We’re more inclined to trust people we know. It’s just a fact of human nature. So as a salesperson, you’ll do well to make yourself known to as many people as possible, because doing so can help you identify prospects and close deals.
One of the best ways to build a name for yourself in virtually any industry is to become a regular presenter on the conference circuit. If you’re new to the idea, let the following steps serve as your guide to becoming a sought-after speaker.
Step 1: Develop a speaker profile
If you want your pitch to conference organizers to be noticed, then it better be good. Building a good pitch starts with clearly presenting who you are and what you’re capable of. To that end, every would-be speaker should develop a speaker profile that includes a headshot, a speaking bio, slide decks from previous presentations, and a video of you presenting. It will take some effort to put all these materials together, but once you’ve done so you’ll have a suite of materials ready to share with conference organizers at a moment’s notice. Putting these materials on a webpage will make your information easily searchable.
These materials all help lend you credibility, which is exceedingly valuable on the conference circuit. In order to further build your credibility, you may consider making a podcast, blogging, or utilizing social media to work toward establishing yourself as an industry expert or influencer even beyond the conference scene.
Step 2: Gain speaking experience
If you’re new to the world of speaking professionally, then you can’t just expect to be invited to present at the largest conference in your industry. Whether you’re a total amateur or an experienced presenter, gaining speaking experience both within and beyond your industry is a great way to beef up your speaker profile. To that end, reach out to local clubs, meetup groups, colleges and universities, vendors, business networking groups, corporations, and/or trade associations to pitch relevant speaking gigs. Not only will these gigs build your profile and increase your confidence, they’ll also expand your referral network and provide you with testimonials to include on your webpage and/or in your speaker profile.
Step 3: Seek out conferences that fit your presentation topics and style
Your chances of being chosen as a conference speaker are astronomically higher when you can pitch to the relevant needs and characteristics of a given conference. Thus, it’s critical that you research conferences in order to develop a pitch that is well tailored to the organizers (more on that below). To that end, it’s a good idea to attend the conference you want to speak at before you even write a pitch. There, you can peruse the agenda and the speaker lineup to identify areas where you may be able to share valuable content. (If you can’t attend the conference, consider watching videos or looking up the agenda from past gatherings.) It can also be helpful to look up chatter about the conference on social media—this may provide you with insight into the type of presentations that most resonate with the conference’s audience.
Step 4: Pitch to conference organizers
Once you’ve identified a conference (or several) you think you’d be able to provide value to, it’s time to pitch the conference organizers.
The first rule of pitching is to make sure you qualify to be a speaker in the first place. Some conferences require that speakers have a certain job title or are a sponsor, for instance. The second rule of pitching is to present a session title and abstract that were clearly developed with the conference’s audience in mind. No organizer wants to read a pitch about how great this gig would be just for you (which is not to say that you shouldn’t allow your personality to shine through in your pitch). Provide concrete examples of the presentation’s content and outline the takeaways audience members will be able to apply to their own work or lives.
The third rule of pitching is to present well-organized materials that are easy to follow and devoid of simple errors (such as typos or broken URLs). And the final rule of pitching is that you should always be respectful of the conference organizers and their time. If they ask you for additional information, follow up promptly. If they reject your pitch, be gracious. After all, you may want to pitch the same conference next year and being on the organizers’ bad side is not going to help.
Step 5: Wow your audience
If you get accepted as a speaker, then the best way to ensure you continue to be accepted for speaking gigs is to do a good job with the one you’ve got. You can do this by solving a problem for your audience, sharing insights they can apply to their own lives, teaching them about emerging trends in their industries, or providing them with other valuable tools that will make the time they spend listening to your presentation well worth it.
Of course, the general principles of public speaking apply here as well. If you’re uncomfortable speaking in front of an audience, then refer back to step two until you’re ready to play in the big leagues. Still, it’s helpful to remember that an audience cares more about what they’re getting out of the presentation than they do about whether your voice cracks a few times in the beginning of your talk.
Speaking at conferences is a great way to develop a reputation as a thought leader in your industry. By adhering to the steps outlined above, you’ll increase your chances of developing pitches that get accepted by conferences and connecting with audiences in a way that grows your esteem.