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Speak and Get Noticed: How to obtain speaking opportunities

Hello, class. It’s great to be back with another lesson. This time, we’re going to discuss how to create a formalized speaking program for your company. You might wonder why you would want to do that and what this has to do with the tradeshows. Well, the reason you want to have a formalized speaking program is pretty simple, it’s cheap and smart marketing if done right. And the reason you have the TradeShow Teacher telling you about it is because tradeshows very often have educational tracks or seminars and speaking at those while you are exhibiting there can really help you get targeted attendees to your booth.

Speaking opportunities are typically open to anyone with expertise on a particular topic; you just need to seek out the opportunities and plan ahead. Speaking opportunities help your company build credibility, helps you create awareness and publicity and lead to business contacts. At tradeshows with seminars, there are usually some presentation sponsorship opportunities, essentially you buy time and hopefully get an audience to listen to you. That’s not the type of speaking opportunity I want to talk about today. Instead, let’s take a look at the ones where you can speak for free.

Defining your target audience and topics
Just like you have to define a target audience for your tradeshow, you need to define a target audience for your speaking session. In the context of tradeshows, this is usually a subset of your tradeshow target audience. Now you need to find matching topics. Since your speaking proposal won’t get accepted if all you want to do is advertise your business, you have to come up with topics where you can demonstrate expertise and that interest your target audience.

Identifying possible speakers
Now, we have to identify some possible speakers that could cover the topics we just identified. This is harder than you might think since you need someone who is very knowledgeable about products and the industry yet is polished and eloquent enough to be on a stage. Especially in the technology sector it can be very hard to find someone that meets all those criteria. And if that wasn’t enough? The people you choose should be outgoing and energetic, be witty and be able to think on their feet and have a professional appearance.

Finding speaking opportunities
Tradeshows need industry experts to speak at their conferences and it is not a requirement to exhibit in order to speak, though it often helps. Finding the opportunities that are out there can be a bit time consuming, but once you do it and organized the results, maintaining your list becomes a quick and simple task. The first thing to do is make a list of possible shows you could speak at. Speaking proposals are usually accepted about nine to 12 months before the show, so make sure you plan ahead. Search for shows with your target audience. Great places to search for shows are www.tsnn.com and the resources page on www.tsteacher.com, and, of course, look at all the shows you are already planning to exhibit at or attend.

Now check each show web site for information on speaking opportunities. You will find that information under various terms such as “call for papers,” “speaker submissions” or “speaker proposals.”

Organizing information about speaking
As you find each opportunity you should organize the information in such a way that it can be used from year to year, since shows and speaker submissions are typically held at the same general time each year. What I recommend my clients is to create a spreadsheet with the following information:

  • Vertical
  • Event name
  • Web site
  • Contact name
  • Contact details
  • Speaker submission deadline
  • Event date
  • Date speaker proposal submitted
  • Results
  • Hyperlink to documents and create a folder for the information you collect from each show and link to it from the spreadsheet

The information can of course be organized and arranged in any order you prefer and these are just the suggested basics to have.

Writing a Speaker Proposal
Once you have found the speaking opportunities and collected the speaker proposal information and guidelines, you are ready to write your submission. Usually the show will have certain guidelines to follow, such as amount of words you can use to describe your session and you might have to answer specific questions about the target audience, your expertise etc.

Below are a few tips and guidelines to follow:

  • Look at examples of presentations that were offered at the show the previous year. It is common for shows to offer popular sessions from previous years.
  • Don’t duplicate previously offered sessions. You can try to cover the same topic, but you have to make sure you use a different angle.
  • Create a catchy title that describes your topic.
  • Be clear and concise with your session description and stay away from buzz words.
  • Don’t ever pitch your product. The session needs to be educational in nature
  • Describe what attendees will learn by attending your session

Announcing it
Once you have secured a session, invite people to attend. Not only does it look good if your presenter is not in an empty room, the whole point is to create more interest in your knowledge and company. So, it might very well be worthwhile to do a press release, especially free ones through the show, or send out invitations.

That’s all for this lesson…bye for now!

Granted, today’s homework is quite a bit of work if you have to start from scratch. Hopefully you already have some sort of speaking program in place in which case you should check how it compares to the advice in this column and make the improvements you feel would help you be more successful. If you don’t have a speaker program, it’s time to create one.

Identify at least five events and follow the steps described above.

If you have the time, you should be able to come up with a significantly larger list. Now start submitting proposals. It’s a little bit of a numbers game, unless your speaker happens to be Bill Gates, don’t expect every proposal to be accepted.

And one last tip, if you are exhibiting at the show, the last words of the presenter should always be: “If you have any follow up questions, you can find me later at Booth XYZ.”

About Linda Musgrove: Linda Musgrove is president of the tradeshow training firm, TradeShow Teacher. She focuses on teaching companies to significantly improve tradeshow results through strategic, customized tradeshow training for individuals, departments or entire teams. Musgrove also presents customized training programs for tradeshow producers to offer exhibitors. Most recently she authored  “The Complete Idiots Guide to Trade Shows”, published by Alpha Books/Penguin Publishing. Learn more at /www.tsteacher.com and sign up for the free monthly Trade Show Tactics newsletter. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/tsteacher or send an invite to connect on LinkedIn via e-mail is: linda@tsteacher.com.

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