PR’s Top Tech Events For Executive Speaking Gigs

Sure, it’s only February, but if a technology company is serious about a consistent thought leadership drumbeat at industry conferences, its PR team needs to be nailing down third and fourth-quarter events now. Tech conference programming teams begin developing their themes, tracks, and agendas many months in advance, of course. Events open their speaking proposal submissions six to twelve months ahead of time, and sometimes they close submissions more than six months out. Even if a conference has an “always taking submissions” policy, it pays to get your topic and speaker proposals in as early as possible. Since earned speaking engagements at industry events are the more glamorous gigs for thought leaders, I’m featuring eight of the major technology conferences and events later this year. Get your speaker submissions ready!

8 top tech events for thought leadership

VentureBeat Transform, July 10-11, San Francisco

VentureBeat Transform focuses on “accelerating your business with AI” in 2019 and is a thought leadership event and great networking opportunity for C-suite executives. Although there is no set deadline, PR teams should submit their most experienced, highest level executive speakers very soon to have a chance to stand out among hundreds of proposals.

Fortune Brainstorm Tech, July 15-17, Aspen, Colorado

This annual invite-only “summer retreat for leaders of fortune 500 companies” provides high-level networking opportunities, so only established C-level thought leaders should apply. If your emerging tech company has a CEO with experience on stage, and who has clearly chosen a bold, trailblazing stance on industry issues in the media, Brainstorm Tech can be a great opportunity to take a company profile next-level.

Inbound 2019, September 3-6, Boston

Hubspot’s annual martech industry bash Inbound brings celebrity clout to its keynote stages in the form of eminent stars of sports (Alex Rodriguez), entertainment (Shonda Rhimes), and politics (Michelle Obama). But it also accepts earned speaking topic proposals for its breakout sessions, which still can attract hundreds of audience members to your talk. Deadline for submissions is February 22, so hurry!

DMEXCO, September 11-12, Cologne, Germany

An expo with a thousand exhibitors and a conference with 18 stages, it doesn’t get much bigger and flashier than the annual marketing, technology, creative and media industries behemoth. DMEXCO keeps its speaker submissions open year-round, but again, a quality abstract and speaker submission in February has a better chance than one in August.

Advertising Week NY, September 23-26, New York

AW takes over New York City each autumn as almost 100,000 marketers, advertisers, technology, and brand professionals descend on the big apple to check out over a thousand speakers in four days of networking. To grab a coveted spot on stage for the 16th New York Advertising Week, submit a speaker and/or an entire seminar topic idea via online portal by May 23.

Mobile World Congress LA, October 22-24, Los Angeles

PR teams should keep this year’s tagline of “intelligent connectivity” and its four themes in mind when submitting: 5G, IoT, Disruptive Innovation, and Immersive Content.  Like its big brother event Mobile World Congress next week in Barcelona, MWC LA is a massive combination of expo and conference boasting over 20,000 attendees. Deadline is May 1.

ANA Masters of Marketing, October 2-5, Orlando

If you’re a martech or adtech solution provider or a big brand marketer, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) flagship annual conference Masters of Marketing is a great choice to gain visibility, network, and generate leads. But note that tech solution providers must bring a brand client co-speaker along to be considered for the agenda. Also, ANA recommend you submit at least 6-months in advance to have a chance at selection.

Web Summit, November 4-7, Lisbon, Portugal

From the same producers of Collision Conference in Toronto comes perhaps the most sprawling of the world’s tech events, which is covered by over 2,000 media each year. Web Summit is unique in its division into 24 separate tracks, or summits within the summit, ranging from “” for all things data to “SportsTrade” for the business of sports. Speaker submissions are open year-round, but, of course, get your proposals in early for a better chance at a plum earned stage opportunity.
Tech companies looking to establish an executive thought leader as subject matter expert should keep a rolling calendar of relevant industry conference targets, complete with submission policies and deadline dates. Getting ahead of the game is key, since event programmers seek to solidify their agendas months in advance, and they are deluged by hundreds of proposals. See our earlier post for PR tips for getting speaking engagements.

PR Tips For Getting Speaking Engagements


In the technology PR sector, it’s our dream to have a client CEO deliver the keynote speech at a major conference, or to appear on a panel with illustrious peers. Executive speaking opportunities offer great visibility, built-in media coverage, and contact with prospective customers. As a bonus, speeches from conferences can also be recycled as bylined articles or video snippets suitable for social sharing.

But how does a young company generate such opportunities? Submitting a potential spokesperson for speaking engagements can be a full-time job. It can also be very competitive, with some exceptions. For female founders of successful technology businesses, there’s likely to be greater opportunity for plum speaking engagements, simply because they are so rare. But for more typical candidates, the submission process can be lengthy, labor-intensive, and overwhelming.

