Ep #36: Moving Beyond Applause and Becoming a Go-To Thought Leader in Your Industry

by | Podcast

Have you ever been humming along in your career – doing what you love & helping people every day – when you suddenly realize that there's a new, broader calling out there for you? This happened to me when coaching clients kept asking me how they could break onto the biggest stages in their industry. The answer to this question became the basis of my book, Beyond Applause: Make a Meaningful Difference through Transformational Speaking.

What I learned while researching and writing Beyond Applause completely changed the trajectory of my work with clients. That's why I wanted to share some special excerpts with you today. And if you like what you hear, you can get the book for free right now, along with a course I created that will help you become a recognized thought leader in your field.

In this episode, I share what made me realize I needed to shift my focus and help clients reach their most ambitious speaking goals. I also talk about the process of becoming a thought leader and why it's so important to take a stand as a speaker. Let me know if you like this format – I may be recording an audiobook version of Beyond Applause in the near future, so I'd love to hear if you enjoy this experience!

If what you heard here today was useful, you’ll love the free guide I’ve created for you at speaksoitmatters.com/yes. Sign up now and get immediate access to our Power & Grace Speaker’s Toolkit (including The Only Presentation Outline You’ll Ever Need). 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How I realized I needed to shift focus in my coaching practice to help clients reach the great, big stages they dreamed of speaking on.
  • Key pieces of the process of becoming a thought leader that I've uncovered through years of experience with clients.
  • How some big-name thought leaders became the go-to experts in their field.
  • Why it's so important to take a stand about something important if you want to be a thought leader, even if your stand changes over time.
  • Why clarity and conviction about your message are the two most crucial elements for becoming a go-to speaker in your industry.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Speak So It Matters Podcast, episode number 36. Welcome to Speak So It Matters , where we share a mix of stories of inspiration and super practical public speaking and communication guidance to help you release all the barriers to becoming the speaker you know you're meant to be. Some of us are called to use our voice to serve others and our world, as well as to become the most fully expressed version of ourselves. If that's you, you've landed in the right place. Let's do this, my friends.

Hello, my speaker friends. It's so lovely to be with you again. It's still this early time in 2019, and I just think so much about how grateful I am that I get to share this time with you that you show up here and listen, that I get to serve you in a way that I do through this podcast. So, thank you so much for being here.

I was thinking a lot this last couple of weeks about the beginning of a new year, and all the planning, and strategy, and goal setting that I used to do, and I used to … In fact, even this year. I mean, it's such a habit for me that I bought two kind of like goal-setting planners because it sounded fun. It's not because I still believe in goal setting. I'm going to talk about that in a minute, but it's more that it just sounds kind of fun to dream and vision. And I still love that part, but you know, I do goal setting a whole lot differently now, and it's just really interesting to notice. Like, I know what they say about setting smart goals, and making them measurable, and putting forth a strategy. I did that for many, many years and the truth is sometimes it guided me into doing some pretty cool things, and a lot of times I ended up doing very different things.

But either way, the one thing that I am taking with me as a thread is that I love that sort of like visioning and dreaming part. It just brings me into a place of inspiration and motivation to do new, cool things. So, however you're approaching your planning this year, or your start to your 2019, I hope it feels awesome, and exciting, and dreamy, too.

So today, we are going to do something a little different. I'm actually going to read to you from my book Beyond Applause . I'm doing that for a couple of reasons. First, I think I'm going to create an audio book. So, I thought, “You know what? Why don't we start out by testing out doing an audio version of it and see what you think of it?” So, I'd love to hear how it is for you to hear the book via audio.

The second reason is you can get Beyond Applause for free right now. You can download it for free. It actually comes with a whole course that I created, a four-part video series course called The Path to Thought Leadership. And the two together, it's a pretty amazing combination that'll guide you into setting yourself up as a recognized leader in your industry. So, I want you to know you can get that for free, and here's a little sampling of what you'll get.

I've gotten so much amazing feedback. First of all, people are downloading the book in droves. It's so awesome. I just love seeing it happen. And second, I'm getting a lot of amazing feedback from people that they're really loving it as a tool for planning their speaking for this year. I use the word planning of course loosely, and I know that they do too, right? It could mean lots of things, dreaming and visioning. There is stuff in here about how to reach out to different groups and create opportunities for yourself. But, there's also a lot in here about who are you and what is it you want to say. So, however you approach that, you can get that, and you can get it for free. So, you can get that at MichelleBarryFranco.com/freebook. So, you can get that, and right now you can get a little sampling of what you'll find inside that book, Beyond Applause .

