The Business Case for Speaking and Thought Leadership with Carol Cox: Podcast Ep. 272

The Business Case for Speaking and Thought Leadership with Carol Cox | Speaking Your Brand

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As entrepreneurs, we have a lot on our plate and fitting in the time to build our thought leadership platforms, create presentations, and pitch ourselves can too often get relegated to the back burner.

However, if you’re a service-based entrepreneur who is not a volume business (you’re not looking for thousands of clients at a time), you need speaking and thought leadership to grow your business.

The other thing you need is to say “yes” to opportunities even when you don’t feel prepared and it feels scary.

That’s what I want to talk to you about today.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • The importance of timing and saying yes to opportunities
  • Having a bias towards action
  • How timing has impacted my life (good and bad)
  • The contrast between being at the mercy of social media algorithms vs. speaking to a captive audience
  • Practical ways to fit in the time for your visibility and speaking

About Us: The Speaking Your Brand podcast is hosted by Carol Cox. At Speaking Your Brand, we help women entrepreneurs and professionals clarify their brand message and story, create their signature talks, and develop their thought leadership platforms. Our mission is to get more women in positions of influence and power because it’s through women’s stories, voices, and visibility that we challenge the status quo and change existing systems. Check out our coaching programs at



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272-SYB-Business-Case.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

272-SYB-Business-Case.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Carol Cox:
Here's the business case for speaking and thought leadership, including the importance of timing on this episode of the Speaking Your Brand podcast. More and more women are making an impact by starting businesses running for office and speaking up for what matters. With my background as a TV political analyst, entrepreneur and speaker. I interview and coach purpose driven women to shape their brands, grow their companies and become recognized as influencers in their field. This is Speaking Your Brand, your place to learn how to persuasively communicate your message to your audience. Hi there and welcome to the Speaking Your Man podcast. I'm your host, Carol Cox. And last week's episode I talked about the difference between transformation and information in your presentations and content and why you want to increase the transformation and decrease the information. If you haven't listened to that episode, definitely go back and listen to that one after you listen today because that one's going to really help you to think differently about the presentation content that you put together. I mentioned at the end of last week's episode that this episode today was going to be about the business case for speaking and thought leadership. So why, as an entrepreneur, you want to do speaking and thought leadership? And I kind of teased it at the end and explained that if you're not in a volume business, in other words, you're not looking for thousands of clients. You, more than any other type of entrepreneur, need speaking and thought leadership.

Carol Cox:
Why? Because speaking in thought leadership helped to differentiate you from other people who do very similar things that you do. Because really it helps your audience, your potential clients understand your values, your vision and your mission so that they can see that there's alignment there. And also speaking and thought leadership expose you to new audiences. And that's really what you need if you're not in a volume business is you need that exposure to new audiences. So let me give you a concrete example and a contrast. So I think of someone like Amy Porterfield and you're probably familiar with Amy Porterfield. She has a fantastic podcast. I listen to it and I enjoy her episodes and I learn new things on there, but I don't consider Amy a thought leader now. She's excellent at what she does, and she's an excellent entrepreneur, and she's built this incredible business. But she's not a thought leader because she doesn't have a unique viewpoint or perspective on what she's creating. Her business is around helping other people create digital courses and being successful in doing so. And she has a digital course academy where she does that, but she's not a thought leader in the sense that she doesn't put her values in her vision out there. She doesn't lead with them, and she doesn't really have to because she's in a volume business. She has thousands of students who come through her programs every single year.

