What separates a business from a brand?
Some might argue that it boils down to yearly earnings, number of locations or quarterly ad spend. But is that really why Starbucks is a brand and your local coffee shop is a business?
I don’t think it is.
Brands are brands because they somehow transcend their category of origin. They take a particular philosophy and inject that philosophy into every product they make, service they offer, and marketing message they deliver. In other words, a business is a foundation; a group of products and services that are offered. But a brand is an emotional connection with consumers. A brand has personality and is what sets businesses apart from the crowd.
Thought Leadership is the Bridge to Building Your Brand
So how can an ordinary business transition themselves into a brand? By far the best way is to position themselves as a thought leader in their industry. Thought leadership marketing is what grows businesses into brands and brands into national influencers with greater market share.
Put simply, thought leadership is about sharing expertise and passion. It’s about connecting with an audience and inspiring them. There is no better way to do this than through public speaking.
Public speaking allows organizations to demonstrate their expertise, gain credibility and engage their target audience. This is a powerful marketing tactic because it allows businesses to develop and nurture customer relationships in a neutral, non-salesy environment. And, beyond building brand awareness, public speaking creates an unmatched trust that can drive future business opportunities as well as qualified leads into the sales funnel.
Here are some tips on using public speaking to build your brand and social media audience:
Choose Your Topic Wisely
Before looking for speaking opportunities, it’s important that you choose the right topic to develop. Yes, you’ll want to share information that you are an expert on, but topic selection goes beyond this consideration.
You also want to share information that you are passionate about. It is your passion that will help you deliver a speech that is memorable and actionable.
Finally, you’ll want to choose a topic that your audience cares about. You may be an expert on and passionate about a topic, but unless your audience will receive value from it, your presentation will be a failure.
Refine Your Skills
Passion, knowledge and an understanding of your audience will take you far, but to be a great public speaker that is recognized as an industry thought leader, you will also need to constantly refine your speaking skills.
One way to hone your skills is to speak often. Like any other ability, practice makes perfect. You may also want to look into coaching. An organization like Toastmasters International will offer constructive feedback and helpful tools and strategies.
You may also want to consider taking courses through the National Speakers Association to become a Certified Speaking Professional. This will not only help you on stage but also to be invited to more events.
Find the Right Opportunities
Until you become more established and receive invitations to speaking engagements, you’ll have to knock on some doors in the beginning. There are plenty of opportunities to speak at webinars, industry events and conferences. But you’ll need to spend some time conducting research to find just the right speaking opportunities to build your brand and audience.
Consider contacting associations within your industry to get a list of upcoming conferences. You may also check association websites to vie gigs along with conference themes and presentation guidelines. Also contact local chapters of larger industry groups, local business groups or charities that could be interested in what you have to share.
Crafting the right message is only half the battle. The other half is preparing for your presentation. Roy Chitwood, former president of Max Sacks International, has said, “The sign of a true professional is one who has the humility to prepare.” This sentiment is particularly true in public speaking.
The key to preparing your presentation has zero to do with memorizing your speech and everything to do with understanding the fundamentals of effective message delivery. Here are some of the most critical fundamentals and ways you can prepare:
- Rehearse your presentation a few times out loud. Do so in front of others, if possible, to receive valuable feedback.
- Make good eye contact with the audience.
- Visit the venue and check all equipment before your presentation starts.
- Prepare any visual aids and handouts that will support your message.
- Refine your core takeaway to offer at the end of your presentation.
Preparation will give you the confidence that is required to deliver a presentation that will create interest in your brand.
Include Your Social Media Handles
Be sure to include your social media handles on your slides and any backdrop. You may also mention your handles during or at the end of your presentation. This will help you not only gain more social media followers, but many audience members, if moved by your message, will share that message with others and your circle will grow even wider.
Make the Most Out of Your Speech
Your presentation doesn’t have to end when you leave the stage. Have your speech filmed so you can publish it to your website and use it to further promote your brand on social media. The key is to take the fullest advantage of the speaking opportunity and get the most bang for your buck.
Brands are not born; they are built through thoughtful marketing strategies. To begin incorporating public speaking into your marketing mix, look for those within your organization who are charismatic and passionate about what your organization is all about. Then put them out into the world to spread your message and build your influence.