Speaking at conferences and events is a great way to meet new people, learn new things and see new places. It’s also a great way to generate awareness for you, your company, and your products, and establish yourself as an expert in your industry. Here are some suggestions to help you find and land more speaking opportunities:
What should you speak about?
Before you can start to research potential speaking opportunities, you should establish clear goals and objectives for what you would like to get out of speaking. Here are some things for you to consider before putting that PowerPoint deck together:
- What is most interesting about you? What life experiences and practical knowledge will people find most interesting? Have you published a book, climbed a mountain, overcome adversity or walked on the moon? Why would people want to hear you speak?
- What current, relevant topics do you know the most about? Are there timely angles that are most relevant to the people you interact with?
Why are you the best person to speak on your topic? What qualifies you as the best person to speak about your topic?
- How good a speaker are you? Do you regularly give presentations, or is this a new area you’re going to have to work on to be good? What experience do you have speaking to different types of audiences?
Where Should You Speak?
Based on your answers to the questions above, you should be able to develop a profile for the types of events you would be a good speaking candidate for. If you have a very popular blog on a particular topic, speaking to groups and associations about those subjects could be a good starting point. If your knowledge is limited to a geographic area, you may want to limit your targets to regional groups and associations. If your knowledge is highly specialized or technical in nature, you may want to target groups with similar profiles.
Once you have an idea of the type of venues you’d like to target, consider the following resources to find events and conferences to submit a speaker proposal to:
- Groups and Associations – what groups and associations do you currently belong to? There are usually regional and national events for these groups, and often instructions for submitting speaker proposals. Start with the connections you already have.
- Tradeshow & Exhibition Directories – directories like TSNN provide a searchable database of international events and conferences on almost every topic imaginable. Whether you’re looking for regional or national events, this is a great place to start.
- Social Media – use social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Plancast and MeetUp to find events in your area that focus on the topics you want to speak about. Once you find a group you’d like to speak at, reach out to the officers to see how you can get involved.
- Colleges and Universities – if you need to get some speaking experience, volunteer your time to speak at a local college or university. Most schools encourage professionals from the community to give guest lectures. This is also a great way to accumulate speaking experience you can put in your bio.
How to Submit Your Speaking Proposal
Most speaker proposals are accepted online by groups and associations for their events. Rather than reinvent the wheel each time you want to submit a speaker proposal, create your own speaker kit in advance. Most speaker proposals ask you for the following information. Prepare this information in advance, so you can quickly complete online forms on-the-fly.
- Your personal contact information
- The topic you’d like to speak about – prepare multiple options in advance
- The title of your presentation
- An abstract and/or summary of your presentation
- Your personal or professional bio
- A headshot – a professional photo of you
- Examples of places you’ve presented at before
- Your credentials – education, professional certifications, awards, books and articles you’ve written, etc.
Use all of this information to create a speaker profile document you can use to email people if an online form isn’t available. Consider putting this information on your website, and include a speaker request form, to encourage people to contact you to speak at their events. You’ll be surprised how well this works, particularly if you have a popular blog or website (here is a great example from Chris Brogan). Don’t worry if you don’t have these credentials yet, you can build your speaker profile over time. Start small, get better and target larger venues over time.
Creating Better Presentations
While the focus of this article is on how to find and secure speaking opportunities, it’s important that you prepare and deliver a high-impact presentation – particularly if you want to speak at future events in the same industry. Once you give one great presentation, you’ll reach people who will be interested in having you speak to their group or association. You should constantly work to improve your presentations. Here are some resources to help you out:
- Presentation Zen and Slideology – two great, current books on developing and delivering great presentations (their blogs are jam-packed with useful information too).
- Slideshare – this site (slideshare.com) enables people to upload their presentations. The community votes on the best presentations across a lot of different categories. Review the best presentations on this site to learn more about design, content and the art of presenting.
- Alltop – read blogs and websites about speaking to get tips from the pros on giving great presentations. Alltop aggregates the best blogs on various topics, including those dedicated to speaking (speaking.alltop.com)
Speaking opportunities can be very competitive. Your chances of being selected as a speaker are much better if your topic is original, timely and something that will draw an audience. If you’re not a well-known expert yet, it’s the topic that will get you on the agenda.
Consider aligning yourself with other better-known experts and suggest a panel discussion. This is a great option for getting started speaking. Pick some other experts in your industry and suggest yourself as a panelist or moderator for the event. Panel discussions are usually a good draw for events since people are usually most interested in hearing one of the speakers on your panel.
Finally, remember to have fun and to be helpful. People don’t want to hear you pitch your company or products when you present, they want to learn something from you. Of course, the speaker is always the most popular person at an event, so you’ll have a chance to talk about that stuff before or after your presentation.
The best way for you to get repeat speaking opportunities is for you to deliver exceptional value for your audience. Do this and you will reap the rewards of your hard work.