How to become a conference speaker

It might be tempting to try and create a number of presentations for different conferences. However, creating multiple quality speeches is incredibly challenging. You’ll have a much better chance of success if you pick just one idea and refine it. It’s perfectly acceptable to present the same speech at several different conferences around the country or even the world, much the same way a stand-up comedian delivers the same routine during a national tour.

Make sure your presentation topic is really compelling and think about the most engaging, interesting way to deliver it. Consider what you would like to listen to if you were attending a conference. Brainstorm your ideas with friends to make sure you’ve picked the most engaging topic you can and you’re approaching it the right way.

Create a lot of quality content

While you only need one good presentation for your conference engagements, your content creation shouldn’t stop there. Content is king. It establishes you as an industry leader and keeps you in the mind of conference organizers and attendees. Thanks to the rise of blogs and social media, creating and distributing regular content is easier than ever. Remember to include details about yourself with your content so people continue to connect you to the content you’re creating.

Record yourself

It might seem daunting delivering your speech in front of a camera, but it provides great training for your work as a conference speaker. Record your speech right through and don’t stop, even if you feel you’ve made a mistake. Then watch it back. Analyze what you’re doing well and what you might do differently. Look for annoying habits like playing with your clothes or looking down at your feet. When you become conscious of these distracting behaviors, you have a better chance of overcoming them. Record yourself several times until you’re happy with the way you’re delivering your presentation.

Some conferences also ask for a video with your pitch. If you’ve already recorded one, you’ve got a jump start on the competition. It can be wise to include your video with your pitch, even if it’s not requested. If the organizers are unsure whether to pick you or another speaker, a well put-together video could help tip the scales in your favor.

Improve your speaking skills

It’s possible to be a great authority in your field but a terrible speaker. Some people are natural orators, while others struggle to deliver speeches. No matter what your skill level, there are probably areas where you can improve. The practice of videoing and critiquing yourself is a good start. However, to really up your game, consider joining an association or training program to improve your speaking skills. You might also benefit from the educational opportunities presented at collaborative workspaces like WeWork offices.

You could also practice speaking at other locations that are less discerning. Reach out to your church and schools in your area to see whether you can give a presentation. You may also be able to speak at events held by nonprofit organizations and networking groups.

Learn more about new conference technologies and innovations

As technology and our understanding of human learning styles evolves, so too do the ways people present their speeches at conferences. Stay up to date with new conference innovations like live streaming, PechaKucha, and audience immersion. Experiment with new techniques and consider how they could add value to your presentation. Being open to new formats and ways of doing things can help set you apart from more traditional corporate speakers.

Attend conferences you’d like to speak at

Ideally, you’ll attend the conferences you’re interested in as a speaker. However, if you face rejection, don’t let that put you off. Register for the event as an attendee so you can learn more about it. Attend the speeches and critique them. See whether you can guess why those speakers scored invites when you didn’t. Can you learn anything from the way they present or the topics they’ve chosen?

Use your conferences as networking opportunities. Talk to the organizers if you can and put yourself on their radar. You may find these people are more receptive to your application next year, as they know you understand how their event runs and that you’ve already supported it.

Get invited to be a conference speaker

Apply to conferences online

Most conferences will put out a call for speakers. Getting invited to speak can be as simple as communicating with the conference organizers. You can find relevant events simply by searching the internet for conferences in your industry. It’s also a good idea to follow other conference speakers you admire on social media. They’ll likely promote their speaking engagements. Look into the conferences they’re speaking at and see whether you can join the program.

Many conference websites have a call for papers on their speakers’ page when they’re still searching for presenters. If you can’t find this, reach out to the conference organizers through email and pitch your paper to them. The worst they can say is no.

Keep your pitch concise

A conference website might advertise a call for papers, but that doesn’t mean its organizers want to read your entire dissertation. Conference organizers receive a lot of speaker applications, so they don’t want to waste time on lengthy papers.

Your application should be no more than a few paragraphs. If yours is longer, consider what information is really necessary to impart and edit ruthlessly. Consider what your presentation is about and what your audience will learn from it. Ideally, send your pitch to a few trusted friends or colleagues. They can hopefully suggest improvements and note any areas needing clarity before you submit.

Ask colleagues to submit a recommendation on your behalf

The kind words of another person in your field can make all the difference. Speak to a trusted colleague and ask them to advocate on your behalf. Your colleague should mention why you’d be a good fit for the conference and give details of your professional expertise. Any praise can give you an advantage, but your colleague’s pitch is likely to be especially beneficial if they know the conference’s organizers.

Be social online

The old adage that it’s not what you know, but who you know, still holds true in the conference world. The good news is that in the age of social media, it’s a lot easier to become known to the people who matter. Follow the conferences you’re most interested in and their organizers on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Engage with them so your name becomes familiar. This should help you get that speaking invite you’ve been longing for.

An active social media presence can also help you generate a following. That following can be a great asset for you. When people follow you, it shows they’re interested in what you have to say. A large social media following can also indicate you’re a trusted member of your field. Many conference organizers proactively contact industry experts with large social media followings because they know these figures can be conference drawcards.

Market yourself

Just as your business markets itself to consumers, you should also market yourself to conference organizers. You can create similar marketing materials to those your company would, such as a website and brochures. Collect testimonials from people who’ve enjoyed your past speaking engagements and use these in your marketing goods.

Contact speakers’ bureaus and directories of speakers in your field. Conference organizers often consult these lists when searching for speakers. Simply being listed can increase your credibility as a conference speaker.

Apply to everything that interests you

It’s easy to get caught up in your own insecurities about conference presenting. However, it’s smart to push them aside if you want to score those elusive conference speaking invites. Apply to everything and anything that interests you. You might think you’re not experienced enough or interesting enough to speak at one of the nation’s leading conferences, but let its organizers tell you that. They might just like what you have to say and encourage your involvement.

Becoming a conference speaker is an excellent way to establish yourself as an expert in your field and build brand awareness for your business. Practice your craft and consider our tips to give yourself the best chance of becoming one of the nation’s top corporate speakers.

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