Your guide to landing speaking appearances
Landing a speaking appearance at a conference or trade show is part inspiration, part process

Speaking appearances at industry conferences are a great opportunity to put yourself and your company before a highly informed audience that has actually paid money to hear what you have to say. The process of getting a presentation slot at a prestigious event can sometimes be long and arduous, but the opportunities it provides are quite significant – from boosting your company’s visibility to giving you the opportunity to interact in a “live” and meaningful way with a group of people that is truly motivated to learn from you. This checklist outlines the important steps in securing a speaking appearance and maximizing its impact.

1. Identify the conference that delivers the best ROI
Before committing to a speaking appearance, add up the costs. Sometimes attendance fees are waived for speakers, sometimes not. Travel costs for distant events can be significant, particularly if your presentation can’t be combined with other activities like customer visits or hosting a trade show exhibition. Next look at the potential benefits. Are customers likely to be in the audience? Ask previous speakers about their experiences and whether they thought the time and money spent was worthwhile.

2. Start looking for next year’s call for papers now
Believe it or not, some conferences publish their call for papers up to a year in advance, with speaking proposals due six to eight months out. Realistically, the time to start looking for the next year’s call for papers is a few weeks after this year’s conference has concluded.

3. Read the directions carefully
Deliverables vary from conference to conference. Typically, the first deliverable, due several months out, is a proposal, digest, or abstract. However, that’s not always the case. Some conferences require you to send in a complete paper or presentation at the outset. Others even have a video requirement.

4. Don’t overthink your proposal
Just because the call for papers says your abstract can run up to three pages doesn’t mean that it must be three pages. It’s better to have a few paragraphs of rock-solid material than three pages of filler. Even worse is the abstract that’s late or doesn’t get written at all because you’re making it out to be a bigger task than it needs to be. And if you’re feeling blocked, try starting out with bullet points, then stitching those together into sentences later.

5. When requested, avoid commercialism
At many speaking events, it costs money to be in the audience. Attendees don’t want to pay to hear an advertisement they could get for free. For this reason, conferences usually insist that presentations avoid marketing fluff.

At this point, you might be questioning the value of participating in an event where you’re prohibited from promoting your company or its products. After all, you’re in business to sell something. But this is exactly why conferences with peer-reviewed presentations are an important part of your communications mix. Your presence on the program indicates that people other than yourself think your company has something significant to say. It establishes you as an expert. Even if your presentation refers to your product indirectly, it gives you an opportunity to show potential customers that you really understand the problems they need to solve. That’s half the battle in making a sale.

6. Promote your speaking appearance through every communications channel you’ve got
Once your paper or presentation proposal has been accepted, and without posting the actual paper, start talking about it on your website and social media channels. Put together an email blast to customers about your presentation and anything else, like a trade show exhibit, your company is doing at the conference.

Major conferences have marketing departments and PR agencies that make it their business to sign up potential attendees by publicizing the speakers who will be on hand. Be sure you retweet and repost announcements like these and take advantage of any other marketing opportunities you’re entitled to.

7. Repurpose your presentation’s content
If your presentation was recorded, turn the soundtrack into a podcast, or post portions of the video (no more than one 60-second sound bite at a time) to your social media channels. If you couldn’t get a good recording at the venue, think about re-recording your presentation and pairing it with a slide deck for use as a webinar.

If you created a paper for the conference, repurpose it as a contributed article for one or more trade magazines. Or turn it into an application note for your customers to download. Just hold off on making the content available until after your presentation is over. Many conferences will stipulate that the content presented needs to be original and previously unpublished. But you can and should start thinking about how you’re going to repurpose the content well before the original presentation.

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As Woody Allen says, 80 percent of life is showing up. One of the best things about a speaking appearance at a conference is that it provides the framework for driving content creation that we all sometimes require. If you need even more motivation, Redpines can help you get through all the process steps outlined above and give you the benefit of our many years of experience helping companies get their messages across more effectively. To learn more, please call Susan Warren at (516) 982-3383.