Conferences need women speakers like you

Conferences need women speakers like you

Nearly a decade ago, I went to a conference for people wanting to establish themselves as “experts” in their field. I was pretty excited because this particular conference was, and still is, a major event in the industry.

There were probably 7,000 or so people attending the conference that year, which promised huge results, dynamic and engaging speakers, and life-changing strategies.

Walking into the conference building was especially exciting because the crowd filing into the huge room was diverse in every sense of the word–from age, gender, and ethnicity to style of dress and accents.

And we were all excitedly waiting to hear from the conference speakers who would teach, advise, and coach us for the next five days. These speakers had achieved the success that we all desperately wanted, and now they were going to share the secret formula with us.

This conference was a PRODUCTION. It was like a cross between a university classroom, a personal development seminar, and a rock concert. Probably hard to envision, but it was truly something to witness.

What I remember most from that event, however, is not the information shared by the conference’s speakers or the incredible theatrics. The loudest and strongest message none was one that no one ever said a word about.

Literally every speaker was a 40-50 year old white guy–for five straight days of the conference. There were no women. Definitely no people of color. I even think 80% of the speakers wore the same jeans and button down shirt.

The nagging feeling I kept getting, despite the words coming out of their mouths, was that this kind of career path was not for 20-something year old black women, but for middle-aged white guys.

Even though the crowd looked like a diversity stock photo, we basically got a five-day manel: there were only white male speakers for the entire time five days. The conference was good, don’t get me wrong. But it also kind of felt like many of us were watching an amazing party that we weren’t really invited to.

Looking back on that experience and the past ten years of my life, I remember being sooooo excited about being at that conference and receiving the blueprint, but hesitating to really stake my claim for years because I had never seen anyone who looked like me stand up and do it.

The men at this conference were the pioneers and experts, and they didn’t seem to have any successful colleagues in the industry who weren’t also white and male. The foregone conclusion was that no one would pay women or people of color to do this work. It was a bit depressing.

My one experience could probably be multiplied by millions of other people. This is why conferences need women experts like you. You have attained successes and knowledge that should be shared. Your voice is important.

Please consider pitching yourself as a speaker for conferences, workshops panels, and events. Yes, it’s good for your brand and business, but it also makes a difference for the people in the audience, as I’ve written about elsewhere.

I have been keeping a running list of conferences for women entrepreneurs–including those I’d like to to attend myself and those I’d love to speak at one day. I think there are about 100 conferences on the list right now.

I’m including it here in the hopes that you also look for opportunities to pitch yourself as a speaker.

To view, search, or download the entire file, click here.

I always say that I’m on a mission to build a nation of good people with dynamic personal brands and successful businesses. We can learn from each other on this journey, particularly when we have accountability partners. This is why I am building a whole nation of them.

Download the app

You can connect to the the private community I’ve created to provide support and encouragement along the journey–online and via app. Check us out at programs.shontavia.com or via the Mighty Networks App.

Download the Mighty Network app by clicking here. Once it downloads, click “Find a Mighty Network” and search for Shontavia Johnson. You’ll find content there that I may not share elsewhere.

Thank you so much for joining me on this roller coaster of an experience. I am eternally grateful that I get to do this work with wonderful people each day.

Let’s make it happen,

The importance of going to conferences

The importance of going to conferences

I recently came to grips with the fact that I am about 90% an extroverted introvert. I did not know this kind of introvert existed, but once I did a little research, I realized that this is basically my tribe. I won’t bore you with all the details, but extroverted introverts are both intrigued and exhausted by people, need time to warm up in social situations, and are selectively social.

Check. Check. Aaaaaaand, check.

All of this leads to me feeling like a fish out of water at conferences many times. Especially large ones. I don’t like wearing those huge nametags. Small talk is hard. The business card exchange makes me anxious because of the pressure to follow up with 60 different people within 3-5 business days. As you can tell, I’ve given this some thought.

This meme mostly sums up the range of my conference-going experience.

Sometimes I’m the dancing kid, trying to figure out how to catch someone’s attention to have a conversation. Sometimes I’m the girl on the right, who ain’t trying to be bothered. Sometimes I’m the little guy at the end, who tries to jump into a situation that’s already started. Sometimes I’m the lady in the back in purple, just trying to look busy. Tragic on all counts!