Carol Cox:
She does. I'm sure her entire business is a machine. She has Facebook ads, Instagram ads, the podcast content that she creates. She is constantly seeking new audiences and new exposure, but she doesn't in a volume way. Most likely, you're not doing that in your business. Now, you may run some ads, but it's not at all to the extent that what someone like Amy Porterfield does. And so for you, you need to attract clients with your values and your vision, with your thought leadership. And so the return on that here's the business case. The ROI on that is, of course, clients that you get. You also get speaking opportunities, media opportunities, awards, invitations to serve on boards, and you also attract incredible team members because they buy in to your values and your vision that you have for your business. So that's the business case for speaking and thought leadership, especially for service based entrepreneurs like we are now. I want to kind of go into something a little bit different that I hadn't planned on until I was working on the content for the in-person client retreat that we're getting ready to hold. As of the time that I'm recording this, it's coming up, and then at the time that you're listening to this, it will just have happened. And so this in-person client retreat, I had wanted to do this two years ago. So back at the end of 2019, early 2020, we had started thinking about hosting an in-person client retreat, and I wasn't really sure what exactly was going to look like, where were we going to hold it, the venue and things like that.

Carol Cox:
And so I procrastinated on it a little bit, and in that case it turned out to be okay because it would have happened if we were going to do it in April 2020. And of course, we know in March 2020 is when the COVID pandemic started. The lockdown started, so we wouldn't have been able to hold it anyways. But I think, well, what if I had planned it back in 2019 and had held it in 2019, then I would have been able to have this in-person client retreat before the pandemic and then wouldn't have been thinking during these two years of the pandemic, Oh, I wish I had done it sooner, but I'm glad that we're doing it today. And this is why at the end of 2021, I decided, yes, we're going to do it in the spring of 2022 for sure, because I had regretted in a sense that we hadn't been able to do it earlier. And I'm sure you probably have things over the past few years of the pandemic, maybe, where you had regretted not doing something that you wish you had done before the pandemic. Maybe you had wanted to. Take a vacation, an international vacation. You have thought about it in 2018 or 2019, but it just didn't happen.

Carol Cox:
And then, of course, the pandemic came and you're like, Oh, why hadn't I taken this vacation before? Or perhaps there were some in-person speaking engagements, a TEDx talk conferences that you had wanted to go to, that you had wanted to apply to speak at, and you didn't. And then you thought, Oh, if only I had, because now I've been stuck behind my computer and Zoom for the last two years. Now, this is not saying that regrets are permanent, that we can't ever change anything. But I want you to think instead about a bias towards action, about saying yes. And I'm thinking about this because I was listening to Shonda Rhimes TEDx talk that she gave several years ago about her starting to say yes to things and particular about her children and saying yes to playing with them. And she wrote this whole book about her year of saying yes. And I want you to really think about saying yes to things, whether it's that vacation. But really in this context, it's about those speaking opportunities, media opportunities and thought leadership opportunities. So often I see women out there who don't say yes because they don't feel ready, they don't feel prepared. So they're asked to speak at an event or asked to go on TV or ask to give a quote for a media for an article. And they don't because they feel like I'm not expert enough. Who would want to hear my opinion? Something could go wrong if I apply or if I speak at this event or I go on TV.

Carol Cox:
And so they end up not taking advantage of that opportunity. And I want you to, though, to think about the women you admire entrepreneurs, actors, musicians, elected officials, businesswomen, whoever it happens to be, women you admire, whether it's Shonda Rhimes, Sara Blakely, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, they all have a bias towards action. And I know I've read enough articles about them and seen enough interviews about them that they didn't always feel ready. They didn't always feel prepared. They also have imposter syndrome, but they said yes. They said yes to opportunities and they created their own opportunities. I was listening to Brené Brown's podcast a couple of weeks ago, and she had as her guest, Dan Pink, who has a new book all about regrets. And through all the studies that he and his team did and others have done, they found that people regret more the things that they didn't do versus the things that they did do. And we think back to, again, those vacations we didn't take before the pandemic or those conferences we didn't go to or they're speaking engagements that we didn't apply to or the TED Talk we didn't apply to. So we tend to regret things more that we don't do versus the things we do do. So that's why this idea of a bias towards action, to saying yes, to doing something is what I want you to start thinking about in your own life and your business.

