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How to Leverage Speaking Engagements to Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader

Mastering Thought Leadership: Building Influence Through Speaking Engagements and Authentic Expertise

By Mike SzczesnyPublished 12 months ago 4 min read
How to Leverage Speaking Engagements to Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Everyone wants to be a thought leader, but becoming one takes more than being an authority in your industry — though that’s a good start. It also takes more than having a unique point of view, which is also essential. What it truly takes to be a thought leader is an ability to lead others through words and actions, demonstrating your discipline and strengths in a specialized area of expertise. You become the “go-to” person on that specific topic for those seeking guidance in a given industry.

Thought leadership doesn’t happen in a vacuum, naturally. On top of an ability to lead, it also takes a willingness to educate others, and speaking at events will often serve as one of the primary vehicles. It’ll get you in front of people, helping to establish your expertise in space and build your thought leadership brand. But knowing exactly where to start can be difficult if you’re new to thought leadership.

Authenticity is important. The same thought is said for creating a personal brand; make sure it aligns with whatever unique viewpoint you plan to bring to the masses. What thoughts or ideas will you share that might get others to think differently about some aspect of your industry? What actionable takeaways can you offer to those in your industry? What can you provide of real value? Only then will you arrive at the direction to build a reputation and begin using speaking engagements to carve out your niche in the space?

Carving Out Your Niche

The question then remains, what are the next steps for leveraging speaking events to strengthen your thought leadership brand? The following are just a few tips that can help pave the way:

1. Publish content.

As with anything in life, you’ve got to walk before you can run. You also need social proof of your expertise and influence, and that often requires a great deal of content. Publish relevant and valuable content regularly on your social channels. Engage in conversations with followers, using a consistent, confident, and credible voice with each exchange. The goal here is to build trust from those within your industry.

2. Identify your audience.

Thought leadership is a form of content marketing. 66% of marketers rank it as a top priority for their marketing organization. To be effective, it is important to have a clear understanding of your target audience. By knowing who you hope to reach, you can create content that is thought-provoking and valuable to them. Additionally, considering the events and conferences that your target audience regularly attends is essential for successful thought leadership.

Here are the advantages of understanding your audience in relation to thought leadership:

  • Audience Relevance
  • Increased Engagement
  • Establishing Trust and Credibility
  • Targeted Reach
  • Competitive Advantage

3. Join professional organizations.

There are professional organizations for every industry. Becoming a member allows you to network with other professionals naturally. It also allows you to strengthen those thought leadership muscles by engaging in conversations, giving advice, sharing your unique perspectives, and so on. Besides, professional organizations regularly hold industry events, meaning you’ll be among the first to know about potential speaking engagements — live, virtual, or otherwise.

4. Take advantage of every speaking opportunity.

Take every chance to speak and work on your presentation and storytelling skills. Even if it’s a small conference where business professionals are handing out unique trophies to other business professionals, take advantage of the situation. You may only get to talk briefly, but you’re getting your name out there. You may also try these five engagements to help add to your confidence and credibility:

  • Q&A sessions
  • Breakout sessions at larger conferences
  • Leadership seminars
  • Webinars
  • Industry round tables

5. Collaborate with other thought leaders.

Partnerships have always been crucial to business success. Thought leadership is no different, especially when trying to make a name for yourself. Such relationships can help expand your network, opening new speaking opportunities. Collaborating with others in your industry also has the potential to generate new ideas and learn from those who’re already doing what you hope to be doing yourself.

6. Seek feedback.

Practice, as they say, makes perfect, but so does an outside perspective. Seek constructive feedback from those in your network to help fit your presentation and storytelling skills. Ask specific questions about your talk, such as where you could go more in-depth, what speaking points could be left out, and if any parts lost the listener’s interest.

Claiming to be a thought leader is entirely different from being one. Find your voice, have opinions, and share insights of value — to perfect your speaking skills and what you talk about. And if you find yourself challenging the status quo, it is all the better. Thought leadership is about making people think differently about a topic and empowering them to change their thoughts and ideas about an industry.


About the Creator

Mike Szczesny

I am the owner and vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties, a dedicated supplier of employee recognition products, branded merchandise, and athletic awards. We help companies in expressing gratitude and appreciation to their employees.

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    Mike SzczesnyWritten by Mike Szczesny

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