It’s a new year, which for many, means the kick off of a new communications plan. If a conference strategy is part of your plan this year, you’re likely eager to get your organization’s executives out on the speaking circuit. Indeed, conferences are ideal places to disseminate your brand messages and connect with current and prospective customers. And if leveraged effectively, they can go a long way toward establishing and strengthening brand thought leadership and generating new business. But just like any part of a communications plan, how to get speaking engagements requires careful thought and planning. Before you start seeking out speaking opportunities, make sure you’ve completed these steps.

Before you start seeking out speaking opportunities, make sure you’ve completed these steps.Click To Tweet

How to Get Speaking Engagements:

Set Your Targets

Conferences are about connections. They offer an opportunity for your company to engage directly with its key audiences. That’s why at Stern Strategy Group we refer to conference relations as direct engagement. A critical component of any conference strategy is your target list. It’s important to clearly define your audience and then identify the platforms that map back to them. Too often, we see brands create their target list by adding only the most-known or buzzworthy events. Yet, if you dig deeper, you find these brand name platforms don’t always reach the intended audience or provide any true business value.

As a first step, think about the audience you want to impact. What industries are important to your brand? What size company are you targeting? What are the titles of the people within the organization you want to reach?

It’s okay (and encouraged) to shoot for the stars, but make sure you balance out dream platforms with more attainable targets. And don’t overlook local or regional events. Particularly for newer speakers, these venues offer opportunities for experience. In fact, you can often secure a more substantial slot on the agenda than at some of the larger conferences, where you may find yourself buried in large speaking faculties or many tracked sessions. For example, if you are looking to reach HR professionals, consider events put on by the regional chapters of SHRM rather than the association’s much larger national conference.

Shape Your Message

What’s your topic? You may have polished sales and marketing communications, but you’ll need to evolve these messages to make them presentation ready. When you are vying for a conference organizer’s attention, it’s important that your ideas stand out from a sea of other possible ideas. The key to how to get speaking engagements is to think about what you can offer that no one else can. What problem or issue can you help attendees solve? Do you have new research to present or a counter-intuitive perspective? Make these elements the core of your presentation.

As you shape your topic, it is critical to call out what audiences will learn or take away from your talk. Remember: Many conference attendees are taking time off from work to listen to you. They need tangible insights not only pertinent to their jobs, but also simple to act on quickly. Consider what three takeaways attendees will learn from the talk. From the start, it’s wise to have a few different speech topics that can be tailored for different audiences. If you have your targets straight, this should be a simple exercise.

Additionally, consider how your talk will take shape outside a stand-alone talk or keynote. Many conference platforms are moving to more interactive formats such as panels or fireside chats. Go one step further, and have other potential speakers lined up – perhaps clients or other industry thought leaders – who could partner with you.

Share The Proof

A picture may tell a thousand words, but videos speak volumes. Conference planners need assurance that a speaker can hold an audience. Don’t expect them to take your word for it; show them. Have video, such as that from a previous talk, handy that shows how you present in front of an audience. Relatively new to the speaker circuit? No video? No problem. Gather a small audience at your workplace or home and film yourself giving a presentation. The video doesn’t need to be heavily produced or edited. In fact, we’d advise against editing a “highlights reel” that only shows your best work. Give conference planners the video in its entirety so they can get a full picture of what they can expect. To prove you are the expert on a given topic, also make sure to have links to supporting media coverage or blogs.

The new year is a good time to begin a conference relations program as many planners are already starting to plan for top events in the spring, summer and even fall. With a smart and calculated plan, you’ll start to see your brand executives go from attendees to sought-after speakers. Where will we see you on stage this year?
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Focusing on placing clients on top speaking platforms and developing relationships with conference planners, Stephanie leverages her insight into industry and business trends to secure high visibility engagements. Her work puts our clients face-to-face with the audiences who matter most, whether in the innovation, healthcare, higher education or mainstream business arenas. When Stephanie isn’t in the office you might find her running around town, training for her next road race or chasing after her toddler son.