A funny thing happened on social media recently. I unplugged for a month, and got back – eager to check my notifications while I’d been gone. There were no substantive notifications.
No one noticed I’d been gone.
I laughed about it with my friend, who at one time had carefully grown her social media followers. It seems I had spent lots of time feeding a beast that could get along just fine without me.
Our culture tempts us to lead with ourselves – here I am, listen to the important things I have to say. And no one really tells you, that unless you’re one of a handful of people – like Oprah (who I would invite into my living room to talk on any topic she desires) – the masses don’t care about my words, in general. They care about compelling content.
Last weekend a woman told me her goal is to become a keynote speaker. I was surprised because I hadn’t heard her give any talks before, and when I asked her what she was interested in speaking about, she mentioned off-handedly a book and author she admired. I think, like many of us, she was craving to be seen by others. The thing is, keynote speakers are not born, they are made. We don’t get invited to speak on a stage because we can talk about any topic well – we get invited because we have something specific to offer this distinct group. Speakers work on their craft and continue learning how to tell their stories in a way that will move others to action. Speakers lead with the content they feel passionate about – adding value to others.
We all need to be seen. So how do we raise visibility for ourselves, in an authentic way?
4 Steps for Visibility in a Cluttered World
Identify What you Feel Passionate About
Often identifying passions feels too big – like what the heck do I want to do with the rest of my life? Don’t take yourself too seriously. Early this year all I wanted to do was talk about the nuances of Salesforce Files. Now I can’t stop talking about Career Effectiveness. Find the itch, and write about it, tweet about it. Comment on blogs and LinkedIn posts and Tweets of others that have written about it. You don’t have to be all things to all people, nor even write about it. Pick a path you care about it, and start talking.
Show Up Before you Feel Ready
Many people, including many women I know, will defer when I identify an area in them that I feel they are uniquely suited to write about, or step up and do a presentation. “I don’t know enough yet.” “Maybe next year.” “I’m too busy to make time for that.” The truth is, no one ever feels ready. At some point, we just need to show up. Write about it before we feel confident. Speak before we feel ready. Especially in the world of technology, no one can know everything all of the time. We must step into courage and show up to start being visible to ourselves and to others.
Lead with the Content, not with Yourself (Do the Work)
One of my favorite speakers in the Salesforce ecosystem is Leah McGowen-Hare. I’ve seen her kill it on the main stage at Dreamforce talking about new Salesforce functionality, and just as powerfully, move a room of hundreds last month on a panel on equality – with her authenticity and sense of humor, and real talk about what it’s been like to be mistaken for the student, instead of the teacher.
Leah McGowen-Hare didn’t end up on the main stage by focusing solely on promoting herself (though she had to show up, and continue to show up) — she arrived there by doing the work, and adding value to the people she encountered – as colleagues, students, community members. This is the key: as we speak and write and tweet about the topics we care about – focus on how that content will add value to others, and the visibility will follow.
This interview via Small Business Trends highlights Leah McGowen-Hare’s approach:
“Listen, this is what I tell people to focus on. Focus on adding value, and I promise everything else falls in place.
I started rising, getting more visibility, I had already done the work, right? I had been in the classroom for years. A lot of people knew me from teaching them and enabling others. Part of my career was really servicing others to help them better their career or better their company or better their customer experience. So, it wasn’t about, oh, me-me-me, it was about, let me show you how you can do this.
Master your skill, do not be intimidated, know your stuff, right? And help others, because I’m telling you, it’s infectious.”
– Leah McGowen-Hare as told to SmallBizTrends.com
Use your Stories to Illustrate a Call to Action
A few years ago I got great mentoring advice from Amy Pannu on a presentation I was giving. She asked me – “Can you make the same point by telling a story?” This advice transformed the way I deliver a message and made me a more compelling speaker. I presented on Driving Adoption and Buy-In using Storytelling at Dreamforce a couple of years ago – and now there’s even a trail on Trailhead to learn more about Storytelling and Communication.
A friend recently submitted an abstract to present her personal career story at a regional conference. She was on the right track – sharing pieces of authentic stories are THE way to move people – yet our stories need to be part of a broader goal of encouragement or moving people to action. How I became a founder of my own company is not interesting in itself – it is the leadership lessons I’ve learned along the way that become a call to encouragement and action to others. That is the presentation nexus, not my journey. My journey is a way to illustrate the points I want to make that will add value to others.
Gaining visibility takes courage, and intention. But with a few small steps, others can get encouraged and challenged by your ideas. It’s worth it!
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