122 | Crafting Impactful Stories | Story Telling And Speeches For Building A Personal Brand | J.T. Compeau

Today we’ll be talking with JT Compeau. so JT is the founder of the content interpreter for which he serves as a speechwriter, thought leadership and public speaking consultant. He has developed captivating speeches, brand narratives, and thought leadership pieces for entrepreneurs and professionals across a variety of industries, including advertising, architecture, business coaching, Wall Street, and journalism. His client-centric approach to developing content focuses on finding insight into the speaker’s message, goals, and origins to create authentic and accessible storytelling. Let’s welcome JT




Good Good. By the way, I just want to let our viewers and listeners know this is a second attempt at this interview. We had an amazing conversation a few weeks ago, and I had a hard drive last week and I lost that interview. So I’m really bummed about that. But I’m thrilled that we have we get to have another conversation because I enjoyed the last conversation so much so Welcome once again, and I look forward to round two now. Yes. All right.


We’re not getting older, we’re just getting better as they say.


That was just a practice. So, so with that story behind us, tell us a little bit about how storytelling is getting into our lives and our business in our daily lives.


Well, I think that storytelling is all around us. I actually just did a social media post about this today about how great content is all around us. I think that every great storyteller has influenced and even if you don’t consider yourself a storyteller, you are influenced by the environment in which you’re, you’re placed around what you’re choosing to be. And I think that the way that it can help in business is being receptive to the stories that are in our environment, from news to podcasts, to comedy, whatever it might be, but also recognizing the power in your own origin story that you also are bringing something to the table, whether you realize it or not. And part of the work that I do with clients is helping them realize like, Hey, I have some great stories to tell that connect to other people’s experiences. And those are the building blocks on which great speeches and talks are built. So it’s everywhere.


Yeah. It’s funny and you know, the other day I was talking to a young person, a young entrepreneur and like with everyone else, he had a story, but he was kind of shy and not very open about his story. So, do you feel that a lot of people either they don’t sort of think about what kind of stories they have in there, from their life experience or they try to sort of, you know, not put so much importance into them, or in some cases they even hide these storeys, so that no, they don’t want to reveal it. to their audience, have you found that sort of hesitation?


I have. It’s, it’s interesting and we all do it, I do it myself. And it’s I think it’s a muscle that you have to exercise. It’s like, okay, every day I’m going to try to find this balance between being authentic to myself authentic to the audience, but also accessible. So I think that it’s always important to read the room, as they say, to know who your audience is so that you know which stories you can pull out of your toolbox. I honestly think the other part of it though, it is that people don’t necessarily think that their experience counts or not their experience, but this one specific experience, I should say, not the totality of their experience, but this one specific experience doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with anything so it kind of gets lost and when I work with clients, I’m trying to bring those experiences back to the surface. Because if they can’t be directly used in speech or talk, they can certainly be like subtext, something that informs the speech, maybe it gives the tone a little bit more direction. So it’s something that we all do. And I think that’s what the value of working with a coach, consultant of any kind is. And then when you’re talking about speech writing and specifically trying to mind those stories, for insights into what it is that you’re doing and why you’re doing it.


Yeah. And a story, you know, they have an emotional component to it. I think people connect really well. When you tell a story rather than just sort of give a very business-focused analysis of the situation. Is that is that really what I mean? In your opinion, what is the significance of telling a story worth is just showing some raw data?


Well, I think it gets the audience on your side. Right away, and not that it’s a popularity contest, necessarily. But I think that if you really want people to relate to you, that you kind of have to think like, hey, my expertise in this area is kind of basic. It’s the only setting in which that expertise is basic, I have to think of a way that everyone in the audience can relate to me. And that goes, even if you’re speaking to a large group of like-minded professionals, you still have to think in a much broader sense. And so if you can tell a storey that relates to your experience, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the top, then I think that is a great way of getting the audience to go along with you on the journey because there’ll be, there’ll be this anticipation as you’re going through that narrative. So I think it’s a really powerful tool.


That’s awesome. And so for people who are not initiated And you know, they’re, they’re not writers or speechwriters like yourself, what do you think is the first step they should take in order to, you know, figure it out what kind of stories they have, how did they frame it? How did they get started in telling their story as any advice for them to get started on this year?


