As a public speaker, your influence does not end when your talk does. How do you know your reach, and the impact you’ve had on your audience? With everyone focusing on keeping audiences engaged during the talk, it’s easy to forget that the success of a talk is measured against its long-term impact as well.
Marketing practices could be useful to help you as a public speaker gather feedback from your audiences as well as build a personal brand based on it. In this article, I will put on my marketeer hat and look at the public speaker as a brand that continuously learns from audiences and develops together with them. Brands need to construct attributes and a coherent and relatable persona, and public speakers already have that. So half the work is done, but speakers shouldn’t forget the second half of the work: the management of their brand, and that involves promoting that trustworthy and relatable personality that lives outside of their talks and presentations.
Most will probably argue that talks and presentations should remain the main focus for a public speaker. It is where the skills and expertise that help others and make a difference are best incorporated and showcased. That indeed is where most of your focus should lie, and devoting time to putting together the content, researching, and building upon your expertise is key to remaining a relevant public speaker. However, there is something to be said about influence online. For one thing, the online environment is more interactive. It gives audiences a voice, and can offer speakers invaluable insights into the communities that form around their topics of interest. Secondly, if we see more and more people turning to influencers, it’s because there is a need for them to navigate an increasingly complex informational environment. It’s not enough anymore to deliver a talk that educates a public who will then be bombarded with more information everywhere they go online. Public speakers have to play a role online as well for their voices to be heard far and wide and for their expertise to counteract the amount of misinformation available online. An online presence that allows you to follow the effects of your talks and follow up on its impact after delivery is quickly becoming a key part of the role public speakers play in today’s informational maze.
It’s not an easy task and will most likely be time-consuming at first, but, like anything, it will become easier once you have the process down pat. Let’s dive into a few practices that will help you get started and refine your online presence and the continuous task of maintaining one.
1. Social Media
I challenge anyone to escape it, and if they can, tell me how they did it in a letter. My guess is you cannot, so I’m ready to place serious bets. Since social media is here to stay in some shape or form, it’s best to learn how to make friends with these platforms. What is great about social media is the access to information it offers and the democratization of the status of influencers. Although this is also its biggest disadvantage, it surely works to public speakers’ advantage. Social media has made life easier as it allows those who have something to say (and equally those who do not) a platform to get their message across. It’s almost like it was made for public speakers. You’re funny, engaging, and personable as one can be, otherwise, you would not have chosen this career. The good news is, all of these attributes are the pillars of social media. You can use these channels to develop a personal voice to make your message heard, talk about the topics you are interested in with peers, and share your skills and expertise with others. It’s why you started doing this in the first place, isn’t it?
Once you’ve built that online personality, you can stay close to people and answer whatever questions they might have. I am by no means suggesting donating a lot of time to respond to queries, as this might soon become overwhelming. But if you do things in a structured way, it can be quite fun, not to mention useful for your followers. Get on Instagram and Facebook Live or create a club on Clubhouse. This is like giving a free talk, I hear you shout from beyond your screen. I shall keep typing and tell you that I don’t mean you have to give everything away. See it as a freemium version, which will surely be followed by everyone wanting to subscribe to the full service. Set a time limit to it and let people know you will only be going live for one hour. If you want to create a sense of exclusivity, you can limit it to those who have already attended a talk, and frame it as a follow-up. Another way to go about it is to open the follow-up to everybody so that they get an idea of how awesome your talk was and kick themselves for having missed it. There’s nothing wrong with creating a bit of FOMO for next time.
Social media is a great place to build relationships, and real conversations do happen there. Valuable information does coexist with the huge quantities of filler content. There is no point in dismissing the medium for the lack of value of some messages, but rather contribute to making it a place where more trustworthy information can be found. If you want to delve into this, we’ve published in the past a detailed article on how to use social media before, during, and after the event on Medium.
I’ve left this one for last, not because it’s less important but because it’s so important and obvious that I wondered if it’s even worth mentioning: but do connect on LinkedIn with the attendees!
2. Regular Newsletters
Your audiences are those who want to learn and keep up to speed with the topic you’re an authority in. Gather their email addresses and stay in touch with a newsletter. You keep yourself informed, research continuously, and make connections between pieces of information because it’s your job. So why not compile all that interesting information that you find into a monthly newsletter to then send to your audiences. It does take a bit of time, and might require some investment in an email marketing platform, as well as developing the content, but in my opinion, it’s worth it. If you think about it, who wouldn’t want to get an email in their inbox with regular updates on the latest developments in a field they are interested in, and what’s more, curated by someone that is an established expert. This is not just an act of benevolence but it contributes to building a relationship with your audience, and ultimately turning them into loyalists.
If you got into email marketing just to sell your next talk, and you dreaded having to send an email to people you hardly know, you’ll know why this is important. Making a habit of regularly sending your contacts useful information will make it easier to then inform audiences of your next talk. For too long, audiences have been bombarded with advertising, and it rarely gets through to them these days. Building a relationship remains the only way to build loyalty, especially with such a personal business, in which you’re not selling sneakers but the expertise, the knowledge, and the person behind it. What better way to do it.
3. Give Out Your Contact Details
You don’t have to give out your private email and have emails from your sister living abroad mixing in with emails from an attendee that wants to know more about carbon emissions. As a professional public speaker, you will already have a website and a “work” email address. Mention your contact details at the end of your talk, whether it’s your email address or your social profiles, and encourage people to contact you if they have any questions.
If your talk has sparked a conversation you want to know about it, don’t you? The best way to keep an eye on the ripples you created is by encouraging people to get in touch with you and follow up with questions. This can be more valuable than any feedback form you’ll ever read, and will give you actual information about how people perceived your talk, what they took from it, and spark the best ideas on how to improve for the future.
Make sure when asking them to stay in touch that you make it clear you really mean it. Some people might get shy and feel like it’s just a polite thing that speakers say without meaning it. Be genuine and make sure that comes across.
4. Regular Blog Posts & Forums
If a newsletter seems too intrusive, you can create a blog section on your website and let people come to you for information rather than you knocking on their door. Creating content for a blog can be very time-consuming, but you can be smart about it and use the content you’re already working on without giving too much away. Update readers on what you’ve read, listened to, or researched, and even give them a sneak preview of your next talk to generate a bit of excitement. Make content exclusive for those who have attended your talk in the past. That’s a great way to create a community of people with a shared interest in your topic and incentivize them to attend your talks in the future and tell their friends about it. Creating a forum section on your webpage is yet another way to form a community of peers with a shared interest. It saves you the time to answer individual questions and you can chime in only when you feel like you’re needed.
This sounds like a long list of things to do, and I have not added any days to the week or hours in the day. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and don’t fret. You don’t have to start doing all of these things at once. Pick the one you’re most comfortable with and make it work before you get started with the next one.
If you’ve read this and it still sounds pointless to put so much effort into keeping in touch with audiences after you’ve given a talk, think about it this way: there is no talk or public speaker without the public. The more effort you put into knowing your audience, and the better you get to know them, the better a speaker you will be. You will know what their interests and challenges are, and you can customize and deliver more engaging and relevant talks. But more importantly, a speaker with a flock of followers is likely to be booked by an event organizer over one that is not so well-known. If you need a slightly selfish reason, there it is.
These are only the most common and easily implementable ways of keeping in touch with your audience, but I’m sure there are many others out there and I encourage you to get creative and network like a pro. And be sure to drop me a message if you have ideas you want to share.