Public speaking is one of the best globally recognized ways to establish yourself as an authority. But how to start your “side job” as a notable speaker at the beginning?
In a contributed piece for Inc. Magazine, I shared the custom framework I apply when launching products in-house and consulting customers. Product marketing is just as applicable when you want to brand yourself. So it’s time to put the theory on building an effective marketing strategy in practice with a practical case study.
The “Zealot Checklist” framework could be applied in almost any context. Here’s how the theory works in practice, with an area of marketing that many are intrigued by, being public speaking.
Why Public Speaking?
Public speaking could be instrumental in marketing your products or services, along with your brand; selling books, utilizing speaking in video training courses, and everything in-between. The complete walkthrough is available here:
Here’s how to explore the market, define your unique proposition, and pick the rightful channels while reverse-engineering two popular public speakers.
I’ll break it down into the corresponding steps using the Zealot Checklist here (note: the same framework works for many forms of marketing).
The 6-Step Zealot Checklist
The Zealot Checklist revolves around the following 6 steps:
- Define the business goals
- Define the buyer personas
- Research your main competitors (other influencers)
- Determine your USP
- Pick the most successful channel online
- Establish a pilot marketing strategy
Building a successful strategy as a public speaker revolves around following this methodology. There are a bunch of other aspects to it, of course, and speaking does reveal one of those unique traits — aiming for your ideal target audience AND conference organizers (with their speaker approval teams).
There’s also the definition of SWOT reports (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), preparing content for different stages of the funnel, and measuring data as we go. While reverse-engineering existing case studies, which is what we’ll do here, you can deduct some of these as well!
Step 1: Establish Your Goals
Establish the business goals and purpose of the marketing endeavor.
Essentially, as a public speaker, your core business goal is diverse. You can market a broad set of solutions, including paid training options, consulting activities, video courses.
This is why focus is very important. You don’t want to offer everything as part of the public speaking endeavor. And your approach will be different depending on your audience, the marketing funnel for your proposition, etc. — you get the gist.
If you get slightly more creative, you can bundle some of your talks into a separate course sold on Udemy:
Give it a thought, pick one or two goals of being a public speaker, and move to conceptualizing your ideal group of people.
You can rotate a set of products or service solutions you happen to offer throughout the course of multiple conferences or private speaking gigs. But don’t overwhelm your audience with a long list of problems you can help them with. Narrow the list down to one or two.
Step 2: Define Your Target Audience
Define the buyer personas or target audiences!
Use the Buyer Persona Template sample from the previous article.
Your Buyer Persona template defines your target audiences (and ideal customers). This is extremely important because you want to make sure that your solution is fully tailored to a portion of the attendees. You don’t want to sell what your prospective customers don’t really need at all.
- If you’re selling low-cost video courses, your goal
islikely beginners, recent graduates, people switching to a different industry. Study your ideal consumer and fill out their persona card.
- For consulting services, a usual target
arethe C-Suite or senior managers in different organizations. Depending on your niche, founders of startups or smaller businesses may fit, too.
- Professional public speaking? It’s a different game, and techniques vary per industry or a vertical. Needless to say, charging for keynote talks means that you get appraisals at the end of the talk, gain a number of followers, and please the organizing team. A good word goes a long way, which is where the conference team is essentially your target audience.
Pick Your Vertical
Depending on your vertical, you are going to target a specific audience as well. It could be an industry, a specialty, geographical location, or a mix of two or three skills you happen to excel at.
You probably have a rough idea of what you need to accomplish — but there are caveats. To err on the safe side, learning from the best is a great starting point.
Step 3: Research For Influencers
Research the other influential players in the field, both professional public speakers and seasoned trainers with a full-time job.
Look for other people actively doing public speaking to get inspiration, ideas, and successful processes to help you align your value as well. You can start doing this by searching for the most popular public speakers – on Google, social media, conferences, and anyplace else.
You want to resemble their presence although not necessarily clone.
A simple search of “top public speakers in the US” will return a long list of popular speakers that you probably know already. Browse further, check a few listicles out, and narrow down for your specific industry.
Top Public Speakers
You can start with your ideal profile first, but it doesn’t hurt checking the top players in the space — like Tony Robbins.
Tony’s website is a lead generation machine.
That’s not to discard his social profiles and broad digital and offline networks. But here’s what you can find on his site:
- A powerful full-width video on the homepage
- The “Ask Tony” section
- His story, credentials, experience
- Store for buying training courses
- His coaching services
- A blog ranking for a number of popular keywords
Tony’s ranking really well online for keywords generating hundreds of thousands of searches monthly:
Consider The Different Keyword Categories
Note that “Tony Robbins” yields over 200,000 Google searches a month — that’s what a successful public speaker can pull off, and one of the reasons maintaining your own website matters.
Some of the terms Tony ranks for as #1 in Google are “get results coaching”, “business mastery 2023”, a bunch of long-tail searches with his own name, “communication is key in a relationship” (with the surprising 210 monthly searches), “how to rekindle a relationship” (1,300 searches), “a date with destiny”, “male and female energy test”, “what is business mastery”, “how to let go of the past”, “8 defense mechanisms” and a pretty broad number of terms for his own target audience.
His site ranks at #3 for “life coach” with over 40,000 searches, #4 on “leadership qualities” (33,100 searches), #5 for “disruption“. That’s precisely where marketing comes into play.
That doesn’t discard his social presence (or the fact that Tony is a LinkedIn influencer):
But Tony Robbins is well-known, and while discovering successful strategies from the top players is a great opportunity, we can still scale down to slightly less-known, yet successful public speakers and entrepreneurs out there.
Successful Speakers and Entrepreneurs
Josh Steimle is top of mind for me as a good chunk of my time goes into writing.