All right, so I'm reading from Beyond Applause: Make a Meaningful Difference Through Transformational Speaking by yours truly, Michelle Barry Franco. I'm going to start by reading from the introduction. So, this is the introduction, page one of the book.

Introduction: “We were standing outside of Grace's gorgeously designed to office after a talk I delivered for her organization. As our conversation started to wrap up, she leaned in and whispered to me, ‘You know, I'd really love to do more speaking. I've always imagined myself on a big stage, inspiring hundreds of women, kind of like a female version of Tony Robbins.' Delighted to be in on the secret, I asked, ‘What's stopping you?' ‘I don't know how to get on those bigger stages. I even know people who are part of these big events, and I've gotten warm introductions to meeting organizers, but that doesn't seem to be enough. How does a person get on those kinds of stages?'

“I realized as she was talking that this is one of the most frequent questions I'm asked as a speaking coach. How do I get the kind of speaking opportunities that helped me make the biggest difference with my message? I'm asked this question even more than, ‘How do I craft and deliver a great speech?' This particular conversation with Grace was an epiphany for me. For the past two decades, my primary focus has been helping my clients and students craft and deliver compelling and captivating talks and presentations. Make sense, right? That's what speaking coaches and teachers do. But in this moment, I realized that I had been focusing on only half of the process.

“Grace's whispered secret that day outside her office and the pointed follow-up question express the deepest desire of my very best clients. They are already very good speakers. They care deeply about making an impact, so they invest in a speaking coach to become an even better speaker. But what they really want is to contribute in a meaningful way to the larger conversation in their topic area. They want to have influence and create positive change for as many people as possible. They want to be a part of the highest level conversation in their industry. They know that many of those conversations happen at the most respected gatherings in their industries, conferences, summits, symposiums, and they want to be on those stages with other influencers. They don't want to just be great speakers, they want to be go-to thought leaders in their industry so they can make the biggest difference with their message.

“As recognized thought leaders, their stories and cutting-edge ideas will be at the forefront of their industry, allowing them to bring real change to the lives of many people who are seeking solutions. Their desire to be on bigger stages is driven not by the desire to be famous or a love of the spotlight, though some are very, very happy on stage. The desire is driven by a passion for making a difference in the lives of others. They have learned powerful lessons, and they know that their stories will inspire and change lives. They're on a mission to share those stories and life lessons and to make the impact they know they're meant to make for others.

“So, this realization sent me down and enlightening path of research and insight. I went back to my office and made a list of all my clients and most active speaking students. I reviewed notes about our sessions together, their struggles and learning, and what they were doing with their message now, often many years after I began working with them. I took inventory of where they're speaking, how often, and any other ways they were contributing to the public conversation in their topic area.

“I also began studying some of my favorite speakers who were speaking on the most influential stages and asked, ‘How did they get on those stages? How is their approach different than others who aren't offered these kinds of opportunities?' What I found in these inquiries immediately changed the focus of my work and is the basis of this book. When I thought about all of my beautiful clients and their deep desire to serve as a speaker, like Grace, I felt my own fire in the belly rise. They must be out in our world serving far and wide with their message. You must be out in our world serving with your message.”

So, I'm going to move forward in the book a little bit here to page 10 and talk about transformational thought leadership. “The exciting news is there does seem to be a path to becoming a go-to speaker in your industry and getting on more influential stages. That path is paved through a commitment to serving others. This commitment is about more than just being a captivating and inspiring speaker. It's about serving the audience in the speaking room and beyond, inspiring them to change their lives in meaningful ways. It's about a full-hearted commitment to making a powerful difference in other people's lives and in our world.

“This kind of speaking as a leadership move, it's a decision to step into the spotlight over and over again, even when it's scary and hard with the sole purpose of impact. I have come to call this kind of leadership transformational thought leadership, and it includes your thought leadership speaking as well as all other forms of sharing your expertise and lessons learned, such as published books and articles and expert interviews. You will see this term used with some variations in the public discourse, as it is rising in popularity. For our purposes, this is our definition.

