Article Category: Interviews, Speaker Habits

What Does Your Personal Brand Say About You as a Speaker?


Imagine… you are the speaker that people want. They crave your expertise, and they are willing to pay you for it.

A dream? Not if you understand how to brand yourself as an expert, one of the steps to becoming a speaker in demand.

In this article, we tap into the wisdom of five experts from the fields of branding and public speaking. They discuss the importance of personal branding, and they offer advice about specific tools you can use to shape your personal brand.

Be the Expert

As a public speaker, you will have plenty of opportunities to speak, but your potential audiences also have plenty of other speaker options. Beyond simply having a skilled delivery, go-to speakers have developed a specific area of expertise. That expertise keeps their audiences coming back for more.

Jane Atkinson stated that the trick is to have your name become synonymous with your expertise. If people aren’t taking you by the sleeve, offering to buy you lunch just so they can pick your brain about your area of expertise, they should be.

Jane Atkinson:

In the speaking industry, it’s all about focus. You can’t be all things to all people. The best way to start building your brand is to declare your area of expertise. People need to know what they are getting from you. As people recognized my expertise, they kept asking me for my professional advice, and I thought, “Some day I’m going to charge for this advice.” I was developing my personal brand.

For Jane, especially in the speaking industry, more is not always better. Likewise, according to Nick Morgan, saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity may seem like a great way to establish more business, but it can exhaust you and dilute the potency of your personal brand.

Nick Morgan:

It wasn’t until I had the courage to say ‘no’ to some people that my brand began to take on some clarity.

The clarity Nick refers to comes from defining an overall vision and shaping our personal brands to help others see that vision the same way we do. But the vision must have a sharp focus. As an example, Aymee Buckhannon related how she found her own focus by helping others develop their personal brands.

Aymee Buckhannon:

I built a website for a life coach as a favor. Then another person saw it, then another person saw it, and the rest is history. Now I define myself confidently as a “branding strategist” and focus mainly on network marketing professionals.

Developing expertise in an area of interest to others may take years. By then, hopefully your area of expertise is something you still are passionate about. When you can align your expertise with your passion, you are well on your way to being the speaker audiences crave.

Manage Your Personal Brand

Even when you’re not behind the podium, you convey a presence to the world, be it in your one-to-one relationships or via the Internet. So, how do you make sure that the image you convey helps your speaking career instead of damaging it?

Joe Calloway wrote, “Your brand resides in the minds of your customers […] Your brand is whoever customers think you are, whatever they think is your promise to them, and whether or not they believe that you keep that promise.”

It’s not too difficult for a presenter to replace the word “customers” in Calloway’s example with “audience” – or even “potential audiences”. Expanding your speaking opportunities means shaping your brand as a presenter, because your brand affects:

  • Your ability to be hired to present.
  • The types of speaking engagements you are offered.
  • Your audience’s expectations.

Our experts agree that a speaker’s personal brand is as important as how well a speaker delivers a presentation. According to Joe Calloway, the two key questions are whether your brand is what you want it to be and whether you have created it by design.

Joe Calloway:

If I were to ask your clients or professional colleagues what it’s like to do business with you, whatever they say next is your brand. For me, one of the key elements of my personal brand is that Joe Calloway is “easy to do business with.” It’s very much by design and has become a key “tiebreaker” that has gotten me a ton of business over the years.

Cynthia Starks said that, for her, a personal brand is more than a choice of colors for a website or business cards. She takes a “big picture” approach to personal branding, remaining aware of how she comes across to other people in both personal interactions and in her dealings with others on the Internet.

Cynthia Starks:

I think personal branding is who you are – and that “who” comes across most fully in your personal interactions – on the ‘Net and in real life.

Are you kind? Are you willing to hear different opinions? Willing to be a resource to others? Are your online comments encouraging and supportive instead of sarcastic or cynical? These sets of behaviors are truly your “personal brand.”

Jane Atkinson echoed Cynthia’s observations about a more inclusive definition of personal branding. She cautions against losing track of your brand as a speaker.

Jane Atkinson:

People are building their personal brands, whether they’re aware of it or not, and sometimes they may unintentionally be creating a negative brand for themselves. It takes intention and focus to build an effective personal brand.

Jane suggested taking an active role in creating the brand that you want as a speaker, a sentiment shared by Aymee Buckhannon, who pointed out that when people see that you deliver what you promise through your personal brand, you increase your opportunities as a speaker and in other channels, too.

Aymee Buckhannon:

If people like to work with me for what I offer as a leader, or a branding strategist, then it won’t matter which product I carry. Meaning, if that company goes under, or if I change course, my personal brand is me, and not “enter product name here”.

