Speaking on a conference stage is a powerful way to build your authority and influence as a digital marketer.
But with high competition and a tangled route to securing a spot on your favorite conference agenda, standing out from the crowd isn’t easy.
Having read thousands of pitches in the last few years, here are my eight tips on how to make sure you land a speaking gig at a marketing conference.
1. Research, Research, Research
Be sure to match your content to the audience the conference is trying to attract.
This may seem obvious, but many people don’t take the time to do this research – and it really shows in the proposal.
Every conference has a unique objective, style, and theme. Taking that extra time to understand their goals will ensure you have the upper hand when you write your pitch.
This should include:
- Researching their website.
- Reading any speaker guidelines they may have.
- Understanding their timelines and process.
It’s clear when a proposal has little to do with your conference or, worse yet, when someone rehashes the same content they put forward for your competitor’s conference and forgets to change the name in the abstract (yes I’ve seen it before).
Ultimately the time you put in to find out their preferences will pay huge dividends in what you can expect to get out of your pitch.
- When’s their preferred time for a pitch?
- Do they want you to pitch new sessions or wait for a draft agenda to be posted and pitch an existing session?
- Have you looked at previous agendas to match your style of title and abstract to their style?
And so on.
2. Build Your Authority & Influence
It goes without saying that having a strong industry influence can go a long way to enhancing your speaker pitch.
As part of your commitment to build your personal brand, start enriching your network. This could mean:
- Writing an article for an industry publication.
- Publishing on LinkedIn.
- Building your social community and focusing on the platforms where your industry spends the most time.
It all serves to enhance your reputation as a “go-to” expert in your industry.
Also, don’t forget to include videos of any previous speaking gigs in your speaking pitch if you have them – nothing serves as a better advertisement for how you’ll perform on the stage than a video of you doing it!
Be sure that it shows all your best qualities, from your speaking style and energy through to the content you delivered.
It doesn’t hurt to include any testimonials from attendees at previous speaking engagements too, or even from another conference organizer on the value you brought to their conference.
3. Let’s Get Personal
I can’t stress this point enough.
You should treat the process of submitting a speaker pitch for a conference just like you would treat any important client pitch or client relationship.
- What are your unique selling points?
- What can you bring to the conference that others can’t?
Even more importantly, build a relationship with the conference organizers.
Personal connections count for everything, and the personal element can be the all-important difference when they’re choosing between the final three pitches that all match their content needs.
Ultimately, people do business with people they like, trust, and value, so if you can portray those traits authentically, you’re halfway there.
Connect with them, help them with their needs – maybe share a piece of content or retweet their messaging to your network.
Like all relationships, it’s about give and take.
The more time you can invest in authentic connections, the easier you’ll find this process – and you never know what other doors might open along the way.
4. It’s All About the Value
Value, value, value.
If you’re not adding value to the conference for the attendees that will be in the room, you’re wasting everyone’s time — including your own.
In the modern world where everyone’s fighting for attention, you need to offer something unique to stand out.
Be clear on what you bring to the table and focus on actionable insights and clear takeaways matching the needs and challenges of the audience (this goes hand in hand with point 1 on research).
There’s no point pitching the most amazing strategic session ever for marketing leaders if the conference attracts a crowd of more junior to mid-level marketers.
5. Everybody Loves a Story
Whether you’re pitching a strategic session or a tactical one (or even a mixture of both), be sure to set the scene.
- What were you looking to achieve at the start of the process?
- How did you see success?
- Did you have any failures along the way that you learned from?
- What did you adapt during the campaign that helped you surpass your goals?
All of these elements can be hugely powerful on the stage to truly connect to your audience if you’re willing to be honest and transparent.
Take the audience through every step of your journey to success, providing pearls of marketing wisdom along the way.
You’ll have the audience transfixed and wanting more.
6. Grab Attention
Now that you’ve done the preparation and identified what topic you would like to pitch, your next job is to attract attention.
Make the conference organizer take note in the same way you would want attendees to be hooked by your session enough to attend.
Make your title and abstract stand out – make it enticing, unique and compelling.
Sell the value you’ll bring.
Your title should be fun and show value.
Think of a headline that makes someone want to read more – hook the attendee.
Case studies are always attractive, and conversely, a sales pitch is always a straight no.
7. Be Different
Stand out from the crowd.
Whether that be in the topic you select, the tone of your abstract, a potential joint presenter or even a cheeky title, don’t follow the same path as everyone else.
It’s hard for conferences to stand out from the crowd, so if you can help them do that, you might just squeeze yourself in at the front of the line.
Some of the most memorable presentations I’ve heard are often down to the entertainment value of the speech and delivery as much as it is about the content – if you can make people in the audience feel differently and remember you long after then that’s half the battle.
Take a moment to think about which conference presentations stick out in your mind – it may not be the ones that stuck to a normal formula.
The most important takeaway here is to ensure you represent the best parts of yourself in your pitch.
Don’t try and copy someone else’s style – create your own that will make you comfortable and unique, yet different.
8. Don’t Give Up – Persistence Is Everything
My final piece of advice is about sticking it out for the long haul.
As someone who at times read thousands of pitches for around 50 spots, sometimes it’s about timing and luck as much as anything else.
Don’t give up and keep doing all the things above – you’ll find that break soon enough.
Also, take any opportunities you can – sometimes you have to start small in order to make it to the stage of your conference dreams.
You could perhaps moderate some sessions early on to get some experience and build that all-important network.
Or do some internal speaking within your company to gain experience and exposure.
A few testimonials from that could go a long way to getting your first industry speaking gig.
Once you get that all-important speaking spot, that’s only half the battle.
Your next job is to knock it out of the park every time you take to the stage!