If I’m an expert at one thing, that thing is pitching speaking slots at digital marketing conferences. In the last year I’ve been fortunate enough to speak at SMX Advanced London, A4U Munich (I’m also doing two sessions at their upcoming London Event) SASCON and ThinkVisibility plus at lots of other international events in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Croatia, Munich, Nice and Vienna. I also run an event of my own—BrightonSEO—which sold out over five hundred tickets in less than thirty minutes. So, as well as giving the pitch I’ve been on the receiving end as well.
For plenty of people one of their career goals will be to speak at conference or event. If that’s the case, here are a few of my tips on how to get more speaking gigs:
Know How They Select Their Speakers
each of the conferences have their own system for how they select speakers. At my event I choose the speakers myself, so there is no pitch form or process. I look out for people I know have written good blog posts that show they know what they are talking about, or people I’ve had a beer with who I know are passionate about a certain topic. Other conferences have formal processes, but each have their pros and cons, and what you need to do is know what the method is and stick to it.
If you want to talk at BrightonSEO, you could be waiting for the announcement that we’re looking for speakers and miss out because we don’t make that kind of call for speakers.
Pitch The Session
When you’re putting together a conference programme there are two elements – the speaker and the session. Just because one is good, it doesn’t automatically mean that the other will be too. If you’re just starting out, chances are you won’t be able to get gigs on your name alone so it’s even more important you spend your time coming up with something that excites the organiser.
Invest as much time as you can on your idea, sound it out with your friends in the industry and understand that your description has got to sell the session. I’m sure plenty of good talks have been ignored because their description didn’t sell it.
Build a Reputation in that Area
I think a big part of my success speaking is starting out in just one area. I concentrated on Link Building and I made sure all my blog posts were relevant to this subject for a few months and then tried to stick to this general area at my first few conferences. This helped me get known in that area and made it easier for me to be selected.
Now a few years down the line, I’m trying to branch out and cover more areas, but I’ve been able to do that be from a strong foundation in one area.
There are people in the industry who I really respect and when they suggest I consider a speaker I take that suggestion seriously. There can be a lot of competition for slots so that third party endorsement can work wonders, especially if that person giving the recommendation is a successful speaker at the same event.
Attend The Event
It’s hard to know where to pitch your session if you’ve never been to the event before. The events like ThinkVis, SASCON and BrightonSEO have a very different vibe to SES and SMX. And even if one event is in the same category as another, they might vary dramatically in approach and content. The alternative events (I could alternatively say smaller but actually some of these events are nearly bigger than the ‘big’ events) have quite a different vibe. ThinkVis is completely different to BrightonSEO which is different from SASCON, and the easiest way to appreciate these distinctions is to attend the event. Then when trying to get a speaking slot you’ll be much better placed to understand what kinds of content will be successful.
Know Your Level
I’ve pitched myself for the American search events maybe a half a dozen times, and I’ve always been turned down. I should realise that my reputation isn’t big enough to get these gigs. Don’t be like me. Understand that sometimes you just don’t have the reputation for a event, but that, equally, many events are starting to bill themselves as ‘advanced’ and if you don’t think you can deliver an advanced session to a jaded and cynical audience don’t put yourself forwards. You might get the gig but you may end up with your reputation and confidence in tatters.
when you get a gig, do absolutely everything you can to make sure you deliver the best talk you possibly can. The better you do the more likely you are to get asked back and find new opportunities.
This means making sure your slides really communicate effectively, practising and rehearsing, pre-promoting your involvement, and getting your Slide Deck up minutes after you finish speaking so more people are talking about the event and your presentation. All these small touches add up and can have a huge impact on getting re-booked.