Speaking at industry conferences is a powerful marketing tool for any business. It can open doors to customers, users, investors and other strategic partners. It can also build general visibility and name recognition for your product.
Furthermore, sharing of ideas and the inherent nature of making a lot of valuable connections at conferences can move businesses along in unforeseen ways.
But with thousands of conferences and events going on each month within every city and industry, it can be daunting to not only find the right ones, but also figure out how to get a spot speaking at them. Here are some ways to identify, vet and submit strong nominations to get a chance to speak at some of your industry’s top events:
Three-tiered research and vetting. Identifying the right events for any business begins with extensive research. Using the Internet, industry connections and social media networks, identify a list of at least 100 relevant conferences. Then, split these into three tiers, with the most relevant in tier one, less relevant in tier two, and the least relevant in tier three.
Finally, organize the conferences by the submission deadline for panel nomination. Make sure to include conferences up to 18 months in advance, as some of them choose their agendas very far in advance. Don’t forget to also include submission instructions and any important contact information in your spreadsheet for reference.
Now, with the three tiers laid out, choose the five to 10 most relevant events to focus on each month. There will likely be many more events happening each month, so use thorough vetting to determine what events are most important.
Submit with an intent to get noticed. The submission process is different for every event. Some will have agendas set and posted on their site, in which case a submission to be added as a speaker to one of the existing sessions is all that can be done.
Other conferences won't have agendas right away, in which case an abstract of a panel or keynote must be constructed. The abstract should be a well-written, 100- to 150-word paragraph explaining the topic with the two to three main points that will be covered. The most important aspect to the abstract is the headline -- make it stand out with an interesting and eye-catching concept -- but be sure it's informative so anyone who reads it will know exactly what the session is about without having to read the descriptive paragraph.
For some of the nominations, chances for acceptance will increase dramatically with a panel submission. Offering multiple, interesting speakers to discuss a relevant topic will often times stand out to those reviewing the submissions. Identify other interesting participants who would be relevant and complementary of the topic to invite to the panel.
Once abstracts have been drafted, the process of submitting nominations can begin. Using the three-tiered spreadsheet, use the contact information that was gathered to send the speaker nomination. Try to submit it well before the deadline if possible.
Don’t be forgotten. Follow-up 30 days after submitting the nomination with an email or a phone call to confirm the nomination was received and gauge their interest in the proposed topic. If nothing is confirmed in the initial call, two additional follow-ups are appropriate before it is time to move on. It’s important to remember there are a lot of opportunities to speak, so don’t get down about the ones that don’t work out -- focus on the ones that do.
After securing events for the upcoming year, and possibly even the following year, prepare accordingly. For keynotes, an awesome slide deck that provides visually-pleasing support for the speech is a must. For panels, putting together five to seven interesting points that will stick with the audience is key. In either instance, make sure to add in some “tweetable” points that the audience can easily share. This will help to spread awareness beyond just the conference.
A cohesive and ongoing speaking strategy can be a powerful part of your marketing plan. Every speaking opportunity can translate to new customers.