You have been at your company for a while now, and your career is going well. But perhaps you are missing that professional rocket fuel necessary to raise you above your peers and up into the next level — be that management, the C-suite or beyond. You need to amplify your visibility and give brand ‘you’ a boost.
Or maybe you are the person in charge of getting speakers from your company onstage at conferences and events.
Either way, public speaking is a direct line to business opportunities, professional growth and a fatter paycheck.
From a personal perspective: why public speaking? Perhaps your boss suggested it to you. Maybe you’re tired of attending industry events and hearing the same voices on stage, and think you could do just as well. Or maybe you have friends and colleagues urging you to get out there.
Public speaking is a good idea, no matter what level you are or where you fit on the company org chart. Warren Buffett said, “You can improve your value by 50 percent just by learning communication skills – public speaking.” And if anyone should know about improving value it would be the Oracle of Omaha, right?
Below we have outlined a few best practices which may be useful to as you search speaking engagements for corporate executives.
But first, what IS public speaking?
When it comes to public speaking, most people think about the keynote speaker, a single person standing up alone, in front of an audience of thousands — and it terrifies them. In reality there are many different levels of public speaking, and it is highly possible you already have some experience.
You have likely given a presentation to colleagues in a meeting, had to explain something you’ve been working on to a few people or given a presentation to customers. This is a good foundation upon which to build your public speaking resume. Speaking is scalable. You can take what you are already experienced in – presentations to your team, customers, your boss — and use the same tactics for success with other audiences.
There are opportunities to sit on panels, take part in a roundtable or fireside chat. You could be part of a team of presenters. All of these opportunities put you on stage with other people – not quite so intimidating as the lone speaker.
The kinds of audiences are as varied as the types of public speaking. You could be speaking to students, (from kids to graduate students), job seekers, potential customers, peers, partners, the media – diverse audiences full of different kinds of people.
The events themselves range from professional conferences and industry events, corporate event to local meetups, chambers of commerce events, TED and TEDx, or create your own events.
You are a brand. Your brand needs marketing. Are you ambitious? Do you deserve that promotion/raise/next step up the ladder/corner office? Of course you do! Public speaking helps raise your profile.
It is wise, however, to keep in mind that the main brand you will be promoting when you speak for work is your employer’s. To that end, there may be corporate guidelines to follow, as well as internal speaking opportunities to fill and training to take advantage of. This could make the start of your speaker journey easier. Since it’s the company you will be representing, the company could help find opportunities for you and support the creation of your presentations.
Who’s in charge?
If you have decided that public speaking is a worthwhile string to add to your professional bow, there are probably some really useful tools available for you within your company.
The first thing to work out is who controls the opportunities. Start the search with your boss and the human resources team. You have regular contact there already, and part of their job involves helping you progress in your career. They may have courses or training or can point you in the direction of these resources. Many HR (especially recruiting) departments look for employees to help them promote the company as a good place to work. This means they would most likely be glad to help you find speaking engagements.
Next talk to the PR and marketing teams; their bread and butter is to promote the company. They may be looking for speakers for conferences and events, and may be able to place you in these opportunities. At the very least they can help you understand the company’s policies when it comes to speaking engagements for their executives. (Some companies only allow you to use the company name if you are above a certain level or have received certain training. You can still have a speaking career but you can’t mention the company name.)
It’s often the PR team that is most active in targeting industry conferences and events for speaking engagements. Talk to them. They can guide you through the process of applying for speaking opportunities.
Marketing may be looking for people to support trade shows – whether that is speaking or performing demonstrations of your products at the shows. They may also have sponsored speaking opportunities where they need to supply a speaker because they sponsored an event.
To circle back to the beginning and the reason for speaking – the visibility you seek is with those inside your organization. It’s not enough to do the deed, you need to make sure your company knows about it when review time comes around. Track your speaking engagements. Keep a list of the conferences, titles and topics. Share the list with your boss and HR. Make sure you report to the marketing and PR departments with feedback on the events. One corporate speaker we know makes sure that her experiences are well documented on the company intranet – she makes sure that she shares information about the event and pictures of herself on stage.
Public speaking is a great way to build credibility, thought leader and expert status. It’s also a terrific way to demonstrate another reason you might be the best person for your company to promote.
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