Even with all of this, there is significant value in going to the right conferences. So, I continue to bite the bullet, dust of my people skills, and go to them. I suggest that you do the same, for three reasons: (1) to learn from leaders and experts in your field; (2) to build a network of similar-minded colleagues; and (3) to find speaking opportunities.

FYI: At the end of this article, I share where you can find the running list of conferences I keep for women entrepreneurs.

Now, on to the reasons I think you should attend conferences.

#1: To learn from leaders and experts in your field

While we all are brilliant and have mastered the art of Google and Wikipedia searches, this stuff is typically surface level. To go deeper, and really learn about best practices, latest trends, relevant research, and new tools, some of the best avenues are conferences.

Most conference organizers want to provide significant value to conference-goers so that they keep coming back. This is why conferences often feature the best leaders, speakers, and result-getters in their industry. It would be nearly impossible to connect with all of these folks one-on-one in regular life. Conferences are about the closest you’ll come, and the lunches, breaks, and downtime may give you an opportunity to closely interact with some of these people.

Just last week, I attended the Fulbright Association Conference, where I was a speaker. I stuck around for the full conference, which I don’t always do if I’m just a guest.

At any rate, over Saturday’s lunch, I sat next to another speaker, and she gave me literally the step by step blueprint for receiving a Fulbright Specialist award, which I’ve been spinning my wheels about for some time (I’m on the specialist roster but haven’t received an award in three years). Her insight was invaluable, and she freely shared it with me because we were in close proximity with each other. She told me things that I would never find through a Google search.

None of this would’ve happened had I not participated in the conference. So, personal growth, learning and education is a huge benefit of going to conferences.

#2: To build a network of similar-minded colleagues

Networking is another benefit to conferences. Now, “networking” is a term I used to hear and roll my eyes, because I did not really understand or see the value in it. My whole #schmood and approach to all things work-related was Marshawn Lynch-esque.

I wanted to get in, get out, and spend my free time doing other things. But this was shortsighted. What I appreciate now is that the things I want out of life require me to level up, and I may not have the experience or access to do this on my own. My network of experienced colleagues and champions, however, have helped me navigate all kinds of new spaces.

My network has helped me get jobs, clients, travel opportunities, speaking engagements, and all kinds of things. My network has also relied on my expertise too–if you’ve got legal questions, entrepreneurship struggles, or personal brand goals, I’m your woman. And if you’re part of my tribe, I’m happy to help you.

Conferences are one of the best places to find this kind of network for yourself and be this kind of network for other people. If large groups of people have gathered together, you must have similar fields, backgrounds or interests. There will be people at conferences who you can learn from and people who you can be of service to as well.

When I go to conferences now, I only go to those that I believe will be valuable for whatever my needs are at the moment. And, I don’t go with selfish interests–I go to be of service to others and not just to look for who can do something for me.

Last year, Minda Harts from the #SecureTheSeat podcast did a show on networking, which I’m going to link to here and embed below. She and her guest, Veleisa Patton Burrell, offered some good suggestions about networking that are applicable to conferences and other events.

#3 To find speaking opportunities

Part of my brand and business revolve around my speaking engagements. As some of you know, I am signed to a speakers bureau, Gravity Speakers, and give a number of talks, remarks, and speeches each year.

One of the best places to scope out speaking opportunities is, you guessed it, at conferences! If you’re going to a conference as an attendee, you’ll get a feel for the type and quality of speaker the organization is looking for. You’ll also get a definite vibe for what is missing (often missing are women, POC, people with different abilities/disabilities, etc.). You could put yourself on the organization’s radar for next time, or check out the Call for Speakers for future years.

In addition, if you’re going to a conference as a speaker, your next speaking gig may come from that! If you kill it, there may be people in the audience who invite you to come speak elsewhere. This has happened to me on more than a few occasions.

So, my love-hate relationship with conferences doesn’t have that much “hate” after all!

What is your approach to conferences? Do you find them valuable? If you go, what kinds of strategies do you use to avoid awkwardness? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Please give as much information as you can in response to these questions. I’d be happy to share more tools and resources that help you get what you want. And, I know the other folks reading this can learn from your experiences! We are all in this together.

I always say that I’m on a mission to build a nation of good people with dynamic personal brands and successful businesses. We can learn from each other on this journey, particularly when we have accountability partners. This is why I am building a whole nation of them.

Download the app

You can connect to the the private community I’ve created to provide support and encouragement along the journey–online and via app. Check us out at programs.shontavia.com or via the Mighty Networks App.

