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Speaking engagements – how to get started

Over the past 2-3 months, I’ve had a number conversations centered around speaking engagements and how I got started.

Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to speak at 15+ marketing industry conferences, some large, some tiny, some solo, some panels. I’ve nailed a few where I got ten follow-up questions, and bombed a few where I walked off the stage wondering if anyone was listening. They’ve all been engagements I’ve landed “outside of work,” meaning it wasn’t some corporate initiative or conference my company was attending. While, in hindsight, I’m still new to the conference circuit game (15, after all, is small apples), I’ve developed a formula that I think could help anyone who’s trying to get started:

Research and narrow your list

  • Identifying your list of conferences is the first step to making it happen. In any major city, depending on your function, there could be 10-100 conferences throughout the year. This spans across major conferences that cost $5,000 just to attend to smaller ones that you’ve never heard of. Develop a list of as many conferences as you can that you’d be interested in speaking at throughout a year. This is your starting point.

Ask if speakers are needed

  • This is the most critical step to the process. There’s two ways to ask about speaker opportunities: 1. Most conferences list the “interested in speaking?” contact on their website. Take that information from each conference on your list and email everyone of those contacts. Be specific in your communication including how you could add value based on your experience and providing them with a topic. Make it extremely contextual. 90% of the time you won’t get a response when you start, which leads me to 2. On any given day, depending on your industry, you likely get an email inviting you to attend or buy a ticket to an industry conference. Next time you get an email about attending a conference, reply back asking if they need speakers. This has directly landed me at least 3 opportunities. You already have the line of communication open, might as well put the question out there.

Say yes to every opportunity

  • Event look somewhat sketchy? Say yes. Event look tiny? Say yes. Someone want you to speak to 5 people in a park? Say yes. Don’t get fancy. When getting started, it’s all about reps. You can worry about landing bigger conferences and compensation down the road.

Develop content around your expertise

  • In my next engagement, I’m speaking about marketing trends in 2019. Why? Because I wrote about it and shared it on LinkedIn, then received a message asking if I could come speak about the topic. Personally developed content on LinkedIn is very underrated. Develop and share consistently.

Follow-up for feedback and network

  • After every conference follow up with the organizer thanking them for having you and (this is key) letting them know that you’d love to be involved in future events. This can hook you into rounds of conferences year-over-year vs. it being a one time thing.
  • Unless you’ve launched successful startup or are a whiz kid, the idea of public speaking is a proactive game vs. reactive. Especially, when you’re just getting started.

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