How to Use Speaking to Brand Yourself & Network

How to Use Speaking to Brand Yourself & Network

How to Use Speaking to Brand Yourself & Network

The inclination nowadays is to try to promote yourself online as much as possible. However, while there – understandably (and unfortunately) – are still some locales in varying forms of lockdown, more events are (back) out there where you can go speak! Getting in front of people opens a new lane for you to get your name, face, and what you do “out there” while also providing opportunities to make valuable new connections.

Let me immediately nip something in the bud before you decide, “Oh no, that’s not for me,” and you move on.

Presumably you’ve heard Jerry Seinfeld’s bit about public speaking being people’s number one fear and dying being second. His punchline is that (I’m paraphrasing), that means you’d rather be in the coffin than be the person delivering the eulogy about the deceased.

If you have a fear of speaking in public, breaking through that will also help with overcoming stage fright for film, TV, and stage productions you might be cast in and/or auditioning for. In other words, while you might be able to duck being a public speaker, it runs counter to being someone who pursues the spotlight professionally. So, if that is, in fact, your career pursuit, it would behoove you to embrace this other type of stage you can be on.

How to Use Speaking to Brand Yourself  Network

I spoke on the main stage in the Anaheim Convention Center at the massive Winter NAMM Show

What Would I Talk About?

As a publicist I keep close tabs on what my clients are doing. In fact, sometimes I see activities that they don’t. For example, I mandated that each month we would put a new article on the homepage of one of my client’s website. We were talking on the phone and I told her we were due for such an entry. When she told me, “But I don’t have anything going on,” I quickly responded with, “Yes you do.” Logically, her comeback was, “What do I have going on that we could post about?” I chuckled and said, “Let me write something up and email it over to you.”

The point here is that we’re often too close to what we do. Certain things become routine and we, as a result, don’t see them as being newsworthy. But to other folks, it’s fascinating to get a glimpse into those goings-on that feel behind-the-scenes to them.

We all have one or more areas that we specialize in. There is something (or some things, plural) that you are an expert in. While I would hope you would know what that is, if you are “too close to it,” ask a family member, friend, or colleague what they think you’re good at that you could develop a talk around.

When they come to me to learn about my services as a manager, publicist, etc., I tell young singers (usually teenagers), “That’s great that you can sing. But learn an instrument and/or start to write your own songs. You will be that much more marketable.”

Similarly, from a speaking standpoint, have more than one topic. This will open the potential for more bookings. Maybe have one that’s “how to” in nature and another that’s more philosophical and/or inspirational.

I speak at events throughout the U.S. and have topics that range from promotion to podcasting to the music business, and even under podcasting alone I have four different talks just within that category.

How to Use Speaking to Brand Yourself  Network

This talk had me in Los Angeles presenting at the Outlier Podcast Festival

What About Online Events, Though?

Yes, true, the pandemic has caused many events previously held in-person to shift to an online format instead. This is okay in that it gets you some reps and you can start to show that you’re getting some bookings as a speaker. But it comes with its own limitations.

You’re going to be drawn to virtual events because you can sit at home – in your comfort zone. Some people might even be tempted to do the old, “Haha, unbeknownst to them, I wasn’t wearing pants.” But you need to be just as professional as if you were on-location looking at people seated in front of you. Taking the safe route and just trying to do speaking engagements from home won’t get you out of your shell.

Try as organizers and technology companies have, there still is no way to network through online events like you can at an in-person event. The chat area doesn’t have the same warm and fuzzy feeling that standing eye to eye with someone else does.

When you’re speaking in-person you want to be compelling so that everyone is listening. Online, the audience is sitting in their home, local coffee shop, at their office, or somewhere that there are distractions around them. Heck, they can easily click over to another window on their computer if they want. I encourage you to find events that people must attend on-site. They’ve given up their time to get there, and while their phone can be an outlet if they get bored, you’re going to eliminate that by dazzling them and they’re likely to be more engaged since they’re not in their comfort zone (i.e., home).

How to Use Speaking to Brand Yourself  Network

I gave the closing keynote (far left) at an event in Washington, D.C.

Who Might I Meet Out There?

Exactly. You want to get out to events because you don’t know who might be there. I was once booked to be a speaker at a local e-marketing group and was uneasy about how non-committal the point person was being when I would ask what the expected turnout was. Imagine my reaction when I arrived and there were two co-organizers there and – wait for it – one audience member. Yes, that’s right, there was just a single attendee that night. And guess what? She hired me to be her publicist.

Sure, of course I can tell you about speaking at an event where the audience was a huge room that was packed and getting a new client from that as well. But that’s just it – you don’t know how many people will be there and who will need to hear what you have to say because they have a corresponding opportunity for you. Remember, though, even if you “just” impact them and they go away feeling helped or inspired, that’s okay too. Trust me, they’ll remember who you are.