“This fancy set of words feels a bit intellectual for such a heart-driven mission is changing lives. And yet, each word is perfectly accurate for this mission you're on. You are committed to changing lives, transforming them into something better in ways the audience desires, transformational. To make the difference, you are sharing your very best ideas, thought. You are courageously standing in front of rooms full of people offering to show them the way to making their life better leadership. See what I mean? Transformational thought leadership.

“Okay, so the case is made for transformational thought leadership and its power to set you up as a go-to speaker in your industry so that you can make the difference you're called to make. The next logical and pressing question is, how do you step into transformational thought leadership? And this is where I get to lay out for you the simple, yet oh-so powerful path to thought leadership, which is also the framework for this book. Here's the path to thought leadership: Number one, take a stand for something that matters. Number two, commit to serve through that stand. And number three, go where they gather and serve.”

So, let's move forward to chapter one, inside the first section, which is Take a Stand for Something That Matters. This is on page 19 of Beyond Applause , and it's called The Stand at the Center of Your Work.

“In Liz Gilbert's Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert Podcast, she interviewed Glennon Doyle Melton. Glennon shares a story of how she promised herself after she got sober that she'd tell the whole truth out loud in her life, no more hiding. This was the complete opposite of how she was living before, and it was the only way she could think of to help stay on track with sobriety. To honor this commitment, every day she wrote about her life as a wife and mother, and how we can do hard things, and published those posts on her blog. That blog of a few readers turned into hundreds and then thousands. Today, Glennon and speaks regularly on stages, podcasts, and interviews, and many of the high level venues where women gathered to support each other in feeling good inside their lives. Glennon is now a go-to thought leader committed to helping women live lives of wholeness. She takes a stand for women, their voices, and their contributions in our world, even when life gets hard and doesn't go the way we imagined. Two of have her key mantras are, we can do hard things and love wins.

“An example of a stand that matters in the education and business realm is Sir Ken Robinson. An academic for a long time with an early career as a university professor, he describes a warm and respectful relationship with academia overall. And yet, his 2006 TED Talk, one of the most watched TED Talks of all time as of this writing, is titled, Do Schools Kill Creativity? This is an especially intriguing question given his connection with academia.

“Sir Ken Robinson did not start out as a renowned thought leader speaking on the coveted TED stage about creativity in education and business. He started with smaller projects closer to home. He made an impact on smaller stages, tested his ideas, explored new questions, and learned. Over time, he began to take a stand for his ideas about the need for more creative expression for our children in public schools. Eventually, his innovative ideas caught the attention of TED organizers because he was sharing them with conviction and competence in a captivating way. When a business or high-level conference is looking for a speaker on the topic of creativity and its value and impact on success in school or work, there's a good chance Sir Ken Robinson is on the very short list of desired keynote speakers.

“In these examples, you can see the clear stand these thought leaders take, as well as the evolution of their path to being a recognized thought leader. Very rarely does a person come out the gate being invited on popular podcasts, like Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert, or, even more coveted, as a TED main stage speaker. You'll notice that this first step of the path to thought leadership includes two parts: Take a stand, plus for something that matters. Each of these parts is essential to your success in taking your stand.

“Taking a stand, that very core of your contribution as a thought leader and speaker is the stand you take through your speaking. The stand is the thing you feel most compelled to say, what I call your rooftop message. We're going to dive into how to reveal the stand you take in the next chapter. For now, the important thing to know is that the clarity and conviction of your stand is at the heart of your ability to serve as a thought leader.

“This may seem straightforward, but it is the most common mistake that I see aspiring speakers make. Instead of proactively claiming the one thing for which they are known, they offer a variety of topics upon which they can speak. Or worse, speakers ask meeting organizers to give them a topic about which the organizer would like them to speak.

“This lack of a clear stand causes a number of problems for speakers. Number one, the speaker is often asked to speak on a topic that doesn't light them up, resulting in a less than excellent content and delivery experience. Two, potential future speaking opportunities that could arise from the speaking event are less likely to transpire because the speaker isn't working in their most exciting and passionate topic area. Three, potential clients and event planners for future speaking opportunities are confused about their stand and their expertise. Four, many possible client relationships that may have grown from this speaking opportunity are lost because the audience doesn't feel that intuitive resonance with the message, and the stories don't indicate to them that this speaker is a meaningful solution to their current struggle. The solution to all of this lost opportunity is to get crystal clear on the stand you take as a transformational thought leader, and then offer talks only in that topic area.