Well, the first step is always what is my topic? And what is my audience and I consider those to go those two go together? And you have to know what room sometimes literally, I would advise my clients if they can to walk into the room, they’ll actually be in so that they can read the room. But knowing the audience and knowing the topic at hand, really well is is the first step, the benefit that I have and working with so many brilliant people, people that are way smarter than I am, to tell the truth is that I get to be the layperson, I am the layperson and 99.999% of the cases, but I get to ask questions that perhaps they think are too basic. Or perhaps they would feel it Well, everybody in the audience is going to know that or no one really cares. And that’s kind of where the magic happens, so to speak, is that you get this sense of, of. It’s like falling in love, again, with the reason why you got into this business, to begin with, for example, or the reason why this research project was so important to you. So I think it’s kind of interesting to see people go back to the beginning. So my advice would be know your audience, know your topic, but be willing to kind of go back to the beginning and see, why am I Why did I do this in the first place and try to find insights within that because if you’re going back to the beginning, it’s going to be much easier for the audience to follow you along this journey. that you may have already taken but because you’re taking it with an audience it’s going to be much different for you and for them. And then I would say the third thing on that is is just not being afraid to look vulnerable and I want to put a little caveat on that in depended depending on the setting. You don’t want to be telling your life story but I think that there are little nuances ways to find a means of bonding with the audience a common form of expression. So telling that storey for example, about how and this is truly one of my clients how she was a little girl she was told back in those days back in the 60s or 70s Well, science and stem that’s not for girls, and revealing a little that to the audience, I also think is a way of forming them So, knowing your audience, knowing your topic, going back to the beginning and finding ways to be vulnerable, I think they’re all good. Good pointers for getting started.


That’s awesome. So, that leaves a very good foundation for the story that we are going to tell. Now, you mentioned, you know, some speeches or some stories are memorable, they have a huge impact on the audience. So like, after seeing so much content, maybe you’re written many speeches, read many speeches, heard many speeches, can you give us some common themes that emerged in terms of you know, the memorable speeches that you have, that you’re familiar with? Like what are some of the common themes, what gives up the maximum impact on the audience?


I think vivid imagery, certainly. So if you’re a politician and you’re describing your vision for America, let’s say you want to paint That picture is as vividly as you possibly can you want to describe the rolling landscapes and the barns and, and that sort of thing and you want to describe a vision of prosperity, however you view it through through whatever political lens. I think for me that the speeches that I’ve written personally and the work that I’ve done with clients, the thing that always stands out to me is, the impact comes from defining or in many cases redefining a term that is commonly known by an audience. So, for example, I saw a man by the name of Ben Horowitz, who I’m sure you might be familiar with. He was on CBS This Morning, he was talking about his new book, and I’m a little embarrassed, the name of it is escaping me, but he had a great quote about culture. He said culture is not a set of beliefs. It’s a set of actions and so on. I think anytime you can include something like that, and a speech that becomes really memorable to the audience, because they’ve had their expectations subverted just a little bit, you don’t want to necessarily go into shock value territory. But you want something that people will remember be like, Oh, right. That’s right. That’s what he said about culture. And I think that if you don’t remember anything else that he said in that interview, that was probably the most important thing, at least from my estimation, from watching, and he might tell you something different if he were here. But I think that that’s a really important thing is just that slight version of, of expectations. And that can really create a powerful moment and not just a moment, but something on which you can attain an entire speech.


That’s awesome. And along with storytelling, and speech, writing, you know, these are big components of personal branding as well. And that’s one term that is becoming more and more popular these days. So Can you tell us what is your take on this whole personal branding thing? Is it a fad? Is it something very important which people should consider focusing on?


Oh, I don’t think it’s a fad at all. I mean, I’m, since I graduated from college in the mid-2000s, I’ll put a little dating on myself there. I just only seen this trend grow. And truthfully when I first started my professional career in marketing and advertising, it was not the biggest thing as it is today. But I think that it’s fantastic. I think it gives you an identity beyond your title. I think it’s wonderful that you can say hey, you know, I am an account director by day but I’m also a creative and musician by night and here. Here’s some stuff I’ve created here some music, I want you to listen to hear some blog posts that I’ve written, I think It really just enriches the professional quality of life for people. And as I’ve gone up in my career and then doing what I do now, working with so many different types of people, I’ve seen this personal branding manifests itself in so many interesting ways, things that I never would have even thought of. So I think it’s fantastic, not a fad in the least. And I think the way that the world of work is changing, almost necessitates it in away. So the more people that can be doing that, the better.


