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How to Get Speaking Gigs: Experts Weigh In

Submitted by on June 22, 2011 – 5:02 am6 Comments

The time has come when you want to take your talk on the road.  You’ve seen speakers at conferences and you’ve been thinking, if they can do it, why can’t I?  Like every other new business venture, you’ll likely find that the decision to pursue speaking gigs will necessitate implementing a well thought out strategy.  You’ll want to go about it the right way.  While many of our blog posts here on GigCoin focus on social media you’ll find that this is an area where integrating the best of your face-to-face skills with your skills as a content developer and social media marketer will all come into play.

What do you need to know about getting speaking gigs? I put the question out to a number of experts.  Ann Handley, David Meerman Scott and Mike Stelzner weigh in with the following suggestions:

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and author of Content Rules, How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, has a great blog post on the American Express OPEN Forum where she shares 12 tips for getting speaking gigs. I asked Ann if she had anything she’d want to add to this list and at the end you’ll get a chance to hear #13, which she says was inspired by her recent experiences at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston last week.

Ann writes in her post:

  1. Give yourself plenty of time for reaching out to events and conferences since the program planning for many begin up to a year in advance.
  2. Contact organizers and ask how they like to be contacted e.g. a web-based speaker proposal form, email.
  3. Suggest how you fit in.
  4. Reach out personally rather than through a PR agency (unless she she says, you’re someone like Malcolm Gladwell)
  5. Have social credibility. Make sure you’re showing up in Google, your LinkedIn profile is robust and you blog and/or tweet about relevant industry trends and topics.
  6. Write a great session proposal which is a bit of an art form.
  7. Bring a client to present alongside you or present a case study on their behalf.
  8. Start small. If you aren’t getting any traction with bigger events, approach ones through your local chamber, networking breakfasts, and association gatherings.
  9. Create a speaking page. Dedicate a page on your Web site or blog to your public speaking efforts.
  10. Solicit testimonials and post them on your speaking page.
  11. Include a video that demonstrates your speaking skills.
  12. Keep in touch, winning a speaking gig is a lot like nurturing a long-term business lead, it takes time and patience. Continue to offer yourself as a resource.And now, added in June 2011:
  13. Attend an event run by the same organizers, and be visible! Participate in sessions, and ask questions. Tweet from the event, and blog about the event before and after — what you hope to learn, what you learned.  Be a “model attendee”: Connect with other attendees, socialize at the networking/cocktail events, and get to know the organizers (as well as let them get to know you). Be clear in how much you love the event, and let them know you’d love to be considered next time around!

As Ann told me:, “Someone who stood out for me at the B2B Forum did just that and we’re already planning on asking him to speak next year.”

David Meerman Scott, Marketing Strategist and bestselling author of Real-Time Marketing & PR: How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect with Customers, and Create Products that Grow Your Business Now, a Wall-Street Journal bestseller shared this valuable perspective:

“I’ve spoken at over 300 events in the past few years in over 20 countries on four continents. Yet I have never once “pitched” my services nor “sold” myself. Instead I create information on the Web (videos, blog posts, ebooks, tweets) that brand me as someone who organizers are eager to book.”

Mike Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner and author of the new book,  Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition gives this perspective as someone who seeks speakers for his events:

“Here is what we look for when seeking good speakers.  Have they written a book on the topic? We want to know the person is a true expert. Can they speak? We often run searches on YouTube to see if the person has been on camera so we can hear their delivery.  Do they work for a brand our audience is familiar with?  We have panels and look for experts who we can get on those panels.”

Next Steps:
Based on Ann, David and Mike’s suggestions, I’d like to suggest some next steps:

  1. If you don’t have a speaking page already, start working on putting one together.  Go to the websites of professional speakers who you like and respect and see how they’ve done it.
  2. Develop an editorial calendar of the conference-related topics that you’d like to speak on, and start writing regularly on those topics. You can even re-purpose longer papers and talks you’ve done into shorter segments but make sure you have content to show conference organizers when the time comes.
  3. Put together several short speaking video clips, add them to your website and on YouTube. Apply relevant keywords so they’ll show up in searches on your name and by subject keywords.
  4. Make sure all of your web pages and social media profiles are maintained and up-to-date.

Thank you to Ann, David and Mike for sharing their suggestions with us.  What would you add?


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