Amber Case is an entrepreneur who studies the intersection of technology and human behavior. Amber focuses on the ways that technology can help people without getting in their way – a discipline she calls “cyborg anthropology.” A prolific writer and speaker, Amber has presented at TED, was a keynote at SXSW 2012, and has spoken at conferences in Europe and Asia. Amber is 26 years old.
Amber credits her high school speech and debate experience with giving her the knowledge and confidence to speak in front of a crowd. The practice she got when competing in intermural debates gives her the ability to turn on a dime when the audience isn’t reacting. Amber likens this skill to that of the gypsies, who would come into a town, gauge the audience in just a few minutes and determine what to adjust in their acts. She is also confident taking questions from the audience. But all of this experience didn’t automatically bring her speaking invitations – so she went after them.
Using the tactics described above, Amber positioned herself in the line of sight for events. She planned ahead and only gave her attention to events that addressed her area of focus: technology and the human experience. She started locally, giving a presentation at the Inverge event in Portland, Oregon, where she lives. She got the gig by approaching Steve Gehlen, the person in charge of the Creative Convergence Conference.
She offered him this value proposition: “You need a young person to speak at your conference.” She heard nothing for weeks, and then, at the last minute, a scheduled speaker had to cancel. Gehlen called Amber and invited to speak for five minutes, but she asked for ten minutes and got it.
Always strategic, Amber used Twitter to reach the extended, off-site audience during her talk. She made sure each slide she used had less than 140 characters of text, so it could be easily retweeted (see the Events chapter). Amber tweeted “be sure to follow me so you can get information live from the conference.” She asked a friend to sit in the back of the room and tweet each slide with the event hashtag. Her goal was to get the maximum exposure from social media in the ten minutes that she had on stage.
Not only did she achieve the goal of increasing her reach beyond the conference, but her presentation was covered by the Portland Business Journal. This led to an invitation to speak at MIT. Inverge’s keynote speaker was to be given by someone from MIT, and Amber knew that if she spoke at Inverge she would have a chance of catching his attention. Amber had already set a goal to speak at MIT before she reached the age of 27, so this connection was just what she needed to make that happen. Sure enough, the keynote speaker got wind of her talk and invited her to speak at the Futures of Entertainment conference at MIT.
Soon after that came South by Southwest 2010, where her presentation was scheduled for a room that was off the main flow of traffic at the conference. Given how far the room was from the main venue, only the people most interested in Amber’s topic attended. As she tells it, “There were only a hundred people in the room, but they were all nerdy so they understood my talk and gave it great reviews.” These great reviews, coupled with Amber continuing to grow her audience and staying on track with her speaking goals (which included speaking at TED) gained her the coveted SXSW Keynote address in 2012.
Here are Amber’s tips for creating a public speaking presence as part of your personal brand strategy:
- Position yourself correctly and plan which events to target as your public speaking goals
- View the slidedecks and videos of presenters you like, and develop your own personal style
- Find the leaders in your discipline – the people who know everyone or are the keepers of the knowledge – and get to know them. In the process, they’ll get to know you and will help bring you into the community
- Learn the language of the community and connect with the people, in person as well as online
- Get to know the people who have spoken at the specific events where you’d like to speak. These people are the connectors who can facilitate introductions and help you get speaking invitations.
The value of speaking in public is the visibility and credibility it brings, which can help your career tremendously. “Being a speaker is the most efficient way to meet everyone in the room,” Amber says. They’ll get to know you and remember you. Putting your slides on SlideShare provides a way to keep in touch, leverages what you created, and extends it to the broader audience worldwide.