How to Get Started as an Author, Speaker, and Community Leader

Originally posted Oct 19, 2017

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The following question was posted in the CMX Hub:

Q: All of you people who are speaking at conferences, giving talks, and are experts in your specific fields:

  • How did this happen for you?
  • How did you start choosing the topics you wanted to dive into deeper and eventually became knowledgeable enough that you are now sharing this wisdom?
  • Did it just happen because you were passionate about a topic, or did you realize there was a deficit of information on that specific matter?
  • How did you start out as a speaker?
  • How did you find your niche?

A: In 2004, I had led knowledge management programs for 8 years. I asked the head of proven practice replication at Ford to present to HP’s knowledge management community, and he agreed. And then he asked me to present to Ford. I didn’t think I had anything that worthwhile to present, but I did so anyway. Ford’s reaction was unexpectedly positive, and this gave me the confidence to apply to speak at major conferences.

In 2005, I presented at my first knowledge management conference, APQC’s annual conference. This year, I was a keynote speaker at KMWorld 2017.

At the 2005 APQC conference, all speakers were asked if they would host a birds-of-a-feather lunch session, and I agreed to do so. I put a sign at my table saying “Consulting & Systems Integration KM” and invited conference attendees from that industry to join me. We had a full table of 10 people, and when lunch was over, I asked them if they wanted to continue the discussion. They agreed, so I collected their business cards, and when I returned home, I launched the SIKM Leaders Community.

In 2006, I submitted a short article to an online e-commerce publication, and they accepted it. Then they asked me to write a weekly blog, which I wasn’t sure I could do, but I agreed.

Later in 2006, a publisher asked me to write a book. They gave me a very tight deadline, which I thought was too short, but I accepted the challenge, stuck to a rigid writing schedule, and finished the book on time.

I’ve been writing and presenting ever since. My LinkedIn headline is “Knowledge Management Author, Speaker, and Community Leader.”

My advice is to start by doing useful work, trying out new ideas, and iterating to make improvements. Pay it forward by sharing freely, answering questions, and helping others in need. Then start writing and speaking, showing actual examples of your work, telling stories about what you have learned, and boldly stating your point of view. Offer personal insights and practical advice, avoid obvious platitudes, and don’t be reluctant to challenge widely-held assumptions. See 10 Tips below for specific suggestions on what to do.


Here is how I ventured into writing, speaking, and leading communities.

1. Blogs

2. Periodicals

3. Books

4. Conferences

5. Podcasts

6. Videos

7. Webinars

8. Communities

10 Tips

  1. Post to a community of practice to share your knowledge
  2. Offer to present on a community call or at a local community meeting
  3. Ask someone you know at another organization if they would like you to present to them
  4. Co-present, participate in a panel, or serve as a track moderator at a conference
  5. If asked to submit an article or a presentation, just say yes, even if you are unsure if you have anything worthwhile to say, or if you doubt your writing and/or speaking ability
  6. Commit to a deadline for submitting, writing, talking, or performing a supporting role at a conference
  7. Stick to a regular schedule for writing, e.g., tweet daily, post to LinkedIn weekly, write a LinkedIn article monthly
  8. Regularly answer questions in Quora
  9. Dare to try, and don’t give up: submit to periodicals, conferences, and publishers, and if they say no, try different ones, or try again with the same ones when you have new or improved content
  10. Re-purpose answers into blog posts, tweet chat transcripts into articles, articles into presentations, and presentations into articles; this article is an example of this tip, as it started out as a simpler answer to a question posted in a community


  1. How to Build Your Personal Digital Brand: 10 Helpful Lists
  2. Daily Themes for Social Media
  3. 10 Ways to Build Expertise in Knowledge Management
  4. Is it right to expect everyone to write the right way?
  5. What we have here is a failure to communicate
  6. Word Usage

Examples from Knowledge Management

  1. Blogs
  2. Books
  3. Communities
  4. Conferences
  5. Periodicals

Methods and Tools

  1. Social Software and Social Media
  2. Podcasts and Videos
  3. Blogs and Blogging
  4. Storytelling
  5. Communities of Practice

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager

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