More than ever, customers buy into the people behind a company or product. Your story, expertise, experiences and vision help provide the connection and credibility they crave.
This thought leadership is the foundation of your brand and strategy for future growth. It’s how you create and validate your value. But your story is much more than words on your website or the off-the-shelf presentation used to pitch investors or prospects. Your audiences need to be personally engaged in your story. Allow them to hear firsthand that you understand their issues and needs, and that you can help solve their problems.
Speaking, whether at a large industry conference or as part of a more intimate roundtable, is one of the most powerful opportunities we have to engage and connect, yet many leaders don’t use it to their advantage. Some don’t see the value, believing their time is better spent in the office, not “on stage.”
Others believe such public-facing platforms make them, and their businesses, too vulnerable to scrutiny and criticism. Still others might be intimidated, or even feel they must be modest and not shine the light on themselves or their organization. But with the right strategy and expert guidance, every leader should be convinced these perceived “risks” are often in fact opportunities well worth taking.
Not only does speaking build confidence in your own abilities to spread your story, but it clarifies and amplifies your messages while also generating recognition of your expertise among people who matter to your business, and who you may not be able to easily reach in other ways.
Here are three things every speaker should keep top of mind.
1. Define your story and your goals.
First, ask yourself, why did I get into this business? What drives me? How can I help others? The answers are important reminders of your mission, helping tap into a place of inner meaning to guide and inform the message you want to tell and your audiences want to hear.
Your story should be drawn from your personal aspirations, as well as your professional ones. What are your goals? Will sharing your story motivate others to change their behavior or take action? At the end of the day, everything you do -- including your speaking engagements -- must tie back to your business objectives.
2. Seek meaningful platforms.
Not only should what you’re saying align with your business goals, but where you’re saying it should too. TED and the World Economic Forum are prestigious and highly coveted, but they aren’t for everyone.
Put yourself in a room with people who have the power and desire to buy what you’re selling, whether that is products and services or information and insight. Find conferences and events targeted to specific subjects, markets and decision-makers you want to reach.
Similarly, don’t limit yourself to keynotes. Often, smaller sessions such as panel discussions or workshops yield even more value because you have the chance to step away from the podium and really interact with your audience.
3. Be authentic.
Thankfully, technology hasn’t replaced the need for and importance of face-to-face interaction. More than ever, customers want to know who they are doing business with. Get personal. Be honest. Relate. Understand. These are all hallmarks of not just an effective speaker, but perhaps more importantly, a good person and principled leader. These traits also breed trust and loyalty -- as well as business.
Every speaking engagement is an opportunity to grow your leadership, strengthen your story and elevate your influence. Invest in these moments to make connections and make an impact on your audience and ultimately, your business.