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Being invited to speak at a major conference is a great professional honor. This type of gig can do wonders for your career and personal brand, and it allows you to introduce yourself as an industry expert to a wide audience of potential professional connections.
If you’re looking to take this step, you may not know where to begin. That's why we asked the members of Forbes Coaches Council for their "tricks of the trade" that can help you secure a speaking gig at a large business conference. Their best responses are below.
Forbes Coaches Council members share advice on how to get booked at a speaking gig and build your professional reputation. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.
1. Start With A Circle Of Expertise
It is increasingly important for executives to raise their public profile, and speaking at conferences is a great way to do this. The best way to get speaking opportunities is to build a visible personal brand in a circle of expertise. Do this by consistently and repeatedly writing and contributing to a specific set of topics. When people recognize you as an expert, they will want to hear from you. - Shefali Raina, Alpha Lane Partners
2. Attend Events Where You Want To Speak
Newer speakers, either those who are not yet charging a fee or those new to speaking professionally, should choose their gigs smartly. Attend events where you want to speak. Ask other breakout speakers how they landed the gigs, get to know event organizers and have your topics ready to hand to them. - Sarah Beth Aubrey, Aubrey's Coaching & Training
3. Focus On Enhancing Your Brand Speaking at a conference is a great way to enhance your visibility, credibility and to expand your network. If you're new, start with low-risk gigs to get your feet wet. If you're experienced, go for those that will give you the most ROI. And remember, what's in it for your audience? What value do you add? Use your network to connect with organizers and speakers at relevant conferences. - Susan Sadler, Sadler Communications LLC
4. Build Credibility With The Event Planner Creating a relationship with the top event planners for your conference allows you to find out what they need and don't need for large conferences. I once got a speaking gig because one of the main speakers got called out on business. Because I built a relationship with the event planner they asked me if I could "help them out of a jam" and got the gig. I became a trusted insider. Start there. - John M. O'Connor, Career Pro Inc.
5. Align Your Content Across All Platforms Build credibility before you land the gig by providing valuable content on all your social media sites. Align the content to key topics. Develop video shorts to support key points of content and drive your target audience to view, comment and share with their network. Be confident in creating and aligning the value you offer. Don’t shy away from sharing intentionally with key event coordinators. - Lori Harris, Harris Whitesell Consulting
6. Set Yourself Apart With An Online Presence One of the most important tips to get invited to speak at big events is your online brand and credibility. The speaking space is more crowded than ever before, so you must set yourself apart from the crowd. Be sure to focus on an amazing speaker reel, great testimonials and social proof. - Pasha Carter,The VIP Network 7. Offer Additional Value-Added Materials Provide audience participants immediate value by offering a downloadable handout, paper or tool. Invite people to visit your website to download a special tool or reading material that supplements your keynote and will keep your name fresh on their minds. Make it special, different and specific to that organization or audience—something people believe is immediately useful and value-added. - Wendy Fraser, Fraser Consulting, LLC
8. Leverage Your Network To speak at a national conference be prepared and leverage your network. Be prepared with a clear program overview, how your presentation will help others be even better and have a video of you presenting similar topics to others. Use your local networks of ATD, SHRM or NHRA and ask them for their recommendations of how best to speak at their event. If you are an engaged member, they will help. - Bobbie Goheen, Synthesis Management Group
9. Niche Your Pitch So many speakers try to push their canned topics at conferences. Do your research and ask the meeting planner about the key learning goals of the conference. Then tweak your learning objectives to align with the needs of the participants attending. Also provide alternatives to deliver the content—keynote, workshop, pre-session, etc. Agility will increase the likelihood of being booked. - Karan Rhodes, Shockingly Different Leadership 10. Write A Book And Offer A Free Book Signing I always bring a box of books and offer to do a book signing after I speak. If the conference host has a nonprofit they love and support, I ask the audience to make a donation for the book and donate 100% to their charity of choice. The audience shows its gratitude, generosity and the host is ecstatic! You walk away with more speaking gigs, a great reputation and a happy nonprofit. Win-win-win. - Mike Koenigs, MikeKoenigs.com
11. Be A Person Of Integrity Your reputation will precede you. Ensure that your accomplishments are accessible, numerous and diverse, and that you are showing up professionally and doing the right thing every time, not what's fun, fast or easy. Large conferences want speakers they can rely on—speakers with experience and a clear message. - Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC 12. Ask The Conference Hosts What They're Looking For There are many conferences that get so many pitches that the best way to stand out is having a real connection to the conference hosts. This way, they’ll know your work and you can reach out directly to them about exactly what they are looking for. I have found again and again that relationships are the key to opening up these opportunities. - Racheal Cook, Racheal Cook MBA 13. Minimize Their Fear Of 'Taking A Risk' On You Every conference organizer has one goal: to not put on a bad conference. Ideally, the conference will be great! But they really care more that it's not embarrassing or terrible. That means if you want to secure a speaking spot, you have to minimize any fear they might have about "taking a risk" on booking you. Videos and personal recommendations help—anything to remove the risk of failure. - Lisa Christen, Christen Coaching & Consulting LLC
14. Have A Keynote Speech Worth Hearing The most powerful word in marketing is "you." When speaking, the "you" is the audience. Experts are speakers that provide real solutions that move the needle in the audience's personal or professional lives. You are painting the picture of the relatable pain, the visual payoff of taking action and the clear steps needed to win. Valuable speakers deliver on the win. - Tracy Levine,Advantage Talent, Inc.