Download the Mighty Network app by clicking here. Once it downloads, click “Find a Mighty Network” and search for Shontavia Johnson. You’ll find content there that I may not share elsewhere.

Thank you so much for joining me on this roller coaster of an experience. I am eternally grateful that I get to do this work with wonderful people each day.

Let’s make it happen,

Getting Everything Done? Nope.

Getting Everything Done? Nope.

I don’t know about you, but there have been many days where I wake up and before I know it the day is completely over. I’m amazed at how quickly the hours can go.

Between a full time job, my company (which is another full time job, just on early mornings, nights and weekends), the book I’m writing, my speaking engagements, my two podcasts, my guest commentating, my spouse, my three kids, and everything else, it’s all a blur sometimes.

The pressure to have it all, be it all, and do it all is real. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I set incredibly high standards for myself. I’m constantly strategizing on how to create a purpose-driven career path and looking for ways to add value to the lives of women entrepreneurs. I am hyper-focused, which can be a blessing and a curse.

I’m often asked how to get it all done, and my answer 100% of the time is that I don’t get it all done. I drop the ball on something on a pretty regular basis.

Baskets of laundry don’t always get folded immediately (Lord I’m ready for the Foldimate laundry robot to hit the market!).

Over the years, I’ve asked for more deadline extensions from editors, conference organizers, and project managers than I care to admit. This does not happen so much anymore, but I’ve definitely had to send those may-I-please-have-another-week emails/texts many times.😁😁😁

I’m frequently annoyed by the “did you get my email?” emails, especially during the days, weeks and months where my inbox is a complete and utter mess. <for the record, yes, I got your email, and along with about several hundred others.>

While I aim to operate at a high level, and I do get some amazing professional opportunities, I mess up. I get rejections. I do not always say and do the right things. But, I’m becoming more accustomed to recognizing that this is just sometimes how things will go.

It is nearly impossible to get “everything” done. My wish for you is that you give yourself grace when things don’t happen perfectly and on time, every time.

I know we live in an age where social media makes people seem like they have it altogether. Heck, I may even be one of those people sometimes. While I work hard to be transparent in my brand and business, I don’t often share the nights that I’m crying to my husband or my mama because I feel like a failure or received some kind of rejection.

My advice for women like you, who are building platforms, companies and reputations in your fields, is to ignore whatever society has defined as “getting everything done” and focus on the most meaningful things you want to get done for your own life. This will free up more time than you realize. And, even if you do cut out the fluff, be kind to yourself when the inevitable happens and something doesn’t work out.

It took me a long time to get to this point. I’m still not perfect at this, because, well, I’m human. But, hearing the stories of others has helped. What truly moved me along significantly was the commencement address Shonda Rhimes gave at Dartmouth in 2014, and her book, Year of Yes.

The entire speech is phenomenal, but the specific part where she talks about the trade-offs of being a woman with many things on her plate starts at the 17:04-ish mark and continues until the 19:40-ish mark.

I’ve included the video to her remarks below. If you prefer to read the transcript from this segment, scroll down below the video and I’ve copied the words there.

Shonda, how do you do it all?

The answer is this: I don’t.

Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.

If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.

Something is always missing.

And yet. I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works. I want that example set for them. I like how proud they are when they come to my offices and know that they come to Shondaland. There is a land and it is named after their mother. In their world, mothers run companies. In their world, mothers own Thursday nights. In their world, mothers work. And I am a better mother for it. The woman I am because I get to run Shondaland, because I get write all day, because I get to spend my days making things up, that woman is a better person—and a better mother. Because that woman is happy. That woman is fulfilled. That woman is whole. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who didn’t get to do this all day long. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who wasn’t doing.

Lesson Number Three is that anyone who tells you they are doing it all perfectly is a liar.

Shonda Rhimes Dartmouth Commencement Address, June 8 2014

That’s real, right?

Do you give yourself grace when you don’t get everything done? Is “everything” you’re trying to get done what you really want to do? How do you handle these moments? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Please give as much information as you can in response to these questions. I’d be happy to share more tools and resources that help you get what you want. And, I know the other folks reading this can learn from your experiences! We are all in this together.

I always say that I’m on a mission to build a nation of good people with dynamic personal brands and successful businesses. We can learn from each other on this journey, particularly when we have accountability partners. This is why I am building a whole nation of them.

