How to build a personal foundation through branding, blogging & social media

How to build a personal foundation through branding, blogging & social media

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Back in March, I let you know of my upcoming talk at TEDxCMU and on April 3rd 2011, I gave my talk and now it is available to watch online for free, in HD.

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You can view my talk on ‘Building a Personal Foundation through Branding, Blogging & Social Media‘ below, or you can click through to view it on YouTube. I’d love to hear your honest feedback if you do watch it.

How I prepared for the talk

After I accepted & signed the contract to speak at TEDxCMU, this is how I prepared for the talk, in the 3 weeks I had to do so.

  1. Procrastinated for 2 weeks. Watched 10 or so TED videos, many found here. Researched how to prepare for a TED format talk and brushed up on my public speaking skills (still need more of these).
  2. Wrote an outline of what I wanted to talk about, then wrote a 10 page speech.
  3. Scrapped the speech and instead created slides based loosely around the speech, that I could talk about from memory.
  4. Practiced and timed the talk 6 times, based on these slides. Cut and added things where needed to adhere to TED’s 16-18 min rule. Wrote a smaller summary of points I had to remember and matched these points with the slides. Practiced some more.
  5. Three days before the event, I took off half a day off work to practice, which allowed me to practice about 6 more times while refining the talk / slides.
  6. One day before the event, I finalised my slides and sent them off to TEDxCMU, to compile for the event. I flew to Pittsburgh and took my laptop with me to practice my speech in the hotel room. Went to sleep.
  7. Woke up every two hours, anxious I had missed my alarm clock. Finally woke up at the right time and then did one more practice speech, before driving to the event.

TEDxCMU 2011 Speakers


There were many other inspirational, moving & thought provoking talks on the day, of whom I have listed below. If you are a student or are needing inspirational advice, I would recommend watching the talks I’ve put a star next too. These were my personal favourites, as well as Luis von Ahn’s talk.

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Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

TEDxCMU 2011 Photos

Below you can see some photos of the event, with many more found over on the TEDxCMU Flickr page.

TEDxCMU 2011 Poster

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A poster of the 2011 TEDxCMU speakers outside of the conference room.

Jacob Cass - I'm Possible

The theme of the event; IM-POSSIBLE.

Jacob Cass - TEDxCMU

The first slide of my talk; Building a Personal Foundation.

TEDxCMU 2011 Graduation

Talking about my NYC job offer via Twitter while at University.

TEDxCMU 2011 Audience

The 450 odd people watching the TEDxCMU presentation.

TEDxCMU Group 2011

TEDxCMU 2011 speakers & organisers. (Thank you!)

TEDxCMU Board Sign

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At the end of the event, the audience was invited to sign the black board with their thoughts.


The final result of the board at the end of the event.

Please share your thoughts, comments or questions.

36 thoughts on “How to build a personal foundation through branding, blogging & social media”

  1. Hello Jacob,

    Your video on building a personal foundation is something I have to do. I am my consultanting service and enjoyed the way you explained it.

    I am on linkedin and I need to create a facebook fan page. I really need to do the twitter thing.

    I was directed to you by Google alerts. I use them alot to get unique ideas and solutions for my clients.

    Thank you and I am a new follower.

  2. I liked your video it very cool. I am a multimedia design student and new to this field what could I blog about on my site?

  3. I took the opportunity to watch the live TEDxCMU webcast on April 3rd thanks to one of your earlier posts in March.

    I thought that you had some great information to share with the audience, but while watching your presentation, I got the feeling that you weren’t very experienced in public speaking. The main reason for thinking this is that you seemed to be uncomfortable on the stage – and it’s completely understandable – especially when you’re in front of a couple hundred people.

    My main suggestion is to take as many speaking opportunities as possible. These extra chances to speak will help you become more relaxed on stage and in turn, your presentations will flow a lot better. You already know the information, so it’s mainly about being comfortable speaking and letting your personality shine.

    From experience, I know that public speaking can be a terrifying event. When I had to deal with it, I was so worried about getting all the info out that I would speak quickly, pause to catch my breath and consistently say “uh” when I lost my place. After having to speak at several events, I felt better about myself because I knew the information and realized that it’s really not a big deal.

    People want you to succeed. Most of them went out of their way to hear you speak, so it’s like you’re talking to a bunch of friends you haven’t met yet. I believe that you can share some great things with the world, and public speaking is another opportunity to help others learn. Best of luck to you!