That’s awesome. And so what are the you know, the high-level components of establishing a personal brand, like, is it public speaking is that social media? Maybe you can share some of your own experiences as you’re trying to build your brand?


Sure, I would say all of the above, really. But I think that like with speech, writing, what I would tell my clients as I’m working with him is that we have to do the thing that is authentic to you. So if you are not a writer by nature, then a blog should probably be the last thing you’re doing. Or maybe you don’t do it at all. Maybe you’re much better on video. And that is the way that you will touch an audience or maybe you’re you’re terrific on stage, but not so great on the one on ones or maybe it’s the revert the reverse of that, excuse me. So I think that it’s really just about finding what it is that that you do well, and where you’re most comfortable. And while I do believe that everybody should try to stretch and grow, you want to build on your strengths, not your weaknesses. It’s a quote I’m fond of, I can’t remember where I heard it. So I apologized, whoever said it, it’s not mine. But I’m a big believer in building on your strengths and not on your weaknesses. So start with the things that you’re good at and take it from there.


Awesome. And so, in terms of monetary rewards or in terms of revenue generation, what can I am Have you seen personal branding has on the bottom line?


On the bottom line? I mean, I certainly think that it can increase the bottom line, I think the more that your audience feels connected with you, the more likely they are to buy. I’m a big fan also of Simon cynics start with why. And that is is not just a component of personal branding, but of just brands in general. That’s what he was talking about when he said that so I think that certainly the days of advertising like in the 60s where they would describe the features of a product and it’s like oh, cleans really well and it smells great to are long gone. It’s much more about high concept level creative, as well as making sure that your audience feels something. So I think all those things can certainly impact the bottom line and The interesting thing, though, is that sometimes, at least in my limited experience, it’s not always directly attributable. So you can’t always necessarily point and say, Hey, there was triple-digit percentage growth year over year. And here was the portion that went to personal branding. I think a lot of the investment in personal branding is intangible at first. And in a sense, it can also be aspirational, because you’re trying to have that connection with the audience. But we also have other metrics, like social media followers, and more importantly, engagement to give some quantification to that connection with the audience. So in a way, I think that’s even more important in the bottom line. But overall, yes, personal branding absolutely does have an impact on one’s business. Even if for no other reason, then it just makes you more confident in what you’re doing. And when you’re more confident you’re going to project this image that’s going to make people more likely to want to partner with you buy from you, etc, etc.


Yeah, that’s for sure. Now, we always talk about some of the difficult mistakes that people make on this show, because we want to try and learn from other people’s mistakes and not repeat them. So have you seen any, any, you know, obvious mistakes that people make while establishing their personal brand?


Well, I can tell you about a mistake that I made when I was first starting this business. So okay, being vulnerable. I’ll open up a little bit here and hopefully will connect with your listeners. I think that it’s really important to focus on. So when I first started my business, it was really originally intended to be any kind of written content. And in the very beginning, I did work with some wonderful clients on things that were not speeches. So marketing collateral and website copy and just establishing the voice of a couple small businesses, small practices. But it wasn’t until I started to zero in on speech writing that I discovered that when you focus a it’s, it’s much more satisfying to you I don’t want to say that the work I did previously was not satisfying because I had great clients. But I would say that speech writing and consulting in the way that I consult is set as much more satisfying to me from an artistic point of view so you feel better about what it is that you’re doing, because you just can’t wait to get to the next client or work with the next person or partner with that next partner, and then be that in turn, makes the business more lucrative. So I’ve seen a lot of revenue growth since I decided to focus on more or less on speech writing safe for those couple of wonderful legacy clients that I have. So I think that the mistake that I made, in the beginning, was trying to be too many things to too many people. And I think that they mistake in that reflected in the personal brand too, because if you were to go and read my website, copy or go back and listen to those early phone calls that I was having with clients and prospects, it would probably sound very unfocused and kind of all over the place relative to where I am now and where I’ve been for roughly last 18 months or so. So yeah, just just like I was saying about the establishing the personal brand before it’s like just as they say on the reality show is just do you know, don’t try to do something that you’re not good at yet. Just get one thing down and then and then See where you can have replicated success elsewhere. As you stretching grows muscles.


