How to build a personal brand and become a better public speaker

In the past year, we organized a series of meetups for web designers and startups. Not counting all the technical details we had to familiarize ourselves with, one of the main problems that we had was how we should pick the best speakers with the most interesting things to say.

It’s often the case that the most popular people online are simply not interested in being public speakers. And the ones that are willing, are the type that talk day and night and bore the public to death. From one meet up to the other, we started to better understand how we can align the people that have something to say with the guests that want to listen and learn new things.

Thanks to this experience, we managed to come up with a few pieces of advice that can be further applied to the digital creative sphere. They’re related to creating a personal brand, promoting it and building the reputation of a trendsetter in your domain.

Firstly, no matter what subject you’re interested in, it’s not enough just to be passionate about it. Nobody will notice you and you won’t influence anyone if you just care about something and don’t do anything about it. You have to find a way to stand out and be seen because you’re in a sea of people trying to do exactly the same thing as you.

It’s a visible fact that successful people weren’t born successful, but rather found their own type of charisma. But this is not enough without two key ingredients: to attract and seize opportunities.

Your personal brand is not what you claim to be. It’s how others perceive you.

One of the main things you have to understand when you try and build a brand is the fact that this brand depends entirely on how you make people feel. Besides the people that you know, what you wear, who you go out with and what you do (things that also help), it’s the way that you make people around you perceive you.

People that are the best in their domain are, generally, very good at what they do, but they understand the importance of perception. Once you are trustworthy in a domain, you have to turn your attention to notability. In other words, if you are good at something, others have to see you as an expert.

Never enter a face-to-face battle with a more powerful opponent

No matter what industry you’re in, people that already have experience will have more resources than you have. They have already made themselves known as a competitive market, and the best thing for you to do is to follow the things that they do best and simply choose another direction — the things that they haven’t yet gotten to and would be surprised worked.

Don’t forget about the psychology of the person standing in front of you

People are usually predictable beings. Nobody cares about what you want as much as you do, we all care most about what we ourselves want, no matter if it is for us or for others. Your work is reduced to understanding what others want and trying to offer them just that.

First steps

Considering these things, it’s important to note that it doesn’t matter which domain you choose. What matters is that you have a system that helps you improve yourself constantly. For starters, try the following exercises:

1. Look yourself up
Anyone that is interested to know more about you will look you up on Google. If you’re not in the top five, write the results that are and find out what the people behind those websites do. With these exercises, you will try to get among them.

2. From notability to credibility
Take those five websites and search them individually on Google. Note down all the blogs, shows, meet ups, and any other place that featured them. If you already are among those top five, pick three professionals from the domain you’re interested in and look them up. Your goal is to appear among these results and be established as a credible source of information.

3. Your experience is the sum of the things you have tried
Note all the resources from the second step, because you will soon approach them. You will try to infiltrate inside these fields and become a public figure just like them.

4. You’re already an expert on something
What do people around you constantly ask you about? It’s important to figure out what things you’re good at. The first thing you can ask yourself is: “What can I advise people about?”.

Take a subject from step 4 and try to write something interesting about what you figure out. This is probably the hardest part, but it is necessary in order to create content that you think is interesting and helpful.

Once you have interesting content, you can contact blogs, magazines, or people that organize events, and introduce both yourself, and the subject that you want to write about. You will be surprised how many people are interested in new content and are willing to give you a chance.

Aside from having a stable online presence, creating a blog and establishing your social media profiles, another way is that of public speaking. The impression that you give is most important when it’s in real life, and it’s a good opportunity for receiving instant feedback.

How to give a speech

Speaking in public is one of the best ways to make yourself known. The most important thing that you must have in mind when approaching this method is that it’s better to be both hated and loved, rather than forgotten. In other words, it’s better to focus on maintaining the public’s attention and not on what the may think about you.

The first thing that you have to get done is the presentation itself, more specifically the slides. The information you will share doesn’t necessarily have to be new but is has to be interesting.

Write the main ideas in the most basic template in something like PowerPoint or Keynote. Then focus on the design — a very important ingredient. I would even recommend buying a custom design because it’s a long-term investment. Once you have a simple, but custom design, it’s going to be useful in many other presentations.

To start with, make 20–30 slides and write everything you have to say that is also interesting, with a font bigger than 30 pt. Less words, more things that draw attention.

Create a list of events that will take place soon on a 60 miles radius and contact the organizers. You can search for schools, universities, or meet ups. Ask the organizers if they need an expert’s advice in the domain. You will be surprised how many are searching for speakers that can train their audience.

A few suggestions for the actual presentation:

  • On the left corner of every slide, you should write your preferred social network username where you are the most active (preferably Twitter).
  • Put the event logo on the first and last slide of the presentation.
  • Don’t force the audience into reading something from your presentation, because they came here to listen to you, not to read the slides.
  • Don’t use animations. Maybe the first two transitions will look cool, but they will become annoying afterward.
  • Don’t number your slides.
  • If you think you’re talking too fast, it means that you’re trying to compress too much information. Have a bottle of water with you and take a sip once in a while to remind yourself to take breaks.
  • Don’t waste a lot of time talking about your experience. The fact that you’re on stage gives you enough credibility.
  • Start with something powerful and end with something powerful. Try and capture attention from the beginning with something that has an impact.
  • Stand up straight, smile, and try to remain calm. You’re already on stage, you have nothing to prove.
  • Wear your most comfortable outfit and don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
  • Try and minimize your “um”s and “uh”s. Speak loudly and articulate.

Systematic improvements

Your personal brand will improve once you have more experience and once you put in a lot of effort. Some other pieces of advice related to this:

  1. Record the things you talk about or keep an archive of everything that you’ve written. Note observations that you’re now conscious of. No matter what you observed, just write it down so that you remember it next time you find yourself in a similar situation.
  2. Ask your friends to give you feedback. Preferably in the document that you take notes yourself, so you have everything in one place. Ask them to be as sincere as possible.
  3. Try again. Find a new blog or a new event and do it all over again.

After three tries you will already be better that most people that call themselves opinion-former.

If you want to find more information on this topic, you can follow @paulsingh, he’s a rockstar and an inspiration for most of the advice given here. Also, check out this awesome book The Charisma Myth.

Would love to hear your comments and own tips regarding building a personal brand!

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