Like many professional speakers, Nick Morgan is also a successful author. He said that the benefits of a well-crafted personal brand have extended beyond his speaking career to help his book sales, even in a difficult market.

Nick Morgan:

All the interviews and connecting I did when my second book came out have paid off in increased book sales. Your book will disappear without a trace unless you personally take charge of marketing it and work very, very hard.

Our experts agree that personal branding is a journey, not a destination. We must think hard about our goals as speakers and consciously develop a personal brand that we can realistically (and diligently) maintain.

Three Fundamentals to Managing Your Brand

Our experts suggest three key ways to promote your personal brand online.

1. Blog it!

Nick Morgan:

The blog is fundamental. You have to have something to say, and the blog is the place to start. Start a blog. If you don’t have a blog, you don’t have an opinion, and why should anyone pay attention to you?

Aymee Buckhannon:

You can even start your blog with a freebie. I believe content is more valuable than “aesthetics” at first. However, as you begin to work your way through the online world, you will need an upgrade and a professional look that stands out from all the “freebies”.

2. Get Your Own Website

Aymee Buckhannon:

If you do not own www.YOURNAME.com, get it now! Once you are famous or you have managed to brand yourself, whoever owns that name will profit.

Jane Atkinson:

When I updated my website, I decided that “all roads lead to the book”, meaning my website’s mission was to promote my book and provide sufficient information about it and easy links to order it.

Cynthia Starks:

The best reason for a website is that when someone says, “send me some speech samples,” you can happily say, “they’re on my website. Here’s the address.” 

3. Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Aymee Buckhannon:

The main goal of sites like Facebook and Linkedin is relationship building. Your profile should be about you and not about what you sell. People on these sites are looking for others with whom they have something in common.

Jane Atkinson:

Thanks to social media, it has never been easier to build a personal brand. We need to be careful what we post if we want to maintain a credible brand. I use Facebook for more personal touches that tend to focus on my expertise, but I give hints to my personal side, like when I got my new puppy.

Cynthia Starks:

If you’re on LinkedIn, don’t forget the group LinkEds & Writers, where I’ve discovered some wonderful fellow communicators. The Quintilian Speechwriters Group is another excellent group for both corporate and freelance writers. There, you can pick the minds of some of the best speechwriters in the business on a variety of topics related to the process and business of speechwriting.

Discover More About the Experts

  • Jane Atkinson (Web | Twitter) is President of Speaker Launcher and author of The Wealthy Speaker. She coaches professional speakers, celebrities, and CEOs to help focus their careers. She has represented numerous speakers who have vaulted to the top 3% of the speaking industry.
  • Aymee Buckhannon (Web | Twitter) is personal branding expert and owner of My Personal Brand. She helps her clients develop cohesive personal branding for websites, blogs, and social media.
  • Joe Calloway (Web | Twitter) is a nationally known speaker and author of the best-selling business book Becoming a Category of One. He helps companies align their vision, brand, and employee engagement objectives.
  • Nick Morgan (Web | Twitter) is President of the presenter coaching and message development company, Public Words, Inc., and author of Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma; and Working the Room: How to Move People to Action through Audience-Centered Speaking.
  • Cynthia Starks (Web) is President of Starks Communications, LLC and is a former IBM and Fortune 500 speechwriter. Leaders in business, education, and government have delivered her speeches around the world.

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Comments icon3 Comments

  1. William Krouse says:

    Good content but I do take exception with the first sentence after manage your Personal Brand. If you are standing behind a podium you won’t be very visible. You should stand ON the podium and maybe behind a lecturn.

  2. Tim Noonan says:

    What a fantastic article for professional speakers!

    The thing I would also add is that as a speaker “Your Voice is Your Brand!” How you sound as a speaker – both on and off the platform – leaves a huge impression in the minds-ear and in the subconscious responses that listeners have to you.

    Professor Glass’s research showed that People with Attractive-sounding voices are actually perceived to be more attractive to listeners. The great speaker Tim Sanders’ work on The Likability Factor talks about how smiling (which is obviously heard as well as seen) affects people’s positive regard towards us.

    I explore these and umerous other voice-related topics on The Vocal Branding Blog at http://www.vocalbranding.com.au/blog.

    I also have a free eBook for professional speakers titled Your Voice is Your Business: Tim’s Top Voice Strategies for Vocal Brilliance, which you can request from the sidebar of my blog.

    Thanks again for such a generous speaker resource.

    Tim Noonan
    Director, Vocal Branding Australia

  3. wendy kier says:

    Some great tips to consider for my next Speech…wendy

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