That’s a great piece of advice. That’s for sure. Now, let’s get back to speech, speech, writing and speeches in general. One of the typical mistakes that I have noticed and you know, I certainly am guilty of that as well, where we don’t really structure the speech, you know, if you have to deliver a speech, we just sort of go with the flow and, and see what comes up. But I think you have a certain structure that you advise you’re like you frame your speeches in a certain structure, right?


I have a process through which I take clients that gets them to their structure. Yeah. So can you, I’m sorry, go ahead.


Can you share with us a little bit of a high-level overview of what this process looks like?


Absolutely. And I’ll start off by saying that it’s not complicated at all. I mean, there there’s heavy lifting involved to get you to the great speed. But the process itself is not complicated. So the first thing I do with clients is after we’ve had this initial consultation kind of a chemistry degree is we start with the kickoff, interview kickoff call kickoff in-person meeting where I will sit with them for 6090 120 minutes, however long they’ll have me. And I just ask them questions based on things that they’ve told me initially, or things that I’ve read things that I’ve watched, whatever it is, I could get my hands on. And I’ll just because again, I’m a layperson, I’ll just ask questions that probably 90% of people know the answer to at least the mirror industry. And it gets them thinking about Oh, yeah, that’s right. That reminds me of this story of why I got into anthropology, to begin with, right or whatever it might be. And so we’ll sit and we’ll talk and I basically take all of that away. I look back through it, I review it. And I say, hey, here are like three to five areas that I think are ripe for exploration, as well as here are some insights, things that jumped out at me that are interesting about your story these of the topic at hand. And I present them with that. And then I also present them with an outline for the speech. And even within the same industry, no two outlines are the same, because it’s tailored for the individual. So we go over that outline, we might make some changes and might say, hey, you kind of miss-read on that one, or let me clarify this. And that will cause me to readjust. And then we get into speech writing. That’s when I do most of the hard work and the heavy lifting is writing the speech. And we just edit it again and again until they feel like I have an authentic piece and I have something that is authentic to them. Right Saying, for example, something it doesn’t contain any phrases that they would never say that that’s the worst thing. So I, I do my best on the first try to get it as close to their voice as I can, that’s a process and then also accessibility. So even if you are speaking to an audience that is full of strictly your colleagues, you want it to have a bit more of broader accessibility than just, you know, talking about the subject matter at hand. So that’s the process steps one through three that take my clients through, and it’s, it’s a lot of fun. I always have fun doing it because whenever I work with clients, they teach me something. It’s like getting an education, a college education that I didn’t have to pay for so which is fantastic. I love that but I think they have fun too. I think that they start to see, at least for the clients that started in the beginning kind of saying well I have to give this speech, you see their mindset start to change a little bit and say, Oh, I’m really excited to give this speech because I’ve worked with someone that takes my story seriously and helped me craft this great talk. So that’s the process and it really works. It’s fine.


That’s great. And you recommend it, you know, obviously, you’re a speechwriter. So I’m not sure whether you actually coach people on actually delivering the speech as well or not. But what do you recommend whether people should memorize your speech or just sort of use talking points? And I just remember the talking point while delivering the speech?

Well, I think it depends. I mean, I’ve written speeches for which there will be a teleprompter, which I think is great, but you have to know how to work with a teleprompter. You can’t just go up there the first time and expect that to work out and be 100% flawless. I would say that for most people. If it’s a more informal talk, it’s probably best to have have a roadmap in your head of where you’re going. So that would be more of like a bullet point in this that’s in your mind. I do think that there is advantage of having a speech written out word for word, though, the purpose of that is not so that you will memorize it, and it’s the same turn of phrase each and every time but so that you’ve had the opportunity to cut out any of the excesses, anything that is not serving the speech or moving it forward as well as the other material. So I would say that, you know, in anticipation of the question, Well, why would you need to speechwriter if it’s just going to be a bullet point, I think you need to know you have to have a detailed roadmap to that’s written down somewhere, you may know where to turn right or left If you’re if you’re going to indulge me in this driving metaphor, but you’ll want to know that, hey, you know, if you pass the gas station on your right, that’s too far. And that’s the kind of benefit that you get from the speechwriter going.


