7 Places to Stand Out as a Thought Leader When You're Just Starting Out

You’re a woman on a mission to change the world. You are ready to upshift from selling products to spreading your ideas, and creating new income streams from speaking, writing and motivating others.

You’re ready to tackle getting the clarity you need on your message and discovering the irresistible brand that’s already inside your heart and soul.

There’s just one problem. You’re a thought leader who hasn’t led any thought yet. At least, not outside of the soapbox called “your shower.”

Never fear! While you’re working on your brand and content (insert links here to my programs), there are plenty of free or low-cost ways to “cut your teeth” in the world of women influencers. Your first audiences will be some of your best--so don’t look down on them at all! It will only get more challenging (and more exciting) as you move to bigger and bigger stages.

Are you ready to lead some thoughts? Get . . . set . . . SPEAK!

1. Colleges & Universities

Professors and instructors are always in search of great role models and class guests to put in front of their students. If you are looking for a fairly low-bar, easy-access, highly-rewarding speaking engagement that is GREAT for getting your feet wet with public speaking, start here. Look up professors in disciplines related to your field or whose students could benefit and share a pitch with them. Don’t be surprised if you’re inundated with bookings.

2. Networking Groups

This is another very rewarding place to start speaking. And the added benefit here is: your ideal client might be in the audience. Most groups will want an educational, informative presentation that contains only a little bit of pitching, if any. Focus on sharing what you know and the good connections will follow naturally. And whenever possible, attend the group for at least a few meetings before inquiring about speaking. If you are really deliberate about connecting and contributing, they will likely ask you first.

3. Church Groups

If you work contains a counseling component or would be of interest to a spiritual group, consider putting together a talk for a men’s, women’s or community outreach group at a local congregation. If the group in question isn’t your congregation, but fits within your particular church or denomination, this is great too because you may be able to get multiple bookings. Stage fright will be a thing of the past soon--or at least an old foe you know you can outsmart.

4. PechaKucha or storytelling groups

For those not familiar, PechaKucha is all about “the art of concise presentations,” as the group’s website explains. Over 900 cities worldwide now have a PechaKucha night somewhere in town--and you can get on the roster to practice your presentation, provided it lies within their parameters. Similar to this are storytelling groups that allow you to get up and share your personal or business story (minus the sales pitch element) in front of a group. The advantage here? At these mostly-evening social events, audiences have likely had “one or two” by this point, making them more relaxed (and more forgiving).

5. Chamber of Commerce

Who goes to this organization anymore? A lot of people, it seems. In the United States, chambers often keep lists of available speakers on hand, so they’ll want your pitch, bio and topics you can cover. I would wait to tackle this option until you have done a few presentations earlier and have “hit your stride.”

6. Industry Events

Is there a local or regional trade show coming to town for your industry? A big summit or day-long gathering of professionals? While these people may be your peers rather than your clients, you can definitely practice on them! Get yourself a presentation or panel discussion. Have a table in the hall and engage everyone you can in discussion that showcases your expertise.

7. Podcast Interviews

These may be a bit harder to book if the show is large, but ask around your area for local podcasters who are interested in the topics you are knowledgeable about. Even if the podcast reach is small, that’s okay for now. Remember: you’re getting practice and accruing connections that will serve you well in gaining wider visibility on bigger platforms later.


And there you have it! Seven simple, local-to-you platforms you can get ONTO with your message even if no one recognizes your name yet as a thought leader in your field.

Every great influencer began on the smallest of stages--so start with what you have. And don’t forget to share photos, video and recordings of your talks if that is available and appropriate for the experience. The fact that you are being asked to speak in these venues will begin to multiply your influence even before the “big wave” actually hits.

Not sure how to start engaging even your first local audiences with your story? Download your FREE audience attraction guide, The Sister Talk Tell-All, here.