    PS. I love the fact that you’re using the Re-Captcha after watching Luis von Ahn’s presentation at TEDx. It’s amazing how something as simple as this can make such a difference.

  4. Good Evening!

    I am a constant visitor of your blog. First, I must say congratulations on your Talk. It was great to see and hear what you had to say about building a personal brand! I picked up a few things here and there.

    Second, I understand there is the time constraint you had to factor in when deciding what you will say, but in my opinion, it would have been better if the Talk was more than a “tip sheet.”

    I for one am more interested about your personal experience (like the beginning of the Talk), and what you learned from these.

  5. This is just great for you and the others. I love how you connect your life experience(at the beginning of the talk to the point that you are making. It is very inspiring and valuable. Congratulations!

    By the way, Would you also share your experience of your short vacation?
    Where have you been to this time? Can’t wait to read about it.

  6. Hi Jacob!

    I watched your TEDxCMU talk, congrats! As an immigrant myself, I feel for you and everything you had to experience recently, what a great story.
    Thank you for sharing so much valuable information including how you prepared for your talk, the procrastination and the waking up anxious about not hearing your alarm clock is something everyone can relate to I am sure and it made me laugh ;).

  7. Loved the speech, some messages there that I’m really going to take to heart. I will say, that it’s a shame that in this whirlwind, you haven’t have much time for some orginial blog posts from yourself, would love to see more of those in the future.

  8. Thank you everyone for the feedback & congratulations, appreciate ite!

    It was definitely nerve racking, plus it didn’t help that it was the first time in front of such a large audience.

    There are actually hundreds of TED events around the world, however they are called TEDx which are independent of the annual TED conference.

    Good luck setting up you profiles. I would be interested in knowing what Google Alert brought you here?

    Like I mentioned in the talk, blog about something you are passionate about.

    Thanks for your feedback, appreciate it a lot. I do know that I need to get more confidence and tune my speaking skills… this was only my third speaking in front of an audience so I certainly need more practice.

    I would also be interested to know how different the live stream was to this recorded version?

    As for the re-Captcha, I actually had this before watching Luis’s talk and funnily enough I told him to his face that I thought it didn’t work very well as I still get a few messages a day coming through… then he told me he was the guy who invented it. That was kinda awkward. That aside, I was gobsmacked when I found out they actually translated books which is why I continue to use re-Captcha.

    I tried to share some of my experiences and also share some tips on how I achieved it. Like you mentioned, the time limit is quite a constraint – I could easily talk for hours on each of the topics mentioned.

    I’ll see about posting pics of the short vacation however it was more of a party-vacation and the photos aren’t that appropriate for the blog. Was in LA for Coachella (3 day music festival), San Deigo for the beaches and Las Vegas for partying & the weather.

    I’m certainly not the first to have experienced such troubles, but most Americans are surprised at how difficult it is to actually work & live in their country so I thought it was worth sharing.

    You mean listening?

    Yeah, these things do take up your time as well as full time work. I wish there was more time to write more, I have a good 10 or so article ideas that I just don’t have the time to write. That said, I’m thankful for those that contribute to the blog, as they are all unpaid posts.

  9. I just finished watching the video and I loved it! I recently created a new online portfolio and blog. I created social media accounts as well. Before all these, I used to just use Facebook to connect with friends and family.
    You asked for feedback and all I can say is that it’s a great talk/presentation! There isn’t anything that I would change.

  10. Jacob,

    I didn’t really notice a difference between the live feed and the current version available. I have to give everyone working TEDxCMU a lot of credit for having everything run pretty smoothly – despite the few technical glitches at the beginning of the event.

    I also want to stress that I wasn’t criticizing the fact that you were noticeably uncomfortable while speaking. I believe that your blog is incredible valuable for designers like myself trying to learn good practices. Because of this, my reasons for suggesting the additional speaking events weren’t only for your benefit in becoming a better speaker, but were for the benefit of the people you will speak to in the future.

    Thank you for doing what you do. If you didn’t share the TEDx event with us, I don’t think I would have found inspiration to begin pushing through my transition into the professional world.

  11. Also, a funny thing to mention about the live feed vs. what was seen if you were in the audience…

    The slides that weren’t seen during Jenny Blake’s presentation could actually be seen by us on the web. So I guess those of us who couldn’t make it to the event actually lucked out.

