How Speaking Your Core Message
Can Build Your Business
My guest Carol Cox works with high-performing women entrepreneurs who want to increase their visibility as they grow their business. She helps them create their signature talk and develop a visibility plan to have more influence in their industry or community. On the side, during election season here in Orlando, Carol also serves as a democratic political analyst. She’s been doing this about 12 years when she can and has loved politics and international relations since high school.
Speaking Builds Business… When Your Message Is Clear
Speaking Your Brand is the third business Carol has built, and she knows that relationships are the bedrock of business. To build relationships, Carol highly recommends speaking as a key skill for entrepreneurs to polish. Face-to-face interactions encourage people to do business with you, she says. Tapping into your community and giving back by speaking is a great way to reach out.
The secret to connecting with your audience is sharing personal stories, which can feel vulnerable or scary even to those who enjoy speaking. Yet it’s one of the best ways to increase that know-like-and-trust factor with listeners. Online today, there’s so much noise, options and content that people don’t truly connect with you there. Speaking at conferences, events, associations, and local networking groups—that’s where you develop deep and beneficial relationships.
I love that Carol helps people to face their speaking fears. I never expected to do public speaking myself, but today I recommend many of my executive clients become speakers. Benefits include trust-building and forcing you to develop a clear message, as well as becoming more comfortable with yourself, sharing your own story, and experiencing vulnerability.
So many leaders, executives and entrepreneurs have an inconsistent message, which unfortunately impacts their credibility level. If your audience, whether your team or the wider world, can’t relate to you consistently and know what you stand for, they won’t see you as an expert or authority. Speaking is a must!
How to Focus Your Message
One of the biggest challenges Carol’s clients have is the volume of content and expertise they want to share. Whether through a long career or specialization, all their knowledge, in 45 mins, cannot be absorbed. Her goal is distilling out the core message into 3 to 5 points that will be understandable to the audience, relevant, and immediately applicable.
Typically, Carol works in “intensives,” about six hours in one day, or three if working virtually. She likes the momentum this approach builds and how ideas stay connected. Asking a ton of questions, she takes her clients through a 3-act structure storyboard, from the opening of the presentation to the closing, and how everything ties in. At the end, the client has a polished signature speech.
To focus your message, Carol says ask yourself this question: “If you can only tell your audience one thing, what would it be?” Then boil down that key point into a short tweet and from there build it up again into your speech. I believe Carol’s process is valuable in the corporate world, too.
Carol finds that most of her service-based provider clients, though they may not have recognized it yet, are doing the same types of things with all their clients. So she also helps them see that and create a framework for their signature system. She says it’s not that they can’t figure this out or do this themselves, but they are too close to see it clearly and do it easily.
I had intended to do this myself but ended up procrastinating—generating draining catabolic energy that can zap productivity. Working with Carol was enjoyable and it was so much easier to have someone else walk me through the process. I encourage anyone putting this off to catch yourself and find someone with the right skills to help you get this done. It will save you tons of time and energy!
Starting a Completely New Business
Carol formed Speaking Your Brand in 2014, as she closed down and transitioned away from a well-established (12+ years), completely different software business with her husband. “I’d gotten a history degree and taken a left turn into programming to make a living.” But in the long run, it wasn’t for her.
Like Carol, many professionals hit a plateau in their career and ask themselves, “Is this what I really want to do for the rest of my life?” One day, working on a website, she hit the wall and decided to close the door. It was scary. “That business had been our livelihood and my skill set.”
At first she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, and considered going back to school to turn her masters into a PhD. But she couldn’t afford to do it full-time, as the school insisted. In talking to people, the genesis of Speaking Your Brand came about. She went back to her love of people and learning about people, and she found a way to do that for a living.
I love that Carol didn’t just tame her dissatisfied thoughts and keep on. The longer people wait to try something new and better, unfortunately, the harder it gets. Because Carol listened to herself and coached herself through that “aha” moment, she could leave while she was still doing well. When you hang on to the end of your endurance, you are unhappy and your clients feel it. The path of least resistance is the one that delivers the most value and success—usually making that leap.
Carol allowed herself to ramp up over 1-1.5 years, without running herself ragged. They stopped taking web projects as she started to work with speaking clients and understand her own process. She’s grateful that she had the freedom and space to organically evolve.
In 2016, her business quadrupled in one year, and now she is working on training others to do what she does, so she can begin to scale her business independently of herself. By scaling sustainably like this, you can step away from the day-to-day operations and live the life you choose. Because this has been her focus, she now helping her clients discover their scalable repeatable business model too.
Book Recommendation: Built to Sell
Carol is an avid reader, digesting about 50 books a year, mostly nonfiction and history. She recommends Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You by John Warrillow and Bo Burlingham, a business parable and a quick one-weekend read. Carol’s takeaway is that if service-based providers can figure out the single offering they can sell, they can create a scalable repeatable business.
I love this. As owners and entrepreneurs, we often pride ourselves as the face of our business. This tactic may be great at first, building our credibility, but eventually we need to allow our business to grow without us. Carol says it is possible to extract your process and teach it to others. They will do it in a slightly different way, but there will always be people who love how they do that.
Also check out Carol’s podcast, Speaking Your Brand, with many excellent episodes to help you create and speak your presentations. (I was her guest on episode 58.)
She offers resources at SpeakingYourBrand.com/Belinda where you can download visibility roadmaps and her speech storyboard mentioned earlier. I encourage you to check out her materials; working with her was an outstanding experience that I highly recommend.
Carol Cox is the founder of Speaking Your Brand, which helps high-performing, purpose-driven women entrepreneurs and professionals shape their business and personal brands, share their message, and become recognized as influencers in their field. Carol is a podcaster, speaker, and sought-after presenter and trainer on public speaking, business storytelling, and women’s leadership. Carol teaches business and marketing classes at a university and during election seasons serves as a Democratic political analyst on TV news. Prior to Speaking Your Brand, Carol founded and ran two software businesses, whose clients included Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, community organizations, and political candidates. Carol holds a Master’s degree in History from Emory University, where she was a recipient of the Javits Fellowship for graduate study, and she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s degree in History.