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.
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