have 1 person or 100 or 1,000,000 who listen to you for guidance on a certain topic, the power to persuade, the power to connect, makes you relevant. Attendance does not make you relevant. Speaking in front of people does not make you relevant. But rather the power to continually convince people that you are directly connected to the information or matter at hand, implying that you may influence that information or matter due to your connection, is what makes you relevant.
Remember when you picked something to be an expert at? Remember when you were going to pick up communication skills to better express to others your expertise? Well staying relevant is both of these things, but the ability to do them over and over and over again, never being satisfied until one day the world decides you are deemed forever relevant to a certain expertise or field. When your name becomes synonymous with a concept, topic, or thing that is how you ‘Stay Relevant’ and that is how you succeed at becoming one of the best in your field.