You may have prepared for the new year by setting goals, clearing out the clutter from your office, deleting unwanted files from your devices, and changing the calendar on your wall. But have you thought about updating your speaker’s toolbox?
If you speak in meetings, address clients, participate in industry conferences, talk with your employees, present to a board of directors, or pitch investors, you are a speaker. And if you follow me, you know that how you communicate and show up in person or online can affect your business, career, and reputation, for better or worse.
When was the last time you did a personal brand inventory? You are a breathing, walking, talking brand. People judge most things by their cover, including other people. Your brand attributes are expressed in your LinkedIn and social media profiles, biography, email signature, your self-introduction, how you dress, and many other ways you may not consider. Plus, your verbal and non-verbal communication are among the many assets that are uniquely yours. Safeguard them all.
Here is a short checklist to get your speaker’s toolbox ready for the new year:
1. Update your professional portrait.
It’s wise to replace your headshot every two years. Anything beyond that can show marked changes in your appearance. If you’re still using your MBA graduation photo, people may question your professionalism. Have you changed your hairstyle? Did you grow a beard? Do you wear glasses now? It’s time to update your portrait and make it consistent across all your accounts.
2. Refresh your physical set or virtual background.
If you work from home often, aim to spruce up décor by adding some plants, changing out the wall art, or adding new books, memorabilia, and decorative items. Maybe it’s time to invest in better lighting, so you look alert and energetic on the screen. If you use a virtual background and are not bound to your company’s brand guidelines, tweak the artwork to reflect a new beginning.
3. Revise your biography.
Did you change jobs, get a promotion, or win awards? Edit dates and references to the number of years in a role, experience, or accomplishments in the past. Make sure the numbers make sense. Add recent hobbies or details of interest to reflect current trends. Have versions in various lengths for different occasions and platforms but make sure there is brand consistency across all of them.
4. Tweak your elevator pitch.
If you’ve been using the same 30- to 60-second pitch about you and your business for years, it may be time to add new colorful details. I like to follow the structure: I help (insert), my expertise is (insert), and a call to action or how to contact me. You can add a recent example of a client you helped, a successful deal, or how a product performed. Here is mine:
I help bilingual business leaders speak with impact. I transform poor speakers into rockstars, like a recent non-profit CEO who overcame stage fright and got a standing ovation. My method draws from decades as a communications leader and TV host to provide customized coaching in English and Spanish in person and online.
5. Upgrade your technology.
Download the latest version of Zoom or your favorite video streaming app. Familiarize yourself with new features that will improve your ZoomScore™ and enhance your virtual presence. Look at your hardware. Is it time to upgrade your webcam, light kit, or microphone? With video conferencing at the centerpiece of the workday, there is a vast array of affordable equipment available to help you look and sound better.
6. Order new business cards.
If you need to restock your business cards, think about making minor improvements. What can you add or delete that better communicates and differentiates your brand? Consider a digital card instead of a printed one. Two popular apps for digital networking are Linq and Popl. Even if you work in a corporate environment where templates rule, there may still be room for minor enhancements.
7. Check your voice mail message and email signature.
Do you have a custom greeting on your phone? If you changed or reset your smartphone, likely your personalized voice mail greeting defaulted to the system setting. It’s worth a quick check. Look at your email signature. If you have the freedom to create your own, ask yourself if it represents your professional brand in 2023.
And one more tip: if you work remotely and spend a lot of time in front of the webcam, consider investing in a few new garments for your Zoom wardrobe. How you look matters. We live in a hyper-visual world where first impressions are cast in as little as seven seconds.
Before your next mainstage speech, industry panel, staff meeting, or sales call—no matter how big or small—every opportunity to use your voice to share your ideas and influence others should carry your unique brand. Make it a habit to audit your brand presence across all touchpoints periodically. It will serve you well all year long.