Making a Success of International Speaking Opportunities

You’ve pitched and been accepted to speak at a conference in a different country. Great! But what should you do to prepare and to ensure you (and your audience) get the most out of your participation? There are a host of tips given to speakers at events, all of which apply wherever you’re speaking, but there a few things to particularly consider if you’re speaking at a conference away from home.

Leave plenty of time to travel

This might seem obvious but if you can avoid it, don’t leave it until the hour before your session to touch down. Delayed flights, freak weather, traffic jams etc.. are all out of your control, but if you haven’t allowed time in case they happen, you will spend some very stressful hours worrying about missing your session, rather than preparing for it (and possibly missing it anyway). And from the organisers perspective, having a no-show speaker on the day is very stressful, difficult to manage and will probably result in you being blacklisted from the event in future.

Do you need a visa?

Depending on where you’re from, and where you’re going – you might. Make sure you find out the requirements in advance and apply in good time – to avoid disappointment for yourself, the organisers and attendees.

Research your audience

Do some research and find out who will be attending the event – not just their level of experience or job titles but also where they’ll actually come from. Is it mainly locals or an international audience? This will help you tailor your session appropriately, use relevant references and make it easier for you to engage with them on the day.

Find out what you can do for the conference – and what the conference can do for you?

As with any conference, it’s important to find out how what the conference organisers need/expect from you. When do they need your personal bio, how far in advance should you share your slides, what promotion would they like you to do? This will vary between events and countries but try and stick to any deadlines…it will win you brownie points!

But it’s equally important to find out what opportunities the conference offers you, before the event, to promote yourself and network.  Take any opportunities to take part in interviews, discussions etc.. in advance and push yourself and your session on social media sites. If you’ve never spoken in the country before, generating awareness about what you do and who you are will help drive interest in what you’ve got to say – and increase the number of people turning up to hear you.

Add some spiceBring a flavour of yourself…

While it’s important to be relevant to the audience, the appeal of international speakers is that they can bring something different to the event. People are naturally curious about different cultures and countries, and will be keen to get an insight into yours,  so be prepared to share some nuggets that explain your world and give delegates something they’ve not heard before (without bringing out the back catalogue of family photo albums!).

….but don’t overdo it

Giving insights into your home market is good, banging on about what is better about it than everywhere else – not so good! Even if you’ve got some useful examples to share, do it tactfully!

But why bother? Is it not easier and cheaper to stay at home and make a reappearance at your local event?

Probably! But there are some specific benefits of stepping off home soil…..

Stand out in your niche

Seek out smaller events specific to your niche – it’s likely some could have fallen under your radar if they aren’t the main players in the field, or in your area. Although these events have fewer attendees and less “celebrity” than major events, there is a lot to be gained from speaking there. Especially if you’re speaking overseas for the first time, it can be less daunting, much easier to get chatting to people and not feel lost in a sea of people. And if you’re an expert in that niche, you know you’re speaking to an audience who’ll be truly interested your topic (and therefore your product/service….). Use these events to do something your competitors aren’t and consolidate your position in your own field.

Global NetworkingIncrease Brand Exposure

You may see some familiar faces on the international conference circuit but there will be many new ones –both fellow speakers and attendees. By sharing your knowledge and networking, you’ll be increasing awareness of your brand/agency – as well as yourself and potentially open up a raft of possible business and personal opportunities in previously uncharted territory.

Get Insight into a Target Market

Not only can potential customers and partners get to know you, but you can use the conference to understand more about them, and the market you’re interested in targeting. Through listening to local speakers, talking to attendees and getting out and about in the area, you can gather useful insights to help you develop a strategy and plan your activities going forward.

Widen your knowledge

A common complaint about conferences is that they showcase the same speakers and topics, and offer little new insights for seasoned conference goers/ search marketers. Attending a conference in a different country (and not always the mainstream events) will expose you to new speakers, new topics and new perspectives.

Have fun!

Ok – not a major business case, but still a reason to consider going for it!

What are your experiences of speaking outside your home country? What tips would you give to others? And why did you decide do it in the first place?

Featured image vintage world map source
Spice Image Credit

About Gemma Birch

Gemma Birch has been working in international search since 2007 and leads WebCertain’s marketing team. She is responsible for managing WebCertain’s online marketing activities around the world as well as organising and programming the International Search Summit.

2 thoughts on “Making a Success of International Speaking Opportunities

  1. Great article Gemma! I think you should do a series on this and organizing as many events as you do you could write a book on what not to do.

    I think it is key to understand the local market as you suggest. No, you don’t need to be an expert but a simple understanding of how they use they Internet and search marketing. The last thing you should do is go to China or Russia and not mention the local search engines if your talking about SEO.

    Come a few days early if you have never been to that country and go and talk to people. Many times SEMPO and other local groups will organize a meet up when international speakers are in town and this is a great way to make great connections and learn about the market.

    A few additional suggestions of things that I see all the time with new international speakers.

    Strong Opinions and Arrogance – be very careful with this. Many western speakers assume that all other countries are not advanced. I have seen a lot of countries and companies specifically that are more advanced in digital techniques than many US or UK companies. As Gemma suggests make sure you understand the level of knowledge of your audience. Also. it is good to know that in many places some or many of the attendees are reading the same blogs you are.

    Adapters and video connectors – I strongly suggest if you plan to speak outside your home country and especially those from the US get a good multi-adapter for electrical outlets. Additionally, if your on a Mac you will need the lcd projector adapter since it is rare that they will have one.

    I totally agree that more speakers should venture out. Most of my favorite events are smaller shows in local markets. Some of my oldest friends are people that I have met at international conferences.

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