Download the app

You can connect to the the private community I’ve created to provide support and encouragement along the journey–online and via app. Check us out at programs.shontavia.com or via the Mighty Networks App.

Download the Mighty Network app by clicking here. Once it downloads, click “Find a Mighty Network” and search for Shontavia Johnson. You’ll find content there that I may not share elsewhere.

Thank you so much for joining me on this roller coaster of an experience. I am eternally grateful that I get to do this work with wonderful people each day.

Let’s make it happen,

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Conferences need women speakers like you

Conferences need women speakers like you

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Finding time to start your business when you don’t have time for one more thing

Finding time to start your business when you don’t have time for one more thing

“It’s sooooo hard to find the time to do everything!!! I could start my business if I juuuuuuuuuust HAD MORE TIME! I’m too busy right now.”

Sound familiar?

It certainly sounds like the old me after I got married, became a mother for the first time, and started my first tenure-track position at a law school.

Between home and work, it seemed that every literal moment of my day was occupied by mandatory work stuff and/or someone else’s needs and desires.

I felt the tugs of entrepreneurship and creating a national reputation bubbling up in my spirit, but exhaustion and life just didn’t seem to allow for these to be anything but pipe dreams.

For a while I would have spurts of activity, but never anything consistent. Then, one day I was watching an old episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show online and heard the the story of Dr. Tererai Trent, who was literally named the Oprah Winfrey Show’s favorite guest of all time.

Dr. Trent was born in Zimbabwe in a rural village, where she was not allowed to go to school. She was married by age 11 to a much older, abusive man, and by the time she was 18, she had four children and was being beaten every day by her husband. After a series of divine interventions, Dr. Trent wrote down her dream, which was to have three degrees (bachelor’s master’s and Ph.D), and set out on an uncharted path to the U.S. with the help of a global nonprofit.

Today, Dr. Trent has obtained those three degrees in the U.S., written multiple books, and travels the world as a renowned activist, speaker and educator.

You can watch a short (~2 minute long) segment about Dr. Trent below.

During the episode I was watching, Ms. Winfrey made a comment about people realizing that we alone have the power to create the life we want, and something clicked for me in that moment.

Dr. Trent, who had experienced a breathtaking amount of pain, abuse, and hopelessness, talked about not allowing anyone or anything to deter her from her goals, and that hit me like a ton of bricks. Excuses like poverty, physical pain, an abusive marriage, having ultimately five children, and geographical location did not stop her.

I did not have any of these excuses, but I certainly had some very real things happening in my life that I used as excuses. I had spent so much time complaining about my busy-ness that I was basically blinded from trying to find any solutions.

I was allowing my immediate circumstance to keep me from working toward the things I wanted and using “no time” as an excuse, when in reality I was blowing multiple hours scrolling through news and social media sites.

While I had been telling myself, “I can’t start a business because I don’t have enough timeI’m too busy,” I really never asked myself why I didn’t have enough time other than broad generalities. I mean, L-I-F-E was why, right?

This was kind of right, but mostly wrong. I knew I’d blink in the morning and the next thing I knew, it was tomorrow. Time was whizzing by. But, like, where was it going? And why did I not have a better understanding of its location? I did not put specific thought into these questions at first.

Once I did ask and answer these questions, I realized I mostly had myself to blame. Nearly every “I can’t do that” was really, “I don’t want to prioritize that right now.” Not prioritizing things wasn’t wrong, per se, I just wasn’t being honest with myself about this.

This post is dedicated to helping you answer this question for yourself. Why don’t you have enough time? Where can you find more of it???

I can’t answer these questions for you, but this post will help you figure out where your time is going.

My basic suggestion is that you spend three days monitoring everything you do and writing it down, from the moment to wake up until the moment you go to bed.

Do this down to the minute by creating a chart like the one below. You can type, handwrite, or use an app. The point is just to really do it.

Example of time measurement chart:

DO NOT try to be on your best behavior because you know you’re watching! Be honest with yourself so that we can find the solutions that work best for you.

On the fourth day, do the math on how much time you’re spending on things each day. When I did this exercise, I was shocked, TBH, by how much time I was blowing on unproductive screen time.

Lord, I wasted so much time on MediaTakeOut.com and Facebook back then.

