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 “binate.io” 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.

How To Make An Impact At A Business Conference

Love them or hate them, conferences and trade shows are key venues for any business to generate public relations, marketing, and sales returns. If you’ve ever attended a major tech trade show, you know they can be a blur of handshakes, branded swag, business cards, and mediocre meals. How to make the most of a time and dollar investment in a trade show or conference? Our own Chris Harihar offers some sage advice on navigating the world of B2B conferences.

7 ways to make an impact at a business conference

Choose wisely

There’s a business conference for every conceivable vertical, niche, and sector; and they come in various sizes and cities around the world. Since the ideal lead time for earning a speaking opportunity is six to nine months, and sponsorships take planning for maximum benefit, a PR team must incorporate a conference strategy in its annual planning. Is the goal to generate awareness, leads, and sales? To build an executive profile? To grow relationships with influencers, media, and colleagues? A sales-oriented trade show like Cloud Expo in New York may work for many goals, while a more ideas- driven one like Fortune Live Media may align better with thought leadership objectives. A consistent presence at carefully selected conferences year round can produce good ROI, as well as support PR goals.

For maximum impact, over-prepare

A B2B company can set itself up for success with some logistical planning and research. The first step is to work with organizers to earn speaking and event opportunities at the most advantageous times. The team should study the layout and the schedule well ahead of time, as well as the attendee and exhibitor lists to scope out a plan to be in front of the right people. A good PR team will get a list of attending media to plot their outreach and set up briefings. Some even create a “facebook”-type schedule with head shots of key contacts to maximize networking opportunities. Armed with advance intelligence, a company can create its own minute-by-minute schedule to avoid wasting the considerable time and money invested in the conference.

Bring the news

If a company has news to share — an acquisition, new product launch, or growth milestone, the conference backdrop can add sex appeal and offer the benefit of a captive audience of media and insiders. Experienced PR professionals often coordinate an announcement with a major conference appearance to maximize interest and visibility. Yet with so much noise at trade events, it’s hard to draw attention to your brand. The trick is to pay close attention to timing; even a company’s big news can get lost in a wave of similar announcements. At last month’s Microsoft Ignite, there were so many announcements that Microsoft had to issue a media a 27-page booklet for attendees. Consider making an announcement the day before the conference through a media exclusive slated for breakfast the morning of the first day. Or, sponsor a mealtime slot for breaking news — a time-honored trick that helps turn out press hungry for stories as well as lunch.

Bring PR to the show

Having a PR team member on-site for media relations support at a key conference isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. PR can continuously rove the event floor to wrangle relevant media and influencers to engage. While the sales team is working at the booth or in private meetings, the PR team can take the offensive as your advocates. There are often video assets developed by conference coordinators on-site to promote the event through digital and social channels. PR teams can chase down those opportunities as part of a plan of attack well in advance of the conference.

Get creative to stand out

It’s not enough to simply sponsor, exhibit, or speak at a conference these days. To maximize the value of the investment, think outside of the programmed opportunities. Rather than putting big dollars into a larger booth, consider using some of that budget to host an off-site dinner or cocktail hour, to which the PR team can invite press, clients, and prospects. This helps a brand separate itself from the crowd and earn a captive audience. B2B tech conferences can often get monotonous. An offsite happening allows a company to shake things up a bit, keeping it top-of-mind among the right audiences.

Be social

It’s remarkable how many brands still don’t optimize their event presence through social media. In advance of a conference, brands should consider paid and organic content strategies to gain more ownership of the event’s hashtag. For example, while Facebook isn’t a huge lead-gen source for B2B businesses, creating content for Facebook Live can be repurposed well after the conference ends. These videos can be easily shared with media who may not have attended but want more information about key announcements or trends. See our earlier post for tips on how social media drives B2B PR. But note that when the conference ends, the work does not.

Follow through

If a good one is available, the company should use the event video of the thought leader’s speech or panel appearance by posting on its owned media and amplifying on social channels like LinkedIn. An executive appearance can bolster the individual’s reputation, building a resume for other earned conference engagements. Additionally, the PR team may develop the speech into a white paper or byline. PR will nurture all the new media and influencer connections it made, just as sales will follow up on its leads. When a company has mastered the trade show experience from preparation to follow-through, it can build a consistent brand presence on big thought leadership stages year-round.