There are only so executive speaking spots in a given year.
Securing an executive speaking engagement is an honor, so if your PR and marketing plan includes pitching trade show organizers, it’s never too early to get your house in order. Every conference opens calls for speakers differently and every conference accepts pitches differently, but if you get your house in order submitting for speaking engagements will become exciting and fun!
1. Do Your Homework
Before you submit your industry speaking pitch, take a look at the speaker FAQ page, if one doesn’t exist, send an email to the conference organizer asking what topics they’re seeking and what parameters you should consider before submitting. As a former conference organizer, it always surprised me how many questions we received which were readily available in the FAQ; alternatively, when I received questions, it was always a welcomed opportunity to hear what was unclear and how we could improve.
Review past speakers and talk to attendees at the conference, if you haven’t been yourself. Find out who the most successful presenters were and why the audience loved them so much. Review the conference hashtag and see who people talked about and why. Take a look at relevant magazine headlines, where are the emerging industry stories and can you tap into that in your presentation? Before you start pitching, do your travel budget because most executive speakers pay their own way.
Take a servant-leadership mentality and really think about who the audience is and how you can add real value to their business.
2. Consider the Organizer’s Needs
During your pitch, it’s not about you. It’s about how you can add value to the conference organizer and attendees. Take stock of your recent PR wins and use them as social proof. Conference organizers want to be sure their limited presentation spots are filled by people attendees want to hear from. The conference organizer’s job is to get people in the door, enough people to make exhibitors and sponsors thrilled by attendance – many people are so focused on promoting their key messages in the pitch they forget about the audience when they’re submitting for a speaking engagement.
Regardless, when you’re developing your pitch, don’t shy away from pointing out how your topic is timely and relevant to the specific audience the conference is trying to attract and why the attendees will be thrilled by your presentation. Articulating how you will drive traffic to the conference will also get an organizer’s attention.
Help the organizer visualize how you can help them, point out your strengths:
- Your presentation is interactive, has a distinct format, will get the audience energized or talking
- Recent press coverage on your and/or your brand
- Your large or highly engaged social media presence
- Previous blogs or speaking reels which articulate your communication style
- A great case study and a customer willing to present with you
- Industry memberships and associations
Conference organizers are also drowning in applications. Sifting through speaker applications is often like sifting through resumes, it’s monotonous, so speak directly to the conference organizer’s needs in your blurb. For this reason, some conferences are largely pay-to-play, speaker slots are primarily reserved for industry heavy hitters and sponsors or those willing to pay the conference organizer a fee. In that case, you have three choices: become an industry heavy-hitter by using the many PR and content avenues open to you, sponsor the conference, or blow them out of the water the other 4 tips presented here. Want to guarantee a speaker spot? Do all of it.
3. Develop Your Distinct Point of View
Be a Bold Thinker
Be bold, be current and don’t be afraid to take a strong stand on an industry or cultural topic. A strong point of view and a strong title will go along way. If you’re unwilling to take a bold stand, then think about sharing an insightful case study that transparently digs deep into what went right and what went wrong.
Be an Expert:
Share your distinct expertise, give the attendees something no one else can give them. Develop 1-2 memorable, quotable statements which you’ll use in your pitch and during your presentation that illustrates your distinct point of view. Show the conference organizers that you’ll have the attendees talking about your presentation.
4. Get Your Assets In Order
Because executive speaking engagements are competitive, make sure your house is in order. One key element is all your public-facing assets. You might say that you don’t have time for this, but if you look around, the conference speakers who always get the gig do these things – even CEOs.
For example, kick it into gear on social media. Many conference organizers will look at your personal and cannabis brand’s social media to get a sense of how engaged you are with the cannabis industry and whether the industry views your CEO or brand as leading in some way. Use your social media strategically and be sure to engage your audience.
Create a speaker’s page on your blog with sample topics and presentations you’re prepared to give. Social media is another straightforward way for conference organizers to differentiate executive speakers.
Make sure your headshot is professional, develop some industry blogs for your website that reflect your thought leadership. Use LinkedIn for those pieces as well. For these pieces, you can think of quality over quantity.
Do a Google search on your name so you know what the conference organizer will see when they look you up, take the necessary steps to improve the search in advance of your speaking pitches.
If you’re new to speaking at the conference, be prepared to submit a video of yourself presenting on your topic and a letter of recommendation from a communications professional or industry professional.
5. Be Human & Personalize
Speaking at industry conferences is an honor, and yes, a great opportunity. Remember to be authentic and genuine in your speaker pitch. Make your pitch empathetic and about the industry and the organizer, show that you really understand that it’s your job to make your presentation great, not the other way around.