Here are some research-backed numbers that may surprise you as you walk through this yourself:

  • People average 153 minutes on social media per day
  • The average commute (in the U.S.) is 26.9 minutes one-way each day.
  • Smokers take roughly 80 minutes worth of smoke breaks each day.
  • The average American worker spends 352 minutes checking and replying to emails (209 minutes of work email and 143 on personal email). (wow!)

If you’re anywhere near average, you’re spending roughly 8 hours per day on social media and email alone. These were definitely my two biggest time drains.

It is easy to fall back into this trap, so I have to work each day to stay focused on my goals and vision and not get sucked into aimless scrolling. It still happens, but with much less frequency.

This is just one of many steps in finding time to start your business, but it is a crucial one.

If your common refrain is that you don’t have the time, I challenge you to spend the next three days assessing why you don’t have any.

Tweet this quote!

Once you do this exercise, I’d love to hear from you in the comments:

  • What are you “too busy” doing right now to start your business?
  • What are the biggest drains on your time?
  • Where are you spending the most time that could be used toward your business?

Please give as much information as you can in response to these questions. I’d be happy to share more tools and resources that help you get what you want. And, I know the other folks reading this can learn from your experiences! We are all in this together.

I always say that I’m on a mission to build a nation of good people with dynamic personal brands and successful businesses. We can learn from each other on this journey, particularly when we have accountability partners. This is why I am building a whole nation of them.

Download the app

You can connect to the the private community I’ve created to provide support and encouragement along the journey–online and via app. Check us out at programs.shontavia.com or via the Mighty Networks App.

Download the Mighty Network app by clicking here. Once it downloads, click “Find a Mighty Network” and search for Shontavia Johnson. You’ll find content there that I may not share elsewhere.

Thank you so much for joining me on this roller coaster of an experience. I am eternally grateful that I get to do this work with wonderful people each day.

Let’s make it happen,

Create a vision for your life, brand & business

Create a vision for your life, brand & business

Brainstorming, envisioning, and refining a vision is one of the most important things you can do for your business. I quote Michael Gerber nearly every time I talk about the concept of a vision.

In his book E-Myth (it’s a great book about small business failure and success), Michael asks of the reader, “with no clear picture of how you wish your life to be, how on earth can you begin to live it?”

This was a game-changer for me. Duh, right?

OF COURSE you need to know your destination if you’re planning to go somewhere. Even Google Maps wants to you generally know your location before giving you directions.

You may luck up and stumble across a location, but doesn’t it make sense to have thought it through a little bit? Perhaps you’ll end up with less bumps & bruises a long the way. You’ll definitely get lost fewer times.

Earlier in my professional life, I felt a bit like a ship without a sail. I was drifting along in someone else’s version of a successful life and I was miserable. It was quite disorienting, and I wasn’t really sure what to do about any of it.

I had never really had a plan, just a vague idea of what seemed like a good idea for a person with a background like mine. This. didn’t. work. at. all.

I had to remove myself from that situation and get serious about what I wanted in my life. It took quite a bit of time, and I definitely made numerous mistakes along the way. But, once I got a clear vision, it was like the heavens opened up.

Natalie Bacon sums up perfectly why vision is so powerful in her article, “Why You Need to Create Visions:”

Vision is your why. Vision gives something direction. It’s your desired future. Your vision includes what you believe in (your core values) and what you want in your future (what you want to be). It’s the powerful reason why you want to do something; your overarching purpose. Your vision is your passion and keeps you excited and motivated. It’s what inspires you to do whatever it is you want to do.

Natalie Bacon, Why You Need to Create Visions (Not Just Goals)

I believe so strongly in the power of vision that I do a visioning exercise every few years. It helps me get focused on what I’d like to accomplish and it gives me clear direction on when I must say “no” to opportunities.

My sanity actually depends on this.

It’s been so helpful for me that I recorded a series of short, free videos that I thought might help other people who are situations similar to the one I found myself in back then. I break this down into three parts:

(1) “Look” – where you brainstorm what you’d like the future of your life, brand, business and energy to look like.

(2) “Listen” – where you ask some self-reflective questions of yourself and then crowdsource some information from your trusted tribe–family, friends, or co-workers who you trust to give you honest feedback; and

(3) “Link” – where you combine steps #1 and #2 to create a “looking glass” type document that outlines a tangible plan of action that you can start working on ASAP.

You can watch the first video in the series here:

If you’re interested in learning more about three principles outlined in the video and above, sign up to receive the rest of the videos by clicking this link.

