Leveraging Your Reputation: Speak to boost your publicity

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

One of the best ways to help your reputation, exposure, and professional pursuits is through public speaking. You don’t have to speak to thousands of people at a time; you can start small, and maybe one day you will be requested for huge conferences. You never know who is in the audience and where it can lead.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Focus. Decide what area or topic you want to focus on and develop a niche. If you’re finding it hard to whittle down your expertise, then write down what you have proven success in and what extensive knowledge you have. See if you can organize that information into bullet points that you can share with others, and develop a plan to talk about it. You can also write it all out as an essay to see if you have enough to say that will help other people.

Look for opportunities. There are many places to speak, and you don’t have to travel far. If you’re part of an organization, ask them if you can speak at an upcoming meeting, or develop your own seminar and offer it for free to members. If you are attending a conference, approach the organizers and ask them if you can speak at the next one.

See what’s available in your community. Speak at your local Chamber of Commerce or other community organizations. If you have children, see if you can speak at their school on career day or as a part of a lesson plan that is connected to your area of expertise. Your local library often looks for programs to offer the community, so approach them to see if they would be interested.

Teach. If you’re rusty at speaking, or find it overwhelming to come up with a plan for a bunch of strangers, teach a course at a community college or other educational institution. This will help you understand what motivates and interests people, and how you should structure your delivery. If creating a class is too time consuming and labor intensive, you can be a guest speaker in someone else’s class.

Connect online. If you are on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or even have an active e-mail group, find out about events at which you can speak. You may end up doing a short presentation, but it could lead to more extensive opportunities.

Whomever you approach, be sure to have your basic plan and idea pitch ready, in addition to explaining why you are an expert in that area. And be prepared for people’s questions, even after the presentation. Make yourself available to others by offering them your email address or other contact information at your website or social media outlet so that you can keep those connections going.

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