How to Build Your Organization’s Reputation and Yours

Even if you are NOT the CEO of your company, every time you open your mouth at a networking event, call a client’s company, or speak up at your own meetings, you are enhancing—or diminishing—both your own reputation and that of your company.

In February, for the second time, I attended and spoke at the Ragan Speechwriter Conference. Both times, I found it one of the most fun and educational events of the year. Carol Ballock of described some impressive research from Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations and public affairs firm. It found that in 1997, CEOs’ reputations made up 40% of the reputation of the organization they run. By 2003, that number had reached 50%.

Years ago, I spoke in Las Vegas at a Century 21 convention. Paul Harvey, also on the program, told the audience: “For a company’s advertising program to work, it has to be handled not only corporately but also individually.” I could not have said it better.

More and more organizations are now recognizing this wisdom and the need for their people at all levels to seek out speaking engagements. Much of my time now goes to helping executives design their presentations.

Here are a few tips I give them that you may find helpful.

  • The PowerPoint® comes last! Design your message first…add visuals only if needed.
  • the stories you entertain your family and dinner guests with.
  • Talk about what you are most passionate about, and find the metaphor for the subject of your speech.
  • Ahead of time, interview some of the audience members—your customers, associates of your firm, or other leaders in your industry—and quote them in your talk.
  • Don’t try to say too much. Say less, illustrate it well, and stop.
  • Shake hands and talk to some of the audience in advance. The more personable they see you are, the more attention they will give you.
  • Get comfortable in the room where you will be speaking. Practice before anyone arrives. Make friends with the stage, platform, or front of the room.
  • Start early! Get your concept, content, and scripting together and practice. If you walk or get on the treadmill, that is a great time to “talk to yourself.” Get comfortable with the words. Your goal is to know it so well you can forget it. As Michael Caine says, “Rehearsal is the work, performance is the relaxation.”
  • Edit your notes to an outline with bullet points. Do NOT read your speech or remarks. You want to be personable, not perfect.
  • Make sure the type face on your notes is large enough so you can glance down and read it easily. I use 22pt type!
  • Watch the word “stuff.” It is not specific and diminishes the power of what you are saying. When my clients say this as we develop their remarks, I always ask, “Specifically, what do your mean?”
  • Delete most of the “today’s” out of your remarks. Start listening to how overused that word is in most business presentations. It is used to mean “this time in history” and “right now.” Everybody knows you are in the room now. Stop “todaying” your audience. One executive I watched used the T word 28 times in his 4 minute welcome. Even if his audiences were not counting them as I was, they would perceive him as less articulate than he was expected to be.

You may or may not be a CEO—yet—but being perceived as a charismatic speaker will help your ambitions and reputation!