Seven Tips to Start Speaking at Events and Conferences
by Leo von Bülow-Quirk
February 23 2020 - No conference would be complete without presentations from experts, sharing unique, actionable insights that delegates can put into practice.
Speakers are hugely important for both attendees and event organisers. The credentials of top speakers are a key selling point in the run-up to conferences, and can sometimes be the main reason that delegates have chosen to attend the event.
Conference organisers go to great lengths to find the best possible speakers for their event. The speakers who make the cut are invariably chosen for their knowledge and expertise, but confidence, charisma and of course public profile also feature in the decision making process.
If you're thinking of pursuing a career in public speaking, take a look at our tips and start building your speaker profile today.
1. Hone your craft
Practice makes perfect, particularly when it comes to improving your public speaking skills. If you're thinking of speaking at events and conferences, make sure you get as much practical experience as you possibly can.
You might want to hire a professional presentation coach, or attend workshops designed to improve public speaking proficiency. This will build your confidence and provide pointers to help you improve both your presentation style and content.
2. Be different
If you're looking to get your name onto event planners' shortlists, you'll need to think about what makes you different from other speakers on the circuit, and why delegates will want to hear from you in particular.
Consider how your own experience makes you uniquely informed on different topics, and make sure you create pitches for event organisers that show you can tailor your content to the needs of their specific event.
3. Go to events!
This may sound obvious, but it's key to attend lots of events if you want to be a successful speaker. This will help you get a feel for what works and what doesn't in a conference context. Speak to as many delegates as possible and find out as much as you can about what they liked and disliked about particular presentations.
4. Build connections
Networking with event organisers and speaker bureaux is a crucial part of building your speaking career and generating opportunities, whether in person at conferences, or via email and social media.
Ask them whether you can add them to your mailing list, and send them regular updates of your latest topics and insights, as well as an up-to-date biography and video footage of you speaking. The easier it is for an event planner to access this information about you, the more likely they will book you over someone else.
5. Focus on your pitch
Many speakers are wary of the hard sell, and reluctant to shout about their services in an overly salesy way. But let's face it, if you want to make sure you're the speaker being booked for top events and conferences, then you really do need a winning pitch that gets you noticed.
It's always a good idea to offer to speak to an event organiser before they commit to booking you. This will show you're willing to go the extra mile to give them what they want. Think about your elevator pitch and make sure you can explain what you do, how you do it and why the event organiser needs to book you. But also be sure to ask the organiser questions about the event - what kind of insights do they want the speaker to deliver? How do they want the audience to feel after the speech? If your pitch is clear, concise and tailored to each particular opportunity, you're more likely to get results. And even if you end up not getting the gig, these conversations will be very useful as you start out on your speaking career, as they will help you get a better feel for what event planners are after.
6. Show people what you can do
We've talked about building your public profile through networking, but there's another very important side to this coin. It is, of course, marketing.
Knowing how to market yourself is essential. Create a standout website that explains your experience, the topics you focus on and that gives a sneak peek of your speaking skills in the form of video clips. Provide some content that shows you are a thought leader in your industry, and start to build your own audience of engaged followers who are eager to hear your insights. Share your content widely via social media and newsletters.
7. Engage with audiences
The key to engagement is knowing your audience. With knowledge comes the power to tailor your talk to the audience's preferences. Ultimately, to maximise engagement, you need to give the audience what they want - which is why it's a good idea to get a sense of the audience profile.
When speaking at an event, gather as much information as possible about who the audience is expected to be, including their ages and general demographic. Not only will this help with tailoring the content of your talk, but it can also influence its formatting and your overall performance. An off-the-peg, cookie-cutter speech is one of the easiest ways to turn off an audience, so be sure to keep the crowd in mind when crafting your performance. By doing this, you can ensure they remain engaged right up until your last word.
Successful speakers are capable of keeping hold of the attention of hundreds or even thousands of delegates. If you're fearless in front of a crowd, and you've got the knowledge and experience required to deliver a knockout speech, then it could be time to start thinking about speaking at events and conferences. Follow our eight top tips and you'll be well on your way to a rewarding speaking career.
This article was written by Leo von Bülow-Quirk, Founder and Director of VBQ Speakers. Leo has nine years' experience in the speaking industry, connecting globally-renowned thought leaders with audiences all around the world. Formats have ranged from public lectures and industry conferences to C-level briefings for the world's biggest corporations.