12 Ways to get a speaking Gig

How to Get a Speaking Gig: 12 Ways to Charm Conference Organizers
Apr 09, 2010 -
Getting an invitation to speak at an industry trade show or event is a great way to elevate your profile in your industry, confirm that you know your stuff, share your knowledge, make great contacts, and (of course) indulge your inner ham.

So how do you get a speaking gig at a trade show or industry event?

Here are 12 ways.

1. Give yourself plenty of time. Program planning for many events and conferences begins up to a year in advance, says Helena Bouchez of Helena B Communications. But at the events I’ve helped organize, the day registration opens is often the day speakers often come out of the woodwork seeking to participate. It doesn’t work like that: Seek out the events you’d like to attend well in advance, and reach out to the organizers, Helena adds. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Contact organizers how they ask to be contacted. Sometimes, event organizers have a web-based speaker proposal form. Other times, they want to hear from you via email. I suppose some event organizers are okay being contacted by telephone. But in general, I’d discourage it, because most organizers are inundated with proposals, and a telephone call will only annoy them.

3. Suggest how you fit in. “Don’t make the event producer find the fit,” says Alison Murdock of Next Round Communications “When you suggest a speaker, tell them how and where they should go in the program. It will also show you cared enough to understand their program.”

4. Reach out personally. It’s always better to contact and organizer yourself, rather than rely on your PR agency to do it for you. Unless you are Malcolm Gladwell, it’s better to reach out to program organizers personally.

5. Have some social cred. You show up in Google. Your profile on LinkedIn is robust, and you blog and/or Twitter about relevant industry trends and topics.  Conference organizers like to tap people who have some street credibility on the topic they want to present on. In part, they want to know you are passionate about the topic and involved in your industry. What’s more, it can help them discern your point of view.

6. Write a great session proposal. Writing a great session title and description is a bit of an art form: You want to accurately portray what you’ll speak about, but also convey a sense of the personality and energy you’ll bring to it. Think of the session title as the compelling, intriguing headline, and liven up the description to include specific takeaways (what’s in it for the audience?) and lively language. Warning: Don’t be boring! Even if your topic is dead-serious, you want to convey that you know how to present it with energy and passion.

7. Bring a client. Some events prefer to use client-side speakers rather than vendors or consultants. One way around that is to invite a client or customer to present alongside you. Can’t get the client to show? Try presenting a case study on their behalf. Doing so can greatly improve your chances to get the gig as well as build your credibility with the audience. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt to deepen your relationship with your client, either.)

8. Start small. If you aren’t getting any traction with the bigger events, approach smaller events: Local chamber events, networking breakfasts, association gatherings are all great places to start building your speaking resume.

9. Create a speaking page. Dedicate a page on your Web site or blog to your public speaking efforts. Give an overview of who you are and what topics you regularly speak about (or can). Include a photo. List where you’ve been and where you are going. Also…

10. Solicit testimonials and post them on your speaking page. Ask for testimonials from conference organizers, association coordinators, or whomever you worked with on a specific event.

11. Include a video, too. A video demonstrating your speaking skills is a nice touch. Seeing you in action gives conference organizers a clear picture of how you present. Don’t have a copy of a live event? Shoot yourself with a Flip video camera or similar – even a shorter introduction is a helpful touch.

12. Keep in touch. Winning a speaking gig is a lot like nurturing a long-term business lead. It takes time and patience. So keep in touch with conference organizers, attend their events and meet them, and continue to offer yourself as a resource.

What else would you say? Any advice for others? How have you won a speaking gig?

Thanks to Helena Bouchez of Helena B Communications for the inspiration for this post.


Ann Handley if the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs. Follow her on Twitter @marketingprofs.

Photo credit: jonny goldstein