The Social Media Jackpot That’s Your Worst Nightmare

Opinion: On stage, you are naked and alone, stripped of your digital cloak of invisibility

Public speaking is one of the most pervasive fears we all share
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One thing, above all others, skyrockets your credibility, your authority and your reach. And chances are, it scares the bejeezus out of you.

Public speaking is one of the most pervasive fears we all share. Glenn Croston, writing for Psychology Today, named it “The Thing We Fear More Than Death,” and survey after survey shows that this is not far from the truth.

In social media circles, speaking is the hottest commodity on the market. It’s one of the most valuable things you can do to bolster your career, build your brand and boost your bottom line.

To get a handle on this subject, I spoke with a few well-known keynote speakers about how they approach public speaking, their goals and their returns on investment, both direct and intangible.

Connect with your audience

Tomas Gorny, Nextiva founder and keynote speaker at NextCon, told me how he prepares for an upcoming gig:

“When I step onto the stage, I am my brand, the face of Nextiva. If I am not credible, neither is my company. Before I take that step, I make sure I know exactly how I will engage the audience. It’s no longer about lecturing. Like social media itself, speaking has become interactive. Your audience is part of the show, and your task is not to lecture, but to connect, on an individual level, regardless of the number of people in the room. When you make that connection, each listener takes away a personal experience. And when you do that, what you say truly resonates. You create trust. It’s trust that drives authority, and authority that drives business.”

Mark Schaefer, author of KNOWN: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age, expanded on the importance of making those connections:

“The central key to marketing today is building an emotional connection to your audience. Doing that through social media and web content may take years to achieve. But in a live presentation, you make an immediate impact. People see you, hear you, connect to you in a live environment. They can feel your passion and sense your authority in a way that could never happen in a blog post or podcast interview.”

Supercharge your social presence

Jason Falls, speaker, author and consultant, talked about building authority and reach:

“The minute you start public speaking in this day and age, you become someone with impact, because the audiences now are tweeting, Instagramming and Facebooking what they’re learning. Suddenly, new circles of people see your name and your avatar and associate you with some level of expertise. It’s like a small billboard to the world every time you speak that says, ‘I know a thing or two.’”

Get direct ROI

RazorSocial founder and professional speaker Ian Cleary agreed, adding that the authority you gain from speaking can translate directly to your bottom line:

“Speaking at industry events helps build authority that can quickly turn into business. We recently acquired a global client because they followed our content online for six months, but what sealed the deal was when they heard us speak at an event.”

Josh Steimle, founder and CEO of MWI, author, speaker and journalist, also told me about direct ROI from a speaking engagement:

“Before I lived in Hong Kong, in 2013, I visited on a fact-finding trip and was able to arrange a speaking engagement at a self-storage industry conference. From the presentation I gave, my marketing agency secured two clients, which really eased our entry into the Asian market.”

Make the most of it

Brian Carter, keynote speaker and author, stressed the importance of being memorable:

“People prefer to listen to the most exceptional, most interesting and most authoritative people. Everything exceptional you can do makes you more interesting, especially the stuff people are afraid of, like speaking, or the things that are tough, like writing a book. When you write and speak, you not only have more credibility, but you also get better at grabbing and holding attention, and that translates into how you do social media and everything else. When you can show video of you speaking, you’re more interesting than other people. When that video shows you in front of a large crowd, that’s social proof that people listen to you, and the video viewer is more likely to, as well. If that video has the audience laughing because you’re witty, most people see you as smarter and more interesting. Some people also tend to like, follow, support and encourage people who are expressing themselves, and speaking is a courageous form of self-expression.”

Overcome the fear

If public speaking is so important, how do you get past the fear and put yourself out there? Adam Grant, professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Give and Take, wrote a great story about how he overcame his fear of public speaking. His advice:

  • Don’t try to calm down. Be excited instead.
  • Practice in front of an audience.
  • Turn off the lights.
  • Know your audience.
  • Lead with a puzzle, question or story.

Come out of hiding

It’s easy to hide behind social media, where you can be witty, thoughtful and measured at your own pace, and Where you can hire a social media team to be clever in your name.

On stage, you are naked and alone, stripped of your digital cloak of invisibility. That’s what makes it so powerful, so personal, so brutally authentic. You give the audience an opportunity to feel your passion and share in your knowledge. And that’s why it works. And that’s why you should.

Sherry Gray is a freelance content writer from Key West, Fla., currently suffering in the suburbs of Orlando. She is a science geek, a social media junkie and an unapologetic fan of all things bacon. Follow her on Twitter: @SheriSaid.