Without even stopping to think, three events immediately come to mind where I got a new client out of it, meaning, someone in the audience. But it’s not a failure if you go speak and don’t walk out with that type of achievement. The connections you’ll make will bring value in the form of relationships you can develop. Those contacts will have made it worthwhile to have gotten dressed up and gone to wherever that event was.

How to Use Speaking to Brand Yourself  Network

A packed hotel ballroom in Orlando heard me (top right in white shirt) speaking about promoting

What Else Can I Take Away?

Maybe there’s new business. Presumably you’ll make new connections. But don’t forget about the other items you can check off your list by going out to speak.

You can get pictures and video from every talk you do. Think ahead of time how you’re going to accomplish this, whether that means asking the organizer if someone will be on-site to capture such or if they can shoot for you themselves or if you bring someone with you to capture all that media or if you just need to bring a tripod and set up a camera to get it all recorded yourself.

You’ll also want to document all the information right away so you can start building up a list to show other potential bookers the speaking that you’ve done. In other words, keep a record of the date, the venue, what the event was, and the city where it took place. That’s at a minimum, but don’t hesitate to get as detailed as you’d like, such as who booked you and his/her contact info in case you want to contact them another time to see if they’d like to have you back.

Be sure to also get testimonials following your talk too. And ask people if you can use their first and last name so that it doesn’t look like you’re just making up your own (i.e., when someone just puts the initials of who gave the endorsement). Heck, I have an entire website devoted to all the speaking that I do, and I have the testimonial, the person’s first and last name, their picture, and what they do (i.e., title, company name). I spoke at an event in Las Vegas and not only asked a couple people from the audience if they could give me a testimonial, but, went so far as to put it in the form of, “Can I shoot a quick video testimonial from you about my presentation” because I knew I’d use such in my speaker sizzle reel. Other folks from events in other cities I had to “chase down,” so to speak, which meant being persistent with emails, but I got what I wanted/needed.

Keep your antenna up after the event too. I saw someone tag me on Facebook after attending a workshop that I put on. They said good things about their experience, so that translated to a testimonial I could use. Someone else put out a podcast episode wherein they said nice things about having seen me speak at an event.

And remember, you can then start branding yourself as a speaker. I went from “just” being a business owner to adding a weekly show that then made me ‘business owner and podcaster.’ Eventually I launched a four-volume eBook series from my podcast and then I became ‘business owner, podcaster, and author.’ Well, that just made me that much more marketable to go out and give talks at different events, and thus I am now, ‘business owner, podcaster, author, and speaker.’ You can aim to tack that last word on to your professional title too once you start getting out there and speaking at events.

How to Use Speaking to Brand Yourself  Network

It was standing room only during this presentation that I gave in our nation’s capital

Where Do I Find Events to Speak?

Ah yes, the 25-thousand-dollar question. If only it were that easy, right? The good news is, there are lots of answers here.

In no particular order, I suggest a variety of sources. One of them is to look at the events that you’d like to be speaking at and then get in touch to see how you become a candidate to do such. Similarly, watch to see where your colleagues are being featured as a speaker and then research those events.

You can also look at a website like Meetup to see what’s happening in your area relative to the topic(s) you’d like to speak about and find out how you can get booked. Remember, it’s always about the value you’re going to bring to the event and its audience. That’s what an organizer wants to know when it comes to deciding whether to book you to speak.

Be active and people will find you. I am based all the way down in Tampa, Florida, yet not only have I spoken all over the country, but by being seen online too I have gotten opportunities. In fact, next month I was scheduled to speak at the San Francisco Writers Conference & Writing for Hollywood Summit – yes, 2,900 miles from home – all because of a connection I made on Stage 32. (Note: I used past tense and said “was scheduled” because the event has recently been rescheduled to July for Covid reasons, so I’ll be going there in the summertime instead.)

The good news is, once you get established not only as a speaker but within a certain niche, you’ll meet more organizers where dialogue will open up about being a speaker at their event. It even helps to serve on a panel instead of being an individual speaker because you’ll meet other people seated alongside you and possibly get invited to events that they’re doing, just because of the value that they saw you deliver in the session that you did together.

There are certainly paid services out there as well who will tout the ability to train you and get you booked if you’re so inclined.

So, where will you go do your first speaking engagement?

Get engaged

About the Author

Bruce Wawrzyniak

Bruce Wawrzyniak

Manager, Press Agent, Marketing/PR

I run Now Hear This, Inc., which has clients across the country, from Hollywood to Tampa and points in between (Las Vegas, Chicago, etc.). Clients run the gamut from dancer to actor to author to singer/songwriter to filmmaker and more. Services fall under the management and promotions umbrella inc...

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