Josh is the founder of a marketing agency, a prolific writer and contributor to a long list of top media outlets, a coach, the LinkedIn coach behind Influencer Inc, and a multi-versed entrepreneur.
Aside from the impressionable profile photo, he’s shared his story in an engaging way, easy to follow, short, and concise:
The long list of media sites he’s contributed to (and those featuring him) speaks for itself:
And, once again, a fairly targeted blog discussing coaching and influence marketing.
Research Your Competitors’ Blogs
Some of his pieces are “top of the funnel” — broadly discussed content for newbies in the field, along with “middle of the funnel” pieces for readers searching for specific advice and insights:
Pro tip: Read a few blog posts and look for discussions from the influencer’s community.
What category of people do comment? Does he have fans or advocates that are really supporting his brand?
Try to reverse-engineer a working technique and adopt a similar workflow for yourself.
Apply Practical Call-to-Actions
For those who are ready to pull the trigger, Josh has a designated, well-positioned top right button labeled as “Hire me to speak“, leading to a page with three calls to actions:
- Book me for an event
- Book me for your podcast
- News source request (i.e. quotes for articles and journals)
Josh is known for his “LinkedIn profile teardowns” so I’m returning the favor disassembling the concept behind his latest website.
Since credibility matters, the trigger page is followed by a list of upcoming events and a portfolio of conferences and training courses he’s led:
On Building Your Own Portfolio
Building your portfolio will require some grinding. Don’t hesitate to apply everywhere, anywhere — including meetups, smaller company gatherings, university seminars.
With time, it gets significantly easier. Popular conferences look for top experts AND speakers, and may ask you to record a short video demonstrating your presentation skills. Recording some videos from your initial presentations could save you some hassle, especially if you upload them on YouTube and post them on your site. You can make stunning presentations with tools like Xtensio that not only provides features for pitches, sale sheets, and interactive modules but also allow collaboration with your team.
As for reverse-engineering other success stories…
This isn’t about intellectual property. It’s about figuring out what works. Doing the right marketing research and doing due diligence for yourself, testing proven channels, and bootstrapping your brand faster.
Also, there are hundreds of thousands of public speakers with different background stories so it’s important to see how your own pans into all of that. Once you find overlapping profiles, find out where they speak and continue to do this until you find out people you want to resemble.
Step 4: Determine Your USP
Determine your unique selling (brand) proposition (USP).
Event organizers look for diversity. Otherwise, they would just have to invite one person to teach a full-day training.
There are multiple ways to brand yourself. If your core skill set is over-represented, you can always niche down and combine several skills into a new, unique mix.
Remember Josh’s presentation portfolio?
Here’s one of the events he presented at.
An extremely easy way to dive into the culture of public speaking, the nuances of different events, and more importantly — their speaker line-up!
Pay attention to their titles, their bios, and the way speakers brand themselves.
Find Distinctive “Genius Zone” Traits
For instance, compare Dave Ulrich and Ryan Foland in the following snapshot:
While their profiles appear to be somewhat similar, there are certain traits you can discover quickly:
- Dave is an author, profiles in HR, and sells himself as a “thought leader“
- Ryan is a branding expert, a TEDx presenter (an avid speaker, compared to Dave’s authoring perspective), and an influencer
They have common connections,
Moreover, there’s no direct competition and an attendee can buy a book written by Dave and attend a TEDx talk by Ryan.
Step 5: Pick Up The Right Channel
Picking up the channel(s) that work(s) best.
Most people who get involved with public speaking focus on Facebook and forget about the other platforms out there.
First off, Facebook is oversaturated. Yes, it’s the “necessary evil” most of the time. I’ve spent 6,000+ hours on stage without branding myself on Facebook but I realize that there are plenty of networking groups around that could accelerate my brand should I pursue it again.
Be The Big Fish in A Small Pond
Or at least a middle-sized one.
Best-case scenario, look for a network that ranks at #2, #3, #4 and competes with the top player in a new category.
- Facebook is desperately trying to beat YouTube with video. LinkedIn got a lot of head start over the past year, and keeps accelerating with time. Quora has introduced video a few months ago — don’t miss the opportunity there.
- Other channels like Twitch attract certain entrepreneurs. Gary Vee has been testing out Twitch lately, and others have been pondering with the idea.
- Facebook brough a bunch of Snapchat features to Instagram.
- Twitter is strong in certain fields, and so is Medium, or even Reddit.
- Don’t ignore TikTok which is gaining some serious traction lately (and quick improvs may be successful there right now)
See what works for other players on the field. Study your audience — interview it even. Find out what they read, whether they consume video, are they addicted to podcasts?
You can pick a couple of channels — one that works like a charm for everyone and one that’s less saturated and gives you a competitive edge.
Get personalized leadership advice and monthly goal assessment
Step 6: Establish A Pilot Marketing Strategy
Establishing a pilot marketing strategy!
Revise the Zealot Checklist again and prepare your strategy.
Get ready for short-term wins, mid-term plans, and long-term goals.
For the short term, look for smaller conferences and meetups in your area. Get the word out there, update your website, post on social media that you’re looking for speaking opportunities. Twitter can be a great channel for finding these, and so is Google.
Again, search for the top public speakers. Go to their websites. Study them. Reviewing their profiles presentations and slideshows will give you a better perspective. Also, you can discover an upcoming event in their social profiles!
Reverse-engineer what they do and where they spend most of their time. It doesn’t mean that you will get there right away. But when you know what makes them who they are now, you will be better equipped to take on the challenge.
If in doubt, head to my 10-step guide to overcome public speaking anxiety and make sure you ace the next speaking gig!
And for an added boost in your marketing efforts, here’s my digital marketing guide.