  12. Jacob,

    Just had a chance to watch your presentation. Watching it I was thinking pretty much along the same lines as Tim above. The information is all good, but I can tell you’re uncomfortable at times. Seems like little more practice is all it would take to change that.

    You didn’t need to feel uncomfortable. You speak well, your jokes are funny, the story in the beginning was perfect, and again the information overall was great.

    It struck me that you stumbled in places where you momentarily forgot what you were going to say next or when you were transitioning from one topic to another. When you were in the middle of something I think you felt more confident.

    A few more speaking engagements and I imagine the confidence will be there.

  13. Hey Jacob

    Overall good speach. Just a couple tips I find helpfull when speaking to both smaller and larger audiences.
    Read up on rhetoric. I studied rhetoric for half a year, during my communication BA, and this is one of the best most helpfull classes I have ever taken. Not only can you use it for speaking in public, but this will help writing and designing aswell.(key words are Ethos, Patos, Logos, and “the five canons of rhetoric). On top of that it is a super interesting subject that I’m sure you as a communicator and designer will find more than helpfull.

    Thanks for the tips and for a great helpfull blog.


  14. Thanks so much for sharing this. It is useful and encouraging. I admire your work and blog updates, keep it up!

  15. Great point on social media integration. Matt Cutts (engineer of Google) also pointed out on his blog that they have changed the way social sites are weighted on their search algoryhtm. So it is very crucial and important that we inegrate our branding on blogging and social media marketing.

  16. Great presentation! Is there way to see the slides without watching the video? Or even better, do you have an article of what you presented?


  17. Thank you so much for sharing your presentation and knowledge on this. Picked up some inspiring points to remember.

  18. Hi Jacob! A great presentation! It was really useful. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  19. Hi Jacob, I am pretty much late watching and commenting on your talk but I am glad I watched it. Without comparing it to other talks on the similar topic, I would like to say that the structure was certainly uncomplicated. The language you used was easy to understand for anyone, which is one of the most important traits of an effective presentation. The branding content was fairly basic; assuming the talk was intended for professionals others than brand identity designers. I liked the brief collection of incidents regarding your job — help from Dribble and use of twitter— which made the talk interesting. Perhaps, the gulps and jitters were because of your first attempt in front of a large audience.
    Hope to see you give more of these talks in future. Besides, how’s your job going on? Are you still doing freelance work?
    Keep rocking, Mate!

  20. Hey Jacob,

    Awesome speech. I love how you tied humor into it. I cracked up several times, lol. You did a great job. One thing I’ve learned from you in general is the importance of branding.. Thanks and keep it up!

  21. Jacob,

    WOW. Cannot believe you got to speak at TED! Just wanted to let you know, and I’m sure that I’m not the first….

    3-4 years ago I don’t know how, but I came across your logo, website, and blog. It was really inspirational to see your work and everything you had accomplished at such a young age. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to do what that cat does for a living?”

    Fast forward 4 years. I graduated with a degree in Communications, was thrust into the real world, and gained 3 years experience working at nonprofit organizations. All the nonprofits had terrible logos, brands, and websites. I saw the need.

    I since decided to “Go for it” and have thrown myself into online communities, design books, art classes, and the land of wordpress… quitting my day job to freelance full-time from home. I know I still have a long way to go…

    Anyways, I guess I just wanted to let you know that without your helpful blog, insights, and resources in the design community I would have never found my start. Everyone needs a ‘jumping board” so to speak, and 4 years ago that is exactly what your blog provided.

    Thank you.

  22. Hey Jacob,

    Thanks for this incredible video in encouraging designers, such as myself, to build a strong foundation on social media. I have my brand, “Chidozie Creations” and my website will be out by December 1st (It would be sooner; however, I’m now a full-time student). In my website, I decide today to add a blog page on my website. Also, I have Dribble, but no good because I have to get “invited” to post my works on Dribble. How did you get invited when using Dribble?
    Anyway, thanks again for this post. You’re awesome!

    Take care.

    Chidozie Acey

  23. or you can click through to view it on YouTube. I’d love to hear your honest feedback if you do watch it.

  24. Awesome speech. I love how you tied humor into it. I cracked up several times, lol. You did a great job. One thing I’ve learned from you in general is the importance of branding.. Thanks and keep it up!

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