3 Ways Public Speaking Can Fuel Your Board Career



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If you are a corporate director – or aspire to be one – I encourage you to add public speaking to your platform. It is a highly effective way to boost visibility, enhance your credibility, and expand your professional network.

Practicing what I preach, I spoke at a conference last weekend. I gladly accepted the invitation when the event was only a rough sketch of ideas. Trusting the organizer’s passion for the subject, I knew that time in front of whatever audience she assembled would be worthwhile.

The event exceeded my expectations – far exceeded, in fact. The other speakers were big names in our field and it was a complete privilege to share the stage with them. Furthermore, it was the attendees who made the event most meaningful for me. They were deeply engaged and so appreciative of the discussion. I must have enjoyed three dozen high-quality conversations with people I would gladly meet again.

You may ask, “On what topic would anyone want to listen to me speak?” Just as every person has a story, I know you have valuable expertise to share. The key question relates to identifying a topic or two that align well with what you have to offer a board.

When I work with clients in my Boardroom Blueprint program, we frame a candidate’s board offer in three phases, as represented in the following image (also found here, if needed).

Communicating your interest

The outer ring captures one’s general field of interest. The second ring becomes more specific, describing areas of relevant experience. Finally, in the “bullseye”, we isolate the field in which the candidate is known for knowing something. For example, a digital-savvy director may have interest in consumer-facing organizations impacted by digital forces. He may have relevant experience serving on the boards of retail and financial services companies. Now and in the future, boards will value his expertise in fintech and e-commerce.

I would encourage this director to scan the conference calendar for events in his areas of expertise, retail and financial services, along with gatherings of corporate governance professionals. He can then bring a director’s perspective to overseeing risk and strategy, with particular focus on organizations touched by his sweet spot of expertise.

With strategically-aligned subject matter in mind, it is easier to find the right forum for delivery. Scanning your network for those connected to event organizers is a productive first step. Introducing yourself to speakers and organizers at events we enjoy is another good option. Some conferences issue a call for proposals and it’s important to submit ideas when they do. As executive Colleen Moorehead said recently, “Most good things happen to people because they put their hand in the air.”

You may be wondering whether this effort is worthwhile. Fortunately, I see three key benefits whenever I speak publicly.

Become known for knowing something

As I said previously, boards recruit directors who fill a need. Rather than hoping for boards to discover you, speaking puts you on their radar. There is no better way to become more visible on the topics related to your board offer.

By hearing you communicate, those influencing board recruitment also witness the clear, convincing way that you explain your field of expertise. I have seen candidates lose out on board opportunities because their interview responses lacked polished structure. Speaking affords an opportunity to reflect on key messages and convey them in a compelling, easily-digestible manner.

Make an impression on an executive recruiter

I recently heard an executive search professional stress the importance of aspiring directors making face-to-face contact with board recruiters. Apparently, “board work is a contact sport.” A search firm can’t recommend you to a client if they don’t know how you present yourself. They need to be able to say, “I know her and she will fit well with the board.” When recruiters see you stand and deliver, they are more likely to include you on a short list.

Collaborate with someone you admire

For an upcoming governance conference, I’ve put together a panel discussion on how to bring young, digital experts onto a board. I’ve followed my fellow panelists over the years, but I don’t know them well. We could get together over coffee, but the speaking opportunity gives us the context for collaboration. Why chat passively with someone you admire when you can build something together instead? That brief connection may lead to a board opportunity long after the shared project wraps up.

Shake off your resistance to networking

As much as I love meeting new people, I find mingling with large conference crowds intimidating. This isn’t the case, however, when I’m scheduled to stand before the audience. Speakers never have trouble finding someone to talk to – people come, they listen and they will remember us!


I have one final tip: At your next few speaking gigs, get someone to take photos of you presenting. Those images can help you get other opportunities in the future, especially when you are standing in front of a large, engaged crowd. In an ideal world, you would also have someone shoot some video. Spliced together footage can then showcase your work for those who never see you live, but hear all about your talents.

Question: Has public speaking supported your board career trajectory? What other benefits do you enjoy when you share your expertise with a crowd? Please share your thoughts via Twitter or LinkedIn.




3 Ways Public Speaking Can Fuel Your Board Career

by Tamara time to read: 4 min