How to get speaking engagements at conferences

Look at last year’s conference program

Start by building a calendar of targeted conferences. The best way to gauge a conference’s relevance is by studying the past year’s program online. Past programs offer a wealth of intel, including the format and tone of the session abstracts, quality of speakers, and themes. These will be useful for creating a speaker proposal of your own. Some conferences like the Digiday and Digital Summit series offer guidance on submitting proposals.

Who goes to this conference?

Research conference attendee demographics, usually found on the website or program under the sponsorship, FAQ, or the “why attend?” tabs. What are the job functions and seniority level of the attendees? What size companies do they represent? Who sponsors the event? Peg your prospective speakers to their most important audiences; a CEO should be speaking to an audience with at least some C-level executives. If 70% of the attendees are from SMBs and startups, then it may not make sense for your enterprise-level executive to participate.

Pay-to-play or earned speaking engagement?

To avoid wasting time it’s good to know whether the speakers are generally from sponsors, vendors, agencies, or brands. If the speakers are mostly repping sponsors, the event leans toward a pay-to-play model. If you are a PR pro for a B2B vendor, make sure the conference welcomes such speakers without sponsorship. Most clients are interested in earned opportunities, because they don’t need us to secure paid ones.

Don’t wait to submit

Get in early. To find out when speaker submissions open, you often need to get on the conference’s email list. But don’t wait for that date. Ask smart questions to the coordinator even before submissions open. Submissions often ask for extensive company financial and biographical information, which will take time to be compiled and polished.

Know the coordinators

When submitting your speaker, do not try to sell or promote a product or brand. Instead, think of it as a collaboration with the coordinator to help them build outstanding conference content. Cultivate ongoing relationships with conference coordinators in the same way you would journalists and industry analysts. They’re every bit as valuable. Stay in touch, ask questions, and even take them out for coffee if local.

Bring a panel or a partner

A PR team can improve the chances of acceptance by proposing an entire panel discussion — if your company has the ability to assemble a top-quality group. Many conferences will shy away from accepting speakers from vendors and steer you in the sponsorship direction. If so, why not pitch a joint session involving a vendor and one of its client brands about how they worked together using an original approach to achieve a great outcome?

Have a point of view

As is true of the most compelling thought leadership content, speaker/talk proposals have to dazzle in order to be noticed. The best way to stand out is to have a novel point of view relevant to the conference program. Don’t be afraid of taking a controversial stand on a hot industry topic. Alternatively, you can outline a pressing industry problem and offer tangible solutions or fresh thinking that attendees will be eager to take back to their companies.

Set your sights high — but not too high.

Your client may have his heart set on a top-level meeting where he can rub elbows with enterprise-level CEOs or celebrity entrepreneurs. But most candidates need to pay their dues before being called up to the bigs. There are countless tech conferences that match every industry, business stage, size, and niche. And no matter how naturally dynamic your speaker may be, he or she can gain necessary experience before mingling at Davos or keynoting a Dreamforce conference. As the executive’s profile grows, you will find him being accepted — and even invited — to speak at more prominent events.

PR Tips For Successful Speaking on Panels

Public-speaking engagements are a strong component of a good B2B PR thought leadership plan. Industry discussion panels in particular can be very effective, whether part of a larger conference or trade show, or created as a customized event for prospects. The best industry panels are not only well attended, but promoted and covered by relevant media. They can also present valuable networking opportunities. Above all, a panel is an excellent way to develop original content around a hot-button industry issue. When live-streamed or taped for repurposing as short videos, they demonstrate expertise and expanding brand visibility well beyond the panel event.

Like every other public relations activity, panel speaking requires preparation. If you’ve ever attended a dull panel event where one person pontificated endlessly, or the moderator didn’t spread the wealth, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Here are some guidelines to help you shine in your next panel appearance.

How to be the star of your next panel

Arrive early

Arriving a few minutes early will save any anxiety about being late, and, in the case of smaller audiences, it can offer the opportunity to mingle with members of the audience and possibly other panelists. Audience knowledge is important for tailoring your comments within the group discussion, and for those who get nervous about speaking in front of a group, it’s a good tip for boosting confidence.

Don’t advertise your brand

Your name and affiliation on panel materials and your stellar participation in the group discussion should be enough. Most thought leadership panels are created with the tacit – or stated – understanding that they are not meant for commercial purposes. There’s no need to digress into an advertisement for your company or service (although a good introduction is essential, as outlined below.) Show your expertise with facts, short anecdotes, and insights. And while it’s fine to jump in and add to someone’s comment, no panel member should try to outshine others by talking over them.

