How to Grow Your Influence Through Event Speaking

A guest speaker gig can help you promote yourself and make you an important part of your industry. Some experts believe it’s the best way to build your influence from scratch. So how do you start?

How to promote your expertise

  1. Find your niche. Your blog might be about many general things related to your industry, and it’s certainly possible that you know all of them really well. However, in order to set yourself apart, you should choose 2-3 (maximum) topics you consider yourself to be an expert in. When industry event planners look for guest speakers, they might be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information on your blog, but if your content shows expertise in few things, there is a much higher chance of being booked. Specificity sells. When everyone around you is talking about X and you’re the only one talking about  Y, you are more valuable in the eyes of event organisers.
  2. Learn from those who went before you. Being different is tricky, despite the way things are constantly changing in most industries. If you want to be noticed, you need to know what your competitors are doing, and also what people before you have done in order to grow their influence. It is very likely that they’ve written blogs on the subject, and you can use their advice while employing your own knowledge and experience as you enhance your content. Look at a speaker you admire and see if you can figure out how they are growing their speaking business. What topics are they talking about? What events are they targeting? What channels did they choose to demonstrate their expertise? See if you can reverse-engineer their their marketing strategy.
  3. Whip your web presence into shape. Most conference producers today use social media in order to find guest speakers for industry events. Therefore, you should make sure that the landing page of blog is easily found on your social media pages, and vice versa. If you have any issues with user experience or SEO on your website, take care of that as well. Establishing your online presence also includes maintaining contact with your subscribers and posting high quality content targeted at them specifically. Look at other speakers’ websites – what do they do well, what do they do badly? Take the best parts and incorporate them in your own site. At the same time, avoid the worst aspects of each. Finally, on your home page, include a video of you speaking. (It doesn’t have to be at any event, just you direct to camera is sufficient – you just need to demonstrate you’re speaking ability).
  4. Stay true to your brand. Specialise. You’re not going to be relevant to everyone and that’s fine. Knowing what topics you cover – as well as which you don’t – is all part of establishing your brand. When people think of you for their event, they should be able to summarise what you talk about in one sentence. Own that idea in the minds of your audience. e.g. Joe Pulizzi is “the content marketing guru”; Michael Hyatt is “the platform-building expert”; John Lee Dumas is “the podcast king”; Barbara Corcoran is “the queen of real estate”. Once you have established your position, don’t become complacent. Stay up-to-date with industry trends. Don’t stop learning. Keep on top of the problems facing your target audience and how your expert knowledge can help solve them.
  5. Network. During your research, you should discover some companies that have invited industry experts to speak at events recently. Consider attending some of their upcoming events and engaging in networking with the attendees, as well as the producers. Not only would that be a great way to learn from your fellow professionals, but it would also be a significant marketing move for you. Always leave your contact details and don’t forget to get in touch with the organisers as soon as possible after the event. Make sure that they know you’re interested in attending and speaking at their next event. This can be done offline, but there’s nothing stopping you from networking like that over the Internet as well.
  6. Consider making a plan. This might not work for everyone, but we suggest that you at least consider setting yourself some targets for the number of networking events you attend, and plan to speak with particular people at these events, after making a decision based on your research.
  7. Trial event. If you can, consider hosting a trial event in order to see how you would fare as an industry speaker. It is most likely that this event would be in the form of a webinar or a video conference, but of course, it can be live too, if you have that opportunity. This could be a chance for you to evaluate your public speaking and presentation skills, as well as for industry leaders and event planners to see you in action. Whether it’s a webinar or a live event, you should make sure that the recording of it is clearly visible on your landing page so that they can gauge your expertise for themselves.
  8. Be professional. It is important to stay true to your brand, but it is no less important that your brand, and in this case your brand is you, appear professional at all times. The speaking circuit is a small world. Professionals who are reliable and deliver excellent user experience, high quality content, etc. are in high-demand. Similarly, being flaky, delivering a poor talk, not delivering sufficient value will hurt future bookings. Be professional, dependable, knowledgeable and easy to work with.

Takeaway points

  1. Don’t stretch yourself too thin and forget that quality always trumps quantity. Marketing yourself as an industry speaker is no exception. Every talk you give should contribute to your long-term goals.
  2. Make sure your home page features videos of you talking.
  3. Practice, practice, practice. You can always improve the delivery or content (or both) of your talks. The better you are, the more in-demand you’ll be: that means bigger audiences to sell to; higher fees; more opportunities.

Action steps

  1. Shoot a video of yourself answering the common questions in your industry or solving a pressing problem faced by your target audience. This is your “demo reel”.
  2. Approach event organisers to learn about their speaking criteria and get yourself on their books.
  3. If necessary, revamp your website to focus on your skills as a speaker. If speaking is your primary goal, it should take centre stage on your homepage.

Photo credit: O’Reilly Conferences via / CC BY-NC 2.0

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