Leaving Your Mark


If you live in Japan, at some point in life, you are going to have to acquire a “hanko” (name stamp).  Like a signature in western countries, a hanko is how you represent yourself in correspondence and business transactions.

The other day, I was staring at my own hanko (pictured above) and wondering how I could get more use out of it.  The only place that requires me to use it is my bank—I can simply sign for everything else.  Then it hit me:  “This would make a great blog post!”

Now before you think I’m getting way off topic, stay with me.  You see, my hanko represents me.  It’s like my logo, serving as the gateway into my own personal brand.  Brands communicate what customers should expect when they purchase a product or service.  Thinking of famous brands such as Apple or BMW will instantly conjure up certain impressions and expectations about their products, be it good or bad.

Being a successful public speaker requires that you build your personal brand.  Even if you present on a variety of topics, the core value of your brand should shine through in every lecture you teach or every sales presentation that you do.

For example, a core value of my personal brand is valuing my audience’s time.  Be it teaching or giving a seminar, I strive to make sure that anyone who takes the time to listen to what I have to say will leave the presentation with some new, useful information.  My classes and seminars are not about what I’ve done—they’re about what I can help my audience do.

A second pillar of my brand is that those who attend one of my presentations will somehow become a part of it.  If they are learning a language or business skill, they will actually use that skill before the presentation is over (as opposed to just listening to a lecture on how to use that skill).  I often remind attendees of this aspect of my brand by concluding many of my seminars with the following quote: “Learning is not a spectator sport.”

So, enough about me.  What is your personal brand?  When it comes to the business of teaching, the importance of having a brand is no different for you than it is for Apple, BMW, and countless other companies.

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