“A word of caution here. As you become known and enjoyed as a speaker, colleagues and friends will ask you to speak on topics that stray from the stand you take. This happens to my clients all the time, unless you love to speak on a separate topic for purely cause-related reasons. And even then, be sure you know your story about why you speak on this topic and share that story often. I strongly advise you not to agree to these speaking opportunities. Instead, if you feel compelled to speak for this audience, offer an alternate talk that will meet the needs of the audience and is also aligned with the stand you take.

“Recently, one of my clients, who is the founder of a fast-growing company, was invited to speak at a conference on a topic outside of her stand. She simply responded with enthusiasm to serve the audience and offered the topic she speaks on at conferences that this particular audience would most enjoy. It turns out the meeting organizer wasn't attached to the particular topic she proposed so much as she was trying to make it an easy yes for my client about the speaking opportunity. Within a few email exchanges, they had agreed on a talk that was aligned with my client's stand and would delight and serve the audience gathering at this conference.

“Becoming known as a thought leader in your topic area requires you to stay true and consistent with your message via the crystal clear stand you take. In the next chapter, you will clarify your stand so you're ready for any opportunities coming your way.

“For something that matters, this is where things get even more exciting. You can take a stand all day long, but if no one cares about that stand, you'll be standing there talking to the fire hydrants. Don't worry, we won't let this happen to you. While I focus a great deal in this book on what your ideal audience members need and want, the truth is the focus on their desires must be second to what you are called to say. So, the first place that your stand must matter is with you. We will cover this in more detail in the next chapter. The place your stand will make the biggest difference, of course, is out in the world serving audiences. This is where you must be exceedingly clear about who you are meant to serve with the stand and why it matters to them. It is the combination of the stand you take and the deep understanding of how your stand will change lives that makes your thought leadership so transformational.

“Here are some examples of stands that matter: Children should not sit all day long at school. They need to move their bodies to learn and be well. A man should not have to miss his kids' childhood while he grows his career. Self-portraiture is a fast path to personal insight and growth. Take selfies. Families should sit down to dinner together as often as possible. It makes kids and adults resilient and strong. Teenagers become compassionate and loving people when they get to explore the world. Take them on trips as much as possible.

“The options for stands one could take are endless. It also becomes quite obvious how the “that matters” part depends largely on the audience and what they need and want. As you can see in these examples, each of these stands is designed to serve a particular audience. One audience is parents of teens being encouraged to take their kids traveling. This could be adapted for educators as well. The stand that men should not have to miss their kids' childhood is ideal for a men's conference, and possibly even a business conference or a special focus conference on balance inside of a large corporation.

“People often express concern about taking a stand and then changing their mind as their life experience shifts and new ideas come to life. Of course your stand will evolve and shift over time. The key is to get crystal clear on one stand that you're passionate about for this next phase of time and become known as a thought leader on behalf of that stand. Treat it like a mission in the world. It becomes so natural for you to be the one invited to speak on stages that serve the audiences that need your message. If and when you feel yourself losing passion for that stand or another important standard rises up, spend time going through this book with that new stand in mind. You'll know when it's right for you to shift.”

All right, my friends. There it is, an excerpt from Beyond Applause: Make a Meaningful Difference Through Transformational Speaking by Michelle Barry Franco. And again, reminder, you can get this book for free the MichelleBarryFranco.com/freebook. I just want to, if I could put a plugin for how great the book is. Am I allowed to do that? I wrote this book. You know, it's a real book. It guides you through the whole process. It took me months to write and years to gather the experience and stories that make up this book. So, it's really exciting to me to give this to you as a gift. As you move into 2019 and you envision your own impact in the world, the difference that you know you want to make, I think this is such a beautiful, useful resource to help you get there. I would love to hear how it serves you. And also, let me know how was it to hear, you know, part of the book via audio. Let me know. Should I make this an audio book? I'd love to hear.

All right, thank you so much for being here with me, my friends, this week. I'm excited to be here again with you next week, as always. And please know you were made for this. I know that because you know. All right, have a great week. Take care. Bye.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Speak So It Matters Podcast. If what you heard here today was useful, you'll love the free guide I've created for you at speakssoitmatters.com/yes. Not only will you get immediate access to our Power and Grace Speaker's Toolkit, including the only presentation outline you'll ever need, but you'll also receive weekly updates with our best resources as they're created. I can't wait to see you out there shining your beautiful light and changing lives with your message.

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