But make sure you have a strong introduction

Don’t leave your introduction to chance; make sure the moderator or panel planner has an updated bio that captures your experience and accomplishments. Too often a PR person will simply google around for a biographical blurb, but it’s better to create or tweak an impressive bio for purposes of the industry panel. Also, it’s a good idea to bring an extra copy in case it falls through the cracks.

Present the best face of the company

Dress attractively, sit up straight, speak naturally, and listen to others as they speak. As actors are trained to do, panel participants should enunciate and project just a little bit more than normal, speaking clearly into the microphone. Make eye contact with the audience rather than only with the moderator or other panel members. Any mumbling, slumping, or other presentation foibles will detract from the insights offered. Going forward, the audience will think of the panelist’s face and voice when they think of your company. You want them to remember you as an engaging communicator and an expert resource on the topics at hand.

Above all, don’t be boring

Bring a spark. If you hold a minority or contrarian opinion about a specific issue, this is a great opportunity to share it. If you disagree, say so respectfully and briefly explain why. If you agree, don’t just say so. Be prepared to elaborate, offer an anecdote, or introduce a new issue. There’s nothing wrong with being entertaining on an industry panel. Have a cup of strong coffee and let your charisma elevate the energy of the event.

Get in the know

Do the requisite research on the personal and professional backgrounds of the panelists and the moderator. This will help you anticipate questions, answers, and other points of view – allowing you to prepare retorts ahead of the event. Know your audience. Calibrate the amount of techno-speak and jargon based on the sophistication of the attendees. Also, don’t forget to prepare an outline of answers from a list of potential questions. If your panelist is inexperienced or not a natural public speaker, your PR team may want to offer some spokesperson training ahead of the panel.

Shining on a panel at a conference can lead to other thought leadership opportunities for an executive spokesperson, like invitations to other panels, podcast guesting, byline contribution, and media placements. Most importantly, a young B2B tech brand can begin to cultivate real brand voice, credibility, and point of view, all of which establishes a solid reputation for competitive advantage. Along with keynote speaking or workshop participation, paneling is one of the best ways to make the most out of industry conferences and trade shows. See this earlier post for more on placing execs on panels and other speaking gigs.

PR Secrets To Securing Speaking Engagements

These may be the dog days of summer, but public relations teams everywhere are working hard to book their CEOs and others in enviable speaking slots at upcoming conferences and trade shows. We are no exception, with outreach occurring now in categories as varied as 3D printing, online advertising and wearable tech, to name a few. And, while the categories may vary, there are some tried and true strategies to help your speakers secure coveted spots.

Don’t start conference outreach without an “agenda.” We are not referring to a conference schedule here, but a speaker’s agenda. What audiences does she want to reach? What is she best equipped to speak about? How many conferences can she attend? Without a robust speaking history, which are realistic events? Once you’ve answered these questions, put together a tight list of conferences where you stand a good chance for consideration.

Pitch to your strengths. Much like a candidate running for office, you want to have one or two go-to speeches on topics you know really well. Give them pithy titles and make sure they are adaptable to different audiences. Freshen and update them regularly with industry and category news that’s relevant to your audience.

Acquire a speaking history. Start on home turf and with friendly audiences – business clubs and organizations, alumni, religious institutions, schools and libraries are all looking for interesting speakers. Try out your “stump speech” here in varied formats and hone to perfection.

Add special effects. Even the most riveting speaker can improve a performance with sharp, compelling visuals. Think video, slides, stills or a combination. One of the best speeches I ever witnessed also incorporated audio. Whatever effects you add, make sure they truly add dimension and texture to the talk, not just window dressing.

Think outside the conference. Though your speaker’s expertise may be 3D printing for example, is a 3D printing conference the best option? Once again, examine what you want to achieve through speaking – if the goal is to reach more potential customers, it’s much more likely that conferences addressing “vertical” audiences are where the business opps are to be found.

Look beyond the keynote speech.  At most conferences, there is only one keynote address. But there are several other opportunities. Offer up your candidate for the keynote but look beyond to panel discussions, moderator posts, cocktail or breakfast talks, etc. If all else fails, come up with a creative way to get your speaker heard. For an upcoming conference that includes a lunch, an exec we work with is set to lead table discussions on the day’s hot topics. We like it as it offers him more intimate exposure to potential business leads than other speaking opps.

Finally, sometimes you find yourself closed out of a conference that has a full speaking slate. Don’t let that stop you! We advocate for offering up  speakers in case of cancellation. And it has worked! Like any initiatives in PR, persistence pays off.