I had been writing for seven years before I finally decided to call myself a writer. Even so, I was unsure. I wasn’t “A Writer.” I was an “Oh, I’m also a writer. . .?” (You know that annoying way people put the question mark at the end of a statement? I did that for three more years.)
But now, 24 years after I started writing, I finally achieved what I consider to be my capstone accomplishment as a writer: I gave a keynote speech about writing to 150 bloggers.
It wasn’t the books I’ve written that I consider my crowning achievement. It wasn’t the newspaper columns, plays, speeches, or even the blog posts I’ve written. It was the speech itself.
Because even after 24 years of being a writer, there was still a small part of me that questioned whether I was really a writer. Even after 24 years of being a word slinger, I still worried that someone could cast doubt on my self-proclaimed title.
By giving the day two keynote at Blog Indiana though, I was able to plant that flag in the sand and could stop anyone from taking it away from me. After all, if I stand up in a room full of people and declare myself to be an authority on something I’ve done for over two decades, then I must be a really-and-for-true writer, right?
I had never felt more like a writer than I did when I was finished.
So here’s the lesson I want to share
If you want to be the smartest person in the room, if you want to be the authority, if you want people to mention your name as the expert about a topic, speak about it. A lot.
Not just once at your local Toastmasters group, or to the local “I don’t get it” nonprofit charity group. Attend a conference in your field, and speak about an industry niche or specialty. If you’re a librarian, talk about how social media is changing reading habits of patrons. If you’re in sales, talk about how referral networking leads to better results than cold calling. If you’re in publishing, talk about how ebooks are changing traditional publishing.
If you talk about a topic enough times — assuming you’re also blogging about it, guest blogging, and writing for industry journals — you will soon be the expert on that topic. It will be your name that everyone bandies about when that topic comes up for discussion.
If you’re not a public speaker, learn how. Join a Toastmasters group and start learning. Once you complete your Certified Toastmasters (CTM) program, offer to speak for free to small community groups and at special events. Get several of those under your belt, then speak at industry conferences. Take advantage of every speaking opportunity you can.
Every time you do this, promote your talk to your social network so they can see you’re a speaker. Take some photos and then write a follow-up blog post about your talk. Whenever possible, get videos to put on your website as further proof of your speaking ability.
Of course, this means you have to have the goods — the actual knowledge you profess to own. Don’t get up and BS your way through a presentation, counting on basic, scant knowledge to skate you past a bunch of people who actually do know better. They’ll see right through you and you’ll lose any credibility you had built up to that point.
So get educated about your biggest passion and start telling as many people about it as you can. It’s a great way to build your personal brand, and put that final stamp of expertise on what you do.
Erik Deckers is the co-owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself. His new book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing, which he wrote with Jason Falls, will be released in October 2011.