Every week I get approached by people who want to speak at Interactive Minds events and I love making new connections with marketing experts who want to be involved!
As a speaker myself, I fully support and encourage people to develop their thought leadership and use speaking as a platform to do this. However, about this time every year, we start to get bombarded with emails from people wanting to speak at our events, spurred on by the excitement of the upcoming Digital Summit.
We receive a number of emails like this:
I’d like to speak at one of your events. My agency/platform/expertise is in A, B & C. It would be great to know if there are any speaking spots available.
Please let me know if you want me to speak at your event?
I wanted to share my perspective with you as an event organiser on receiving speaker submissions, what I’d like to see and how I would approach it differently.
Before we unpack the above email, let’s take a step back and look at why you should consider speaking at an event in the first place.
Why Speak At Events?
Speaking at events can be beneficial in a variety of ways. Whether you are a marketer for an organisation or an expert representing an agency or product, it can provide a fast track to exposure, opportunities and connections.
Here are some of the key benefits you can receive from speaking at events:
- Demonstrate your thought leadership – Share your ideas and experiences with others and earn respect for the work you are doing. It’s a great opportunity to position yourself as knowledgeable in this space.
- Connect with your peers – Speaking provides you with a fast track to meet new people and build your reputation. It enables you to easily connect with other speakers as well as attendees at an event.
- Build your experience – Senior leaders need to have good communication skills, so being able to confidently speak at events can help to develop this skill through experience.
- Deep dive – When you take the time to prepare, it gives you an opportunity to deep dive into the topic, to spend some time researching what others are doing and take a closer look at your own outcomes. I always find this a valuable side effect of preparing a presentation. Please don’t interpret this to mean that you need to cover every inch of the process. One of the appeals is hearing from people at different stages in a journey and being able to hear a ‘real’ approach, warts and all.
- Explore opportunities – When you share your ideas and thoughts with others, it can lead to opportunities to collaborate, meet like-minded people and explore new directions.
- Build your personal brand – Invest the time in using your knowledge and experience to build a name for yourself. It gives you a chance to explore the opportunities mentioned above.
- Build your employer brand – This can be true whether you work for a brand or an agency. When you speak on behalf of a company and share your success and learnings from a brand, in turn, you will bring awareness and respect to that brand too. One of my close connections actually tracked the opportunities she received through speaking as a way of proving the value of her involvement in events. At some events over 10% of the audience reached out to her to connect!
- Get paid /Travel - Whilst we don’t generally pay for speakers to be involved in our events it is possible to earn some income if you make a name for yourself. I’ve seen people charge from $1,000 to $200,000 for doing keynote presentations. Plus, if you’re travelling interstate or overseas to be involved in events, you may be able to get your travel costs covered.
Once you have decided that you want to speak at events, it’s time to plan your approach.
What Event Organisers Need
Anytime you want to ask someone for something, think of how you can phrase your request to also consider the needs of the person you are asking. Talk in terms of how you can help them to solve their problems and it will get you a lot further than talking only about what you need.
Most of the emails I receive asking for a speaking spot tell me about why they want to speak, largely overlooking what I, as the event organiser, needs from my speaker line up.
So let me explain. When I’m identifying speakers for an event I need three key elements:
- Great content that is new and interesting, teaches the audience something or shares behind the scenes experiences, knowledge etc.
- Speakers who are a good fit for my target audience, with a senior level of experience in marketing, ideally with other speaking experience.
- Speakers who will attract a crowd (we do after all want people to attend the events!). This means they either need to be known for their thought leadership or work for a respected brand.
You need to spend a moment to think about whether you address these needs for an event and how you can show that you can add value.
Agency vs Brand Speakers
The majority of approaches I receive are from agency or platform side speakers – which isn’t surprising as they have a lot to gain from exposure at an event. At the same time, agency side speakers need to work a little harder for a speaking spot for a few reasons.
While many of the approaches I receive are credible authorities in their space, very few of them work for a company whose brand alone will attract delegates to the event. It’s a careful balance for me as I know and respect the breadth of knowledge agencies bring, but often marketers want to hear from their peers on strategies and outcomes, over what may be perceived as a sales pitch for products and services.
As an event organiser, I am also mindful of existing partner and sponsor agreements to ensure no conflict of interest when bringing on an agency or platform side speaker.
My best advice here is to be conscious of these factors when pitching to speak at an event and try to add as much value as you can.
Marketing Speakers Wanted!
I would like to receive more speaking requests from senior marketers who are employed by brands and want to speak for their own professional development or for the reasons listed above! There's never been a better time and below I’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to get a speaking gig.
What can you do to stand out?
This sounds simple when I type it out, connect with me, I’m pretty easy to find. I freely publish my email address, I’m responsive on LinkedIn and fairly visible on other social media, not to mention I’m easy to find at an event every month. Come and say hi or connect with me in some way. And this is important, don’t ask for a speaking spot in the first interaction. Wait until we’ve had one or two interactions, exchange some value and THEN ask me if you can speak. I’m much more likely to be responsive if I know a bit about you and have a connection. This goes for any event organiser!
Provide (new) topic ideas
Whilst I am very involved in working with speakers to define the best topic for them to talk on, it’s often helpful if I know some areas of expertise or passion that you can speak about. When you approach an event organiser wanting to speak, don’t leave it up to them to do the research on you and figure out if you’re a good fit. You need to SELL yourself and make it easy. Suggest some interesting areas that you can speak on and be specific. Compare these two sentences:
- “I can speak how we do cross-channel marketing”
- “I can share some research on the optimum number of touch points for our customers and detail how we drive consumers from our retail stores to online channels after purchase to follow up.”
I’ve tailored this for an upcoming event topic specifically, but you can see how much more valuable option (b) is to me than the first. Not only is it specific for what I need, but it shows a depth of knowledge and resources.
Think about what you can offer?
If you’re feeling a little bit light on in meeting the above items, then this tactic will help you to stand out – as no one does this! Consider what you can offer to add value back to the event. One easy way that people can do this (particularly agencies) is to offer to help to promote the event that you’re speaking at. Not only is it in your best interest to spread the word about your involvement as it will help with your personal & company branding and positioning, but it’s often useful for an event organiser to spread awareness about the event. Offer to make a mention of it in your next newsletter or to run a competition to give away some tickets. You can also suggest that you spread the word on social media and with your network.
In some cases it may be useful to think about what you can offer to event attendees should you be involved as well. Perhaps you can provide a white paper, a free trial or share a framework that you’ve developed.
Please don’t think that because you reached out to an event organiser two years ago that they will come to you when the time is right. Events are a funny business, they run through regular cycles and speaker requirements change frequently. I’d like to take a guess that most event managers don’t have an efficient system of tracking speaker requests so they might not even have your information readily available. I recommend staying fresh - reach out say hi and stay in touch. I’m much more likely to offer speaking spots to people that I know, people I’ve had conversations with or seen speak elsewhere. I’ve also reached out to people after I’ve seen them quoted in articles or released a video online (this is about your personal brand!).
Make a plan and do
I’ve outlined some suggestions here on how to approach speaking spots and now it’s time to make a plan. Don’t put it off thinking that because you need an approach that it is a big job, it’s really not. After all, you know your content and passion areas, it won’t take long to dot point a few thoughts and start connecting with event organisers.
Feel free to try it out by emailing me if you like. We work with over 100 marketing speakers each year across our seminar events and at The Digital Summit coming up in July! Do you have something to contribute? This is your chance to get your name on our radar!