7 Tips to Become a Channel Thought Leader

Today, thought leadership has three legs: writing, social and speaking.

Lorna Garey

January 14, 2019

7 Slides

What separates a channel-industry influencer from just another person with an opinion? Influencers have personal brands that they back up with knowledge, thought-provoking and timely insights, and a little sass. They are active in their fields, using social media – especially Twitter and LinkedIn – to share and comment on articles, videos, announcements and news in a way that demonstrates their commitment to the community. They’re not “knowledge hoarders,” but understand that sharing good ideas tends to give rise to even better ideas.

And they’re not shy about speaking up, whether at a small gathering of customers or colleagues or in front of a large audience.


Forrester’s Jay McBain

It’s that last step to influencer gold status – public speaking – that trips many tech people up. While there are volumes written about how to address crowds effectively, three of the very best orators in the IT and channel space have remarkably similar advice.

“It is all about how you make people feel,” says Jay McBain, principal analyst, global channels for Forrester. “Attendees will forget almost everything you say and show – and even you – but a great speaker leaves people with a feeling that they will never forget. So much time is spent preparing the perfect words and charts without focusing on the storytelling and emotional component that will have a lasting impact.”

Tiffani Bova, global customer growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, and author of “Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices That Will Make or Break Your Business,” stresses the criticality of finding your own voice and style.

As part of our “In Focus” series, we feature a series of galleries designed to help partners grow their businesses in 2019 and beyond.


Salesforce’s Tiffani Bova

“Don’t try to be someone else on stage,” Bova says. And, never turn down an opportunity to get some practice.

“To become a better speaker, you have to actually speak more,” she says. “You don’t need a big stage or even a stage at all. Run a meeting, present to your team, your company, the PTA — whatever, just start doing it. Work out the nerves and get better each time. And remember: People can earn more money, but they can’t get time back. If they are going to sit for a half hour or an hour to hear you speak, you have to make it valuable. This is where preparation pays off. If you don’t care enough to prepare, why should they care enough to listen?”

Andi Mann, chief technology advocate at Splunk and a regular speaker at IT conferences, adds that when it comes to slide decks, less is more.


Splunk’s Andi Mann

More visuals, less text,” says Mann. “Your slides are to support the talk track. Build the content you need to help you make the point, then kill all the text. Put it in the notes if you need it, but keep the slides visual.”

And don’t be held back by fear.

“Be comfortable being nervous,” says Mann. “You will be nervous. Branson is still nervous in front of a crowd. I am. Every speaker I talk to is. Even with years of experience. It’s OK, you’re not an imposter. You are just human.”

Of course, McBain, Bova and Mann didn’t get onto the big stage circuit by accident. They built their brands step by step, and so can you. Today, thought leadership has three legs: writing, social and speaking. Click through our slide show above for seven tips on becoming a channel thought leader.

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