Carol Cox:
So here are some examples of how timing has impacted my life. Certainly applying for graduate school and going to graduate school, even when I didn't feel ready and I still did it. And I'm so glad that I did because having a master's degree has served me so many ways. The degree itself has served me in so many ways, but also what I learned in graduate school, actually, even though it was in history, which you think doesn't relate to what I do today, but understanding how to look through ideas, find the best ideas, pull out the main concept, identify the key points, storytelling, all those things I learned in graduate school I use today in my own content and presentation, but also in the work that we do with our clients. Running for chairperson of my local Democratic Party, I certainly didn't feel like I had the foundation or the experience or the expertise to do that, and I did it. And I am so glad that I did. I learned so many things from that experience and it really has paved the way for so many things that came after that, including going on television to be a political analyst. And again, I certainly did not feel prepared for that the first time I went on or the second time I went on.

Carol Cox:
And then when I went on and I had a couple of year gap between election cycles and then went on again, but I still kept doing it because I knew that this was an opportunity that most people don't get invited to come on TV to talk about politics. And I certainly wasn't going to say no to that opportunity, even though I was scared, even though I didn't feel prepared, I said, yes. Same thing with speaking engagements. I remember this was back in 2010. I was invited to speak at an Internet technology conference, and so I said yes. And again, I didn't necessarily know what I was going to be speaking about. I ended up creating a presentation and that one speaking engagement led to so many more that came after that because of the people that I met at that particular conference, starting Speaking Your Brand, launching this podcast, pivoting this business in 2020 during. The pandemic. All of those things. Timing has been so incredibly important. I'm so glad that I started Speaking Your Brand back in 2015, 2016, rather than waiting. I'm so glad I launched this podcast back in 2017 rather than waiting, even though I know this sounds so ridiculous now. But when I was getting ready to launch the podcast, I thought to myself, I don't know what I'm going to talk about every single week. How am I going to find enough episode topics to keep going? Of course, now we're at episode 272, so I have found a way to continue to find topics to talk about.

Carol Cox:
But launching this podcast, I'm so glad that I did that five years ago rather than any time later. Now, if you haven't launched a podcast yet or and you want to or you launch one recently that is OC be glad that you're doing it now when you are as the the old saying goes, when is the best time to plant a tree? 20 years ago. When is the second best time to plant a tree today? So that's what I'm saying. The timing is so important. So if you haven't done something yet, but it's kind of been like in the back of your mind or maybe even closer to the front of your mind, go ahead and do it. Make a bias towards action. The other thing that and this is something that's not business related but personal is that we had been looking to buy a house since 2018 and we thought 2018 was the peak of the real estate market. We were as wrong as we were. And we live in Orlando, Florida. Florida is a hot real estate market. So we've been looking at 2018. We actually found a house in 2019, but we didn't end up closing on it for a variety of reasons. And then the pandemic hit. Now, we thought in 2019 that, oh, another house would come along. That would be a better fit for us and everything would be fine.

Carol Cox:
Oh, no, no, no. The pandemic hit, and then all of a sudden we realized, well, what are we going to do? And then the housing market just got so much tighter. Prices started going up and up, inventory started going down. And so it was much, much more difficult to buy a house to get an offer accepted. And so we didn't actually didn't close on a house until October of 2021, so much later than we had originally anticipated. And this is a case where timing was so incredibly important. And unfortunately, we waited too long and we literally paid the price for that. But that's okay. Life goes on, but timing can be really important. So again, how are you preparing for your next opportunity? We tend to focus on the short term and what's right in front of us, and I know I tend to do this as well, but we also need to think about how we're preparing for bigger opportunities that are going to happen over the longer term. And so preparation could look like having your signature talk ready to go, building your thought leadership platform, getting known as a speaker because you're out there speaking at different groups and conferences, being a guest on podcast, all of those things are helping you to prepare for your next opportunity, whether it's a speaking invitation, a media invitation, an invitation to be on a board or an award that you get nominated for.

