Leading Voices: Rohit Bhargava, Trend Curator and Professional Speaker

Rohit Bhargava

Rohit Bhargava

In this space, we profile top executives who use the spoken word effectively as part of their corporate communication strategy

Rohit Bhargava is a man of so many talents and accomplishments that listing them all would fill this entire blog entry. The short version is that he is a “non-obvious” trend curator, founder of the Influential Marketing Group, and an expert in helping brands and leaders be more influential. He is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of five books, has advised hundreds of global brands and teaches marketing at Georgetown University.
AND….he is the first executive featured in Leading Voices who not only uses the spoken word as a corporate communication strategy, but also generates revenue through his speeches.
Bhargava says that he “sort of fell into” the professional speaking part of his business. . “Over time, it was like going from waiting tables to starting a restaurant,” he says. He began his career as a writer, a pioneer branding and marketing blogger in the early years of the century. As the audience for his blogging grew, he started getting invited to be on panels – giving short presentations for free. After a few panel presentations, he realized “I had to find a way to stand out. Otherwise I was just wasting time by being forgettable.”
Once he got a reputation as a good speaker, he went from being a panel member, to being a panel moderator, to being asked to give solo presentations.
At first, these weren’t paid, but they were always an effective marketing tool. Moreover, the presentations gave Bhargava the chance to learn some important lessons about the spoken word. “I realized I had to tell more stories,” he says. “I learned to introduce complex themes at the start of my talk, and then come back to them. And I started to control my own visuals.”
As he developed his craft and his reputation continued to grow, instead of giving solo presentations for free he was delivering keynote addresses for pay, which is now an important income stream for him.
Among the keys to his current success as a speaker, Bhargava says, is that he insists on having an in-depth preparatory meeting or phone call with the organizers of each event. “I want to learn as much as possible about the audience.” In particular, he wants to hear from organizers, ‘What would you want the people listening to think or do differently as a result of hearing me speak.”
He also asks if there are sensitive topics or events he should stay away from. And he makes sure to ask what the audience might have heard before, and especially “what sounds clichéd to them.”
He enjoys the speaking part of his business, and is often asked by other executives or writers for advice on becoming speakers. First and foremost, Bhargava says, “Speaking leads to more speaking. If you have a chance to get in front of an audience – paid or unpaid – grab it.” Gradually, you’ll build a reputation, which can lead to for-pay opportunities.
He also strongly advises, “Get some good video of yourself. Not everyone can see you in person, but anybody who is thinking about booking you will want to see video.”
He emphasizes that he does mean good video. “Because it is so easy to get video these days, people who book speakers expect you to provide high quality video. So definitely avoid low quality phone photography.” Instead, invest in a professional videographer.
The spoken word is an important communication tool for every executive. Bhargava’s experience shows that for some it can be a key part of their business offerings, too.

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