One you have the opportunity to think about and refine your vision for your brand and business, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

In particular, were you comfortable creating a plan for your brand and business? Did you feel like you didn’t have permission to consider some things because of time, money, or family?

Please give as much information as you can in response to these questions. I’d be happy to share more tools and resources that help you get what you want. And, I know the other folks reading this can learn from your experiences! We are all in this together.

I always say that I’m on a mission to build a nation of good people with dynamic personal brands and successful businesses. We can learn from each other on this journey, particularly when we have accountability partners. This is why I am building a whole nation of them.

Download the app

You can connect to the the private community I’ve created to provide support and encouragement along the journey–online and via app. Check us out at programs.shontavia.com or via the Mighty Networks App.

Download the Mighty Network app by clicking here. Once it downloads, click “Find a Mighty Network” and search for Shontavia Johnson. You’ll find content there that I may not share elsewhere.

Thank you so much for joining me on this roller coaster of an experience. I am eternally grateful that I get to do this work with wonderful people each day.

Let’s make it happen,

Where to start with your personal brand

Where to start with your personal brand

Early in my career as a law professor, I was struggling a bit with my professional identity. I knew I was smart. I knew I had dreams of “success” (wasn’t clear on what that meant yet, but roll with me). I knew I wanted more than what I could see at that moment. But, I didn’t really know how to take the things I’d done and turn them into a cohesive message so that I would become known for XYZ sought out for XYZ and become financially independent doing my work in the XYZ field.

I had a lot of unanswered questions, ya’ll. What is success? What XYZ do I want to be known for? How will I make money on this?

Around that time, I saw a press release come out at work about a male colleague–let’s call him Mike–who had written an article for a national publication (I believe it was Newsweek or Politico, but I can’t be sure at this point). The press release was very complimentary of Mike, and his article, which was about American politics at that time, was an enjoyable read.

My typical response to things like this at work were “oh, wow, good for him,” and then I’d move on with my life. At that time, I mostly stayed in my own bubble at work–minding my business and doing what I needed to do to get that direct deposit drop every 1st and 15th.

Basically me back then.

But, for whatever reason, I became very interested in how Mike had landed a high-profile spotlight for his work, both in the national publication and within our employer’s press loop. Especially because he started working at our employer several years after me.

This created somewhat of a perfect storm for me professionally. I wanted more but didn’t know how to get it, and I saw someone within arms reach who seemed to be making it happen for himself. I didn’t necessarily want exactly what Mike had, but I knew I wanted to feel as fulfilled as he seemed to be and others seemed to recognize in him.

Like any good lawyer, I began to investigate this question–what had Mike done to get there?

What I found was that he had taken all the stuff we had to do at work and branded himself into a public expert on these topics. He had written dozens op-eds and guest columns, appeared on local radio, and begun accepting non-academic speaking engagements. This further piqued my interest, so I went and talked to Mike about the why, how and where-to-starts with his activities. Thankfully, he was very transparent and happy to talk about it.

This began my journey with figuring out my own expertise, personal brand, and career goals in a more uninhibited way. I believed my job at the time had only one path to “success,” but boy was I wrong about that.

As I’ve created my own personal brand, I’ve noticed a few different patterns that I’ll share here. Four simple things will help you create a dynamic personal brand that attracts the opportunities you want. To start honing in on and developing your own personal brand, you should:

  1. Create a Vision
  2. Develop Content
  3. Share Your Message
  4. Leverage O.P.P. (other people’s platforms)

Create a Vision

If you’ve been following me or the content at LVRG for any amount of time, you probably know how I feel about creating a vision. I believe a vision is critical…basically mandatory….for folks who need guidance to find the light at the end of their tunnel.

I once read a book by Michael Gerber that asked, “with no clear picture of how you wish your life to be, how on earth can you begin to live it?” This question stopped me in my tracks. If I don’t see the destination, how can I know what steps to take to get there?

Even with Google Maps, you have to know where you the location or address for Google’s AI to magically tell you the best route to get there.

If you don’t have a vision yet, I’ve condensed the steps I believe are critical in developing a vision into a less-than-30-minute program. You can watch the first of the four videos below.

If you liked this, you can sign up to receive the rest of the videos by clicking here.

Develop Content

Your vision will serve as the big picture blueprint for your personal brand. Once you know your destination, the stuff you create will help you establish your position and reputation in your destination of choice.

