Speaking at Conferences: Why You Should Be Brave And Do It
Conference season is once again upon the search industry and I’m sure 90% of you reading this will be heading to at least one event over the coming weeks and months. But are you speaking at one? There are some fantastic, seasoned speakers who deservedly get a spot at numerous conferences each year but conference organisers are always on the lookout for new talent and a different perspective. So if you’ve never considered putting yourself forward, or haven’t yet got as far as making that speaker pitch, here are some reasons why I think you should!
You know more than you think
I’m sure this is the most common reason people don’t want to speak- lack of confidence in their knowledge and feeling inferior to other speakers. Of course, you don’t want to put yourself up for a panel on video sharing if you spend all day everyday managing paid search campaigns but assuming that you’re going to pitch a session that you do actually have experience of, you will have value to offer. The topic might seem straightforward and obvious to you, but it will be brand new to many conference attendees and what you view as the basics will be a revelation to them. Drawing on your own experience, successes and failures will also help you to deliver a useful, interesting session – that will be different to any other presentation on the same topic.
Yes, the point of presenting is to share your knowledge with the attendees, however you’ll be surprised at what you learn when putting together a presentation. Whether its exploring ideas in more depth, reading previously undiscovered resources around the topic or seeing a series of thoughts in context, you’ll pick up some new ideas or insights to use yourself and perhaps view your own project in a different light. And of course by speaking, you can attend the conference and learn from all the other speakers – for free. I’m definitely not suggesting that you should speak as a way to getting a free pass to a conference, but it is a perk (and a way of persuading your boss to let you do it!)
You don’t need to speak to meet people at conferences, but it can lead to some interesting introductions and new connections. Many conferences have specific speaker events like drinks receptions or dinners, where you get to meet and network with fellow speakers, who you otherwise might not have the opportunity to chat to during the event. You’re also likely to be approached by attendees who heard you speak. Often they will have follow-up questions that they didn’t have time, or the nerve, to ask in the Q&A or they might just want to tell you they enjoyed what you have to say. Whatever the reason, you’re likely to leave with some new contacts – or even friends!
You’ll increase your exposure
This is an obvious benefit if you’re a consultant, an agency, tools provider etc… and can use the conference as a way to let people know who you are and what you do. Yet it also has benefits if you work in-house for a brand, as it could pave the way for new opportunities, invites to other events or discussions etc.. which could help both your personal development and present new ideas for you to implement in your own work. And at the very least, you should get a few links back to your website from the blog coverage of the event!
You’ll challenge yourself
I actually challenge you to find anyone who can honestly say they’ve never felt nervous when getting up to speak, especially for the first time. For most of us, speaking is a challenge and not something that comes naturally, but like all challenges actually achieving it is very rewarding and something to be proud of. It will push you, it will make you really think about what it is you do and it will renew your enthusiasm for your work and your achievements.
You can give back
Remember your first conference. Taking it all in, writing copious amounts of notes, leaving with a raft of new ideas, terminology and LinkedIn invitations. Did anybody inspire you? Was there a session that really changed your perceptions of something, or encouraged you to try something new? While you’ll see a lot of the same faces on the conference circuit, each event has a bunch of industry newbies with the same desire to learn that you once had – and it can be your turn to inspire and encourage them. It’s daunting, it’s time consuming and it’s challenging – but it’s also fun, rewarding and inspiring. So go on….hit that submit button!