I mean, don’t get me wrong, like bullet points is basically a summary of the speech. That’s how I looked at it, you cannot have those points, talking points Unless, you know, you know, what is the substance behind it?


Right, absolutely. Yeah. So I mean that the broader outline, I don’t think works as well if you haven’t done the work of getting into the details. So I see what you’re saying and a hundred percent agree. Awesome.


That’s one of the things that, you know, I’ve seen you quote is communicating your value increases your self-esteem and your self-worth something that you had said maybe not exact word, but that, can you unpack that for us? Like what do you mean by that?


Well, I think again, if I’m being honest Hon, I think that one of the other mistakes that I made when I first started this business was not believing hundred percent that hey, what I do, not only adds a little bit of value, but a lot of value, like it’s not just a nice to have, it’s essential if you’re going to step into this particular spotlight. So I think that and you can relate, I’m sure as an entrepreneur, you’re telling your story, over and over again, you’re doing on calls, you’re doing it on podcasts, you’re, you’re talking about your story from 100 different angles, on 100 different media perhaps. And I think that the more that you talk to people and the more that you can communicate that story the more validation that you’ll get and I’m not a proponent of seeking external validation because that that you know, exclusively that that has its own problems, but I do think that it’s important to I get feedback from not only prospects because that that is a different dynamic where you’re hoping that they’ll, they’ll buy from you, but from fellow entrepreneurs especially. And so I think that that is is probably what I was saying, when I know I have written things like that in the past, I don’t remember the exact quote either, but it is, it was tremendously helpful for me. And not only saying like, Hey, I can really do this, I can be an entrepreneur, but also in tightening up my own messaging that I would pass along to prospects. So increases your self-esteem because you just realize, hey, I can do it, but also increasing your, your self-worth, and as Susie Harmon says, right, your net worth as well, because you’re going to convince more people to engage with you professionally. That’s awesome. That’s great.


Well, thank you so much for being with us. And sharing your knowledge and wisdom about speech writing and, and how to build a personal brand. Before I let you go, can you tell people how they can reach out to you?


Absolutely, yes. So so my website content interpreter.com. And if you go to the content interpreter, com slash podcast, you can sign up for a consultation where we can chat get to know each other, talk about your speech, writing or public speaking needs. I would love that. I’d love to engage with the listeners in that way. I’m also on the Facebook content interpreter, Twitter at cons interpreter, and I’m also on LinkedIn as well. And so there are a bunch of different ways to get in touch with me if you’re a fellow entrepreneur. I’m also on the shaper networking app. And I’m also on a liable which is a social network for small business owners. So if all else fails, just Google and you’ll find a place to reach me.


Awesome. That’s good. We’ll try to put as many links in the show notes as possible so that we can. Now before you know, you brought up shaper and ally nibble I’ve heard of those ads, how do you find them? By the way? Like, are they are they? Are they as good as LinkedIn? or What is your opinion about them?


I think they’re different. shaper was brought to my attention by my career coach who I worked with for almost an entire year. And the work that we did together actually inspired what this business ultimately became. So I give a big shout out to career coaches everywhere. I think they do. phenomenal work. But shaper is, is for lack of a better term, Tinder for business and spell. You basically tell people where you’re working. You say, hey, here are my interests professionally. Here’s so hashtag marketing, hashtag branding, hashtag public speaking, whatever it might be. Here, my goals. I want to hire more employees, I want to grow my business, I just want to expand my network, whatever it might be. And they will give you a set of matches that you swipe left or swipe right. And it’s as simple as that. And I don’t get paid by them or anything. I just want to clarify, I just happen to use the app and met a lot of interesting people. As far as the lineup goes. It’s different from LinkedIn, in the sense that everyone on or most everyone on there that I’ve encountered is small business owners. So you kind of has this kinship that is not necessarily found on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is every professional in the world, but any kind of professional in the world is on LinkedIn. A liable is geared much more towards the small business owners and it’s an interesting way to just compare notes with people, what marketing channels work, that sort of thing. So it’s a That they’re both a lot of fun. And each of these channels as you see it serves a different purpose.


That’s great. Well, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on that as well. Thanks.


Absolutely. My pleasure.


Great. Thank you. Thank you, right.


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