While you may be brilliant, the only way to prove it is by sharing your brilliance. If it’s in your head, we don’t know that—we ain’t mind readers! You first step to develop a personal brand is to create content that communicates what you want others to know about you and your experience.

“Content,” according to Dictionary.com, is “something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing or any of various arts.” It can be created in various forms, including:

  • social media posts,
  • videos (film, television or otherwise),
  • podcasts,
  • radio shows,
  • CDs,
  • books/e-books/workbooks/pamphlets,
  • email newsletters,
  • text messages,
  • magazines,
  • blog posts,
  • articles,
  • interviews,
  • classes,
  • presentations,
  • speeches,
  • conferences,
  • live-events,
  • pictures,
  • gifs, and
  • more.

The phrases “content creation” and “content creators” have become popular buzz words. The rise of social media has become the California Gold Rush of competition for people’s attention, and content is how to grab that attention. Videos, social media posts, podcasts, blog posts and articles, pictures, gifs…..this content is designed to attract and keep people’s attention. Forbes even declared in 2019 that we are in a “new content economy.”

In today’s economy, your content is your personal brand’s currency —–what can you buy right now with yours?

You should be regularly creating content that displays your expertise in a particular field/topic/industry. This will help you attract the opportunities you want!

Share Your Message

Once you’ve developed that content, the next step is to share it broadly and widely, particularly with folks NEED your information to improve their own lives. To start, you can share your message through your own platform or on social media.

First, consider creating your own website, email newsletter, platform (digital or otherwise), or app (I’m sure I’m leaving some things out!). You can control your narrative and share information how you see fit.

Another way to get your message out there, and likely the most popular way, is social media.

Did I just hear a groan? I know…social media can be a distraction. It can also be overwhelming. But, it CAN provide you with free/low-cost levers to build your brand and business.

The behemoth social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest may be the appropriate places to start, but your brand and business could be uniquely positioned to do better elsewhere. Wikipedia lists more than hundred different currently-active social media sites.

Leverage O.P.P. (other people’s platforms)

The fourth step in building your personal brand is leveraging other people’s platforms.

Once you’ve created your content and shared it broadly on your own platforms, you should also have a strategy to create mutually beneficial relationships with other people, brands, companies, etc. who can share your message and content with their networks.

For example, TED Conferences LLC shares “ideas worth spreading” through TED/TEDx talks. The organization has a HUGE platform that people regularly leverage. After I gave my TEDxAtlanta talk, I got inquiries from literally all around the world.

You could also pitch an article about your message/expertise to media entities looking for guest contributors/op-eds. Popular services include The Conversation and The Op-Ed Project.

Perhaps you’d make a great media commentator. Sign up for a service like Help A Reporter Out or add your name to a database like Women Also Know Stuff.

If you take this advice, do it as part of a larger strategy!

Say OPP (OPP) I like to say with pride

Now when you do it, do it well and make sure that it counts

Naughty By Nature, O.P.P.

If you’re going to write and op-ed, or be a podcast guest, or speak at SXSW or on a TED stage, make sure you know both:

  • what you want to contribute and how you will add value; and
  • what return, if any, you’d like to see for your work. Note that this may not have anything to do with money.

These four pillars–Create a Vision, Develop Content, Share Your Message, and Leverage O.P.P.–will have you well on your way to a dynamic personal brand in no time!

Once you have the opportunity to implement some of these for your own brand, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. In particular:

  1. Where do you already have experiences/expertise that you can lean on to build your personal brand? What is one type of content you can create to share publicly right now?
  2. What kind of platform do you need to create/use to share your message broadly?

Please give as much information as you can in response to these questions. I’d be happy to share more tools and resources that help you get what you want. And, I know the other folks reading this can learn from your experiences! We are all in this together.

I always say that I’m on a mission to build a nation of good people with dynamic personal brands and successful businesses. We can learn from each other on this journey, particularly when we have accountability partners. This is why I am building a whole nation of them.

Download the app

You can connect to the the private community I’ve created to provide support and encouragement along the journey–online and via app. Check us out at programs.shontavia.com or via the Mighty Networks App.

Download the Mighty Network app by clicking here. Once it downloads, click “Find a Mighty Network” and search for Shontavia Johnson. You’ll find content there that I may not share elsewhere.

Thank you so much for joining me on this roller coaster of an experience. I am eternally grateful that I get to do this work with wonderful people each day.

Let’s make it happen,

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