Carol Cox:
And I think about the short term of what's right in front of us. For a lot of us at social media, we think, oh, if we just put one more post on social media, one more post on LinkedIn or Instagram, then we're going to find the right people, find the right clients. And yes, I am not saying don't use social media. I still I use LinkedIn and I post there, but social media, we're at the mercy of algorithms. I know you probably get as frustrated as I do that we put out some really great content and like no one sees it, I put out posts on LinkedIn and some of the posts get thousands and thousands of views and other posts that I put, which I think is really great content, really valuable content. And it gets the fraction of the views that other content that I put out there does. So as social media, we're at the mercy of algorithms. In contrast, when you're speaking to an audience, whether it's virtually or in person or even on a podcast, the audience is kind of captive. You know, it's different than social media. They're not scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. Maybe they spend 2 seconds on your post, if at all. When you're speaking, the audience is they're listening to you for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes. Can you imagine having 30 to 45 minutes of someone's time to talk to them about what they care about, the goals that they have, maybe what obstacles are getting in the way, how they can imagine a better life business, whatever it happens to be for themselves.

Carol Cox:
That's a captive audience. And that's what's speaking and thought leadership can do for you. So now here are some practical ways that I have implemented it to help me fit in all of these things that we need to do as entrepreneurs. I know we have so much on our plate. We have to provide the services to our clients. We have to operate our business, lead our teams, bring on contractors and employees. We have to obviously manage our cash flow and make sure our bookkeeping is done. We have to do sales and marketing and visibility. There are so many different things we have to do as entrepreneurs. Hopefully you're starting to build contractors or team members to help you with that. So here are things that I do to help me fit. All these things in that are important for my business is the first thing that I do. And what I'm sharing with you is, is not something that I have certainly invented. These are things that I have learned from other entrepreneurs over the years is batching tasks. I'm sure you've heard of this. I've heard of this for years, and I did not do it because I'm like, oh, I'm fine. Like, I'm, I'm pretty good at switching from one thing to another.

Carol Cox:
Like, you know, I kind of like variety of tasks and but I have recognized that batching tasks truly does save the time that they say that it does. So batching tasks look like if you're going to say send out podcast pitches to, to maybe you identified five podcasts that you want to pitch to send them all at the same time, like sit down for 15 to 20 minutes and do them all at the same time versus like someone popping into your head on a monday morning, sending it, then the next one popping into your mind in a Wednesday afternoon and sending it. Put it on your calendar, your task list, and do them all at the same time, because number one, you'll just get it done and you're closing that loop in your brain. And number two, when they're similar tasks like that, you kind of get into a flow and I believe the end product ends up being better. So batch your task. And then related to this is set theme days in your week and I just started doing this a couple of weeks ago. Again, I had heard about this from other people and hadn't done it yet. And so theme days look like putting together similar activities on the same day. So in the past my schedule would look like, of course I do tons of Zoom calls every single week, whether it's the Zoom calls for our Thought Leader Academy and Catalyst Collective Programs one on one, coaching calls, podcast interviews, team meetings, virtual coffees, presentations to other groups, tons of Zoom calls on my calendar.

Carol Cox:
And it used to be where I would do our Thought Leader Academy call, and then a half an hour later I would do a console call. Then a half an hour after that I would do a podcast interview and then maybe half an hour later or something else, and then the next day kind of the same thing where it was just it seemed like I was batching tasks in the sense that they were all zoom appointments, but they were very different types of appointments. The type of energy and focus it takes to do a podcast interview is different than a sales console call, which is different than a team meeting, which is different than a group program call. So instead now what I'm trying to do is theme my day. So for example, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are really focused on coaching. So that's our Thought Leader Academy and Catalyst Collective calls plus one on one coaching calls. And then Thursdays are going to be for team meetings and other types of kind of operational things that I need to do in the business. And then podcast interviews. What I'm going to do is every other kind of Wednesday, and when I don't have the block of coaching calls, I'll do the podcast interviews instead.

