Speaking at Events: 5 Tips to Get Asked Back
Congratulations: You’ve been selected to speak at a professional event! Nice work getting that thoughtful speaker application in on time, or for being such an established thought leader and respected subject matter expert that you were invited to speak at the event without even applying.
As you prepare your session outline, slides, panel questions, props, or whatever else you’ll use to support your presentation at the event, it’s important to think ahead about what happens at and after the event to position you to be invited back next time… or get you blacklisted for bad behavior. Here are 5 key tips to help you make sure you’re setting yourself, your colleagues, and your business up for future consideration by event producers before, during, and after your next speaking engagement.
Follow directions. It really makes everything smoother and less stressful for the speakers, event staff, and audience. If there’s a deadline given for confirmation, materials, or other details pertaining to your presentation, meet it, or communicate to the organizers the circumstances surrounding your delay. The deadlines not only keep the event running smoothly, they also help alleviate your stress leading up to the event. Help us, help you.
No lazy applications! Submit fresh content that is or will be relevant to the event geography at the time of the event. Event producers have a responsibility to their ticketholders to provide fresh content and new faces so that multiple perspectives can be shared and new ideas learned. If you keep submitting the same speakers and the same topics to the same event organizers, and they don’t pick you time after time, look inward and forward to update your pitch. And be sure to complete the applications thoroughly: Don't assume that the organizers know your latest accomplishments or that they have access to applications you submitted for past events.
Help yourself. Refer to the event website or speaker communications sent to you via email for important details about your session, including the date and time at which you’ll present. And if you submitted a speaker application and have not been notified that your pitch was accepted, remember that most event organizers will only reach out to selected applicants, as often made clear on the speaker application. The speaker application also generally includes information about travel stipends or free tickets for selected speakers. Having your secretary or public relations firm pester event organizers about application status or any information already communicated or otherwise available on the website is a sure-fire way to get your name and even your company blacklisted due to being perceived as “difficult to work with.” (Should you require special assistance or accommodation from the event organizers for any reason during your application or leading up to the event once selected as a speaker, speak up and ask for help before deadline, of course.)
Engage your audience before the event. Those who are selected to speak at an event can optimize their involvement and maximize the return on their investment of time to prepare for and deliver their session by jumping on the promotions train. Ask the event organizers if they have social media artwork that you can share, and if not, don’t be scared to make your own! Let your network know that you were selected by a committee to deliver education in front of an audience – super impressive! – by posting a link to the event on your LinkedIn and other social media accounts. If your company has a mailing list or blog, write something up and maybe even ask your audience what they’d most like to hear from you at the big event. Even if your immediate social media followers don’t go to the event, you are demonstrating your thought leadership and building your online reputation by sharing your event involvement. (If you don’t know how to make social media artwork, hire a freelancer to make up a few posts for you on fiverr.com!)
Be kind. It’s the golden rule, right? If you’re late to the event, that isn’t the fault of the event staff who are helping you get checked in. If you ignored deadlines to submit your materials in advance and brought your personal laptop or file on a thumb drive, it isn’t the AV tech’s fault if your tech or files aren’t working or if the event organizers don’t have a special dongle or adapter for you. It isn't the stage manager's fault that you are hung over or that it's daylight savings time. It isn’t the event organizer’s fault that you are holding everything up, and it isn’t their obligation to adjust timing of subsequent speakers to accommodate you. And they definitely don't have to invite you back. Put yourselves in their shoes and treat others how you’d like to be treated, always in all ways.
After more than fifteen years running professional events that involve subject matter experts contributing educational content, I’m still surprised at how unexpectedly wonderful or terrible a speaker can make an event for those working at the event and even the audience. And as a business development advisor, it pains me to see folx simply “show up” and not promote their involvement beyond what the event organizers do. By following the tips above and just being a good person who doesn’t make things difficult for others, you will be well positioned to be selected by event organizers again in the future, or maybe even invited back!
If you are interested in doing more public speaking at professional or community events, I may be able to help. Contact me to discuss your goals and to see where synergies exist for us to work together on getting you more well known for all the good stuff you do!