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3 Tips for Pitching Yourself for a Conference, Talk or Panel

When you’re growing your business or personal profile, the opportunity to speak in front of an audience of industry colleagues and potential clients is invaluable. So how do you find the right audience and secure an opportunity to speak on stage? It’s a matter of doing your research, devoting the right resources and sharing insight that only you can impart.

1. Do your research early

Start by identifying the events that will attract the type of audience you hope to reach. Professional and industry organizations are good place to start. When it comes to national events, many conferences select speakers up to a year in advance, so it’s a good idea to start your research early. If it’s a local organization, you might be able to submit yourself to speak on a shorter timeline or organize a solo speaking event.

When researching events, review past event agendas to see the type of content the organizers selected. Confirm these topic themes align with your expertise and the professional persona you wish to develop. Then, make a list of the submission dates so you can be well-prepared to submit for the next event. Not all events have a public call for speakers – if you don’t see one, reach out to the event organizer. Even if you aren’t selected, it’s good to build a relationship with the organizers. They will sometimes call upon previous submissions in their files if a selected speaker has to cancel or if they’re organizing a future event.

2. Decide the type of investment that works best for you

Committing to building a speaker profile for yourself will require investment – time, money, proprietary data and sometimes all three. Many of the more prominent conferences are pay-to-play – meaning speakers must pay or their company must be a sponsor to be selected. The price varies depending on the audience, but for national conferences the fees are usually in the thousands to tens of thousands. If you’re set on speaking to a national audience and don’t have that kind of budget, ask yourself what else you can offer. Do you have data no one else has? Did you lead a splashy campaign with social media buzz? Did you use a technology in a new or innovative way, and that technology company is sponsoring the event? Those factors can sometimes persuade event organizers to bring in a speaker with less monetary investment.

Smaller regional and local events don’t usually have such a steep monetary investment, but they do require time. You may be required to market the event yourself to be sure there will be attendees, or you may be asked to pay for the venue or refreshments. However, if you will reach the right audience, it’s money and time well spent – and also gives you the opportunity to collect attendee emails for lead generation in the future.

3. Bring authentic insight and information to your talk

We’ve all been at an event where the speaker seems more interested in talking about themselves or pitching a product rather than imparting actual wisdom. It’s not valuable to the audience, and it’s also not favored by event organizers reviewing dozens of submissions. When formulating your speaking topic, make sure you’re prepared to impart information that’s exclusive to your presentation. For example, you could share a personal experience where a certain strategy yielded a powerful result. Using real business or client stories with as many data-backed proof points as you can makes for a powerful and unique talk that attendees couldn’t get anywhere else.

Also consider asking a customer or collaborator to present with you. Especially if you are a vendor or service provider, event organizers will take your submission more seriously if your customer is willing to join you on stage and present their own view and insight. It can also be an opportunity to deepen your relationships with customers, who will appreciate the opportunity to highlight their successes. The best speakers share knowledge that’s specific, personal and only available to the people sitting in the room – that’s what makes attendees think “this speaker is the expert I need for my business.”

With the right planning, investment and mindset, business leaders can build a powerful speaking program that boosts their profile, pushes the industry forward and brings in new business.

If you’re interested in talking more about how to build a powerful speaker program, you can get in touch with our team here. With research, persistence and engaging content, you can find a place for yourself on stage this conference season.