Carol Cox:
So this is helping so much not only so that the focus and the energy is similar from call to call, but also, like I mentioned before, to close the loop, because what would happen is that every day of every week I would think to myself, well, what am I going to do? Sales calls, what am I going to do? Sales outreach? What am I going to record this podcast interview? What am I going to do this? And so it kind of would always be sitting in my mind. I would always be thinking about, what am I going to do this? What am I going to do this? But now it's on my calendar where a certain day of the week, like Mondays, I know as marketing and visibility and sales outreach. So I know every single Monday, that's what I'm focused on. And so when it gets to Wednesday of the week, I don't worry about, Oh, I haven't done XYZ yet. I know I have a place for that on my calendar. It's coming up next week. It's okay, you'll get to it. So theme days have been really important and I'll say that it's going to work about 80% of the time. Sometimes there's appointments that I can't put on the day that I want to for a variety of reasons. But if I can get to 80% of my schedule being around these theme days, I'm going to consider that a success.

Carol Cox:
Other things that you can do. What I do is have your virtual assistant do research for you on podcast to pitch and speaking engagements to send your proposals to, and then send the pitches or submit the speaking proposals for you so you can write the pitches up in a Google doc and your speaking proposals and all of that and then have your VA actually send it for you on your behalf. We do that and that helps tremendously in getting that done. And here's another practical way regarding your presentations themselves, and I see this from a lot of women. I talk to a lot of women where they say, well, you know, I have a lot of different things that I can present on. I can present on this topic, this topic, this topic. And I like to present it a lot of different things. And I understand I love to make presentations to, but it's going to save you so much time and mental energy if you just have one or two presentations, not five or ten presentations that you give. And it's the same thing because of this context switching. If you have a couple of weeks coming up where you have three different presentations that you're giving, but they're all on three different topics, that's a lot of different preparation and different context switching. So have one or two presentations that you can pull from, of course, cut, adjust the stories and audience questions related to that particular group that you're speaking to.

Carol Cox:
But really the content should be pretty much the same. The other thing regarding your presentations that's going to make it so much easier on. New is to have fewer slides and more stories. And this is coming from someone, me, where I love slides for virtual presentations, especially for in-person. I don't tend to use as many slides, but for virtual I do tend to use a lot of slides, but the more slides you have, the more work it is for you to create those slides. And I promise you, your audience does not care that much about your slides. If you want to give them certain information, create a PDF document for them and give that to them that has the details that would be helpful to them. But more stories, more audience engagement, more participation is going to not only be more enjoyable for the audience, but also cut down on the amount of time that you have to put in and creating these presentations. This is the work that we do in our Thought Leader Academy with the women entrepreneurs who come through it. We help with their signature talk, their thought leadership platform, getting known as a speaker and setting your speaking fees, which of course is incredibly important so that you are compensated for all the time and expertise that you're putting into your presentations and speaking. Here's the other thing that I notice that when women are in our Thought Leader Academy and in our Catalyst Collective, which is our advanced program, opportunities start coming to them.

Carol Cox:
I love to see these wins and success stories they'll share with us in a group call or in our Mighty Networks group that someone just reached out and invited them to speak somewhere, or they got their first paid speaking engagement or their first really, really, really, really good amount of speaking fee that they got or invited to give a keynote or whatever it happens to be. But opportunities start coming to them and I believe it's because they are setting the foundation of preparation by the work that they're doing. Plus, yes, and this is a big plus. They're putting themselves out there consistently, which is what our goal is in the Thought Leader Academy, which is why we have our weekly group calls where we come together for that support and training and accountability and the one on one coaching calls. So we really can dive in to your thought leadership message and your signature talk to get you the clarity that you need to put yourself out there. If you would like to join us in the Thought Leader Academy applications are open. You can get all of the details on apply by going to Speaking Your Brand academy again that's slash academy. On the next episode, we're going to be talking about takeaways from our in-person client retreat. So stay tuned for that one until next time. Thanks for listening.

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