Speak Up: Build Brand Authority Through Public Speaking

by Kristy Bolsinger October 9th, 2013 

Girl as triumphant public speaker

Public speaking for some can be a frightening concept. For others, like myself, its something we look forward to and something to get excited over. For businesses however, its an often-untapped human authority-building engine. Having your organizations passionate ambassadors hit the road to proselytize your cause, brand, product or mission can add untold value to the organization both from incoming leads but also in the form of relationships, clout, and thought leadership. Done wrong however, it can be at best a waste of time and money, and worst, wellwe dont need to go there do we?

Before you open the floodgates to your future speakers, here are some things you may want to consider:

1) Quality > Quantity

While it likely goes without saying you dont want your entire team on the road fulfilling speaking engagements. There are the obvious reasons " someone has to stay home and keep the fire on right? Then there are the other reasons like, not every one is well suited to represent your brand on the public stage. Finding the right mix of comfort with public speaking, aptitude in representing your brand and willingness to hit the road can be tricky. But miss one of those three you are not setting yourself or your employee up for success.

Additionally youll want to carefully consider which events youre sending representatives to speak at. Take a look at the attendee list or audience profile to be sure your targeted audience is there. Are your influencers attending? Are your prospective clients attending? Media pundits? Etc. If not carefully evaluate the value you would get in having a representative there speak and whether or not its worth the cost of having them there. Dont forget to factor in practice " it is also very important!

2) Find The Right Match

Just as important as finding the right person to advocate on behalf of your company is finding the right event. Its also important to remember that not every speaker will be right for every event. You have to play a little game of matchmaker. Each conference Ive been to over the years has its own culture and set of expectations. Be sure that you are as aware of that as you can be and consider the speaker accordingly. Or of course have a conversation about tone/tenor/audience with the speaker. Theres a big difference between a technically detailed presentation and a higher-level strategy session. Flexibility in delivery is key.

3) Network, And Pitch

Finding the right event cane take some work if youre not already participating in your field. Its tricky to know which conferences are going to actually be worth youre time if youre coming in green. If youre investigating an event look for people who have attended and even spoken in previous years " theyll be able to give you an authentic take on the atmosphere and crowd.

When preparing to pitch a conference, always check with the organizers. Some will provide guides for pitching outlining what theyre looking for. Dont ignore this " theyre telling you exactly what they want to hear. Follow their advice. If youre not lucky enough to be pitching a conference that gives you the keys to the kingdom Id spend some time reading past event bios and schedule overviews to get a feel for what is successful. Also, read this amazing guide on how to pitch conferences. Tis good.

4) Mind Your Matter

So once youve gotten accepted its time to get to work. Assuming the organizers had you develop an outline or thesis for your presentation youre really past the hard part " the idea. Now its time to get your content and slide deck in order. A lot of what goes into your deck depends greatly on the audience youre presenting to. Its really easy to say with broad sweeping strokes what makes a good deck and what makes an awful one but its important to consider the nuances. When pulling this together youll also want to consider your plans for the deck afterwards. Those sparse mostly image driven decks are great for in the moment of the presentation but if youd like to leverage this content on a platform like Slideshare or LinkedIn for spreading your message further, it will be hard for that same sparse deck to resonate. Youll likely have to sacrifice a bit on both ends of the spectrum " its a balance. Regardless though make sure youre creating compelling content for your audience. Introduce a problem that your audience will relate to. Craft a story line that will help paint a picture of the solution youre presenting and drive it all home with a strong close involving some kind of call to action.

5) Post-game Show

Once youve practiced and practiced and finally delivered its time to take a deep breath, but youre not done. Now youve got to ensure your slides get up on Slideshare, LinkedIn and wherever else makes sense for you. Follow up with the organizers to thank them for having you. And get back to all of those folks who you connected with during the event and particularly after the presentation. Follow-through follow-through follow-through. This will also help you keep track of the return youre seeing on the investment in each event you attend. Speaking of

6) Monitor Impact

A bonus tip if youre looking for ways to showcase impact – its a good idea to set up some listening tools before you go. Set up a stream for the event hashtag to keep up with the conversation. Also include alerts for your presentation title, name, company name and/or anything else that seems relevant. This will help you get a feel for the amount of conversation and word of mouth your presentation generated.

Ultimately sending passionate employees out on the road as the face of your company can go a long way to extend the human touch and close relationships with your industry peers and even customers. The high quality content you deliver will help you establish credibility and trust in the marketplace. Additionally it is also a great tool for your employees to begin building their own personal brand as an extension of the company. Its a win-win so long as its done thoughtfully and with an eye towards objectives.

Kristy Bolsinger

Kristy Bolsinger is a Senior Associate at PwC in Seattle, WA. She has previously worked at Ant's Eye View (acquired by PwC in 2012), and RealNetworks (GameHouse). Prior to her time at RealNetworks, and Ant's Eye View - Kristy was working as a Social Media Marketing Consultant and completing her MBA at Willamette University. She maintains a social media blog and can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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