Adding an executive speaking program to your PR program is a good way to build thought leadership. But like all earned media, speaking is competitive. How do you find the right opportunities, and more importantly, how do you ensure your speaking submission stands out? In this post, Executive Speaking Consultant, Debra Moses shares practical advice on how she secures speaking engagements for her clients
Setting realistic expectations with your client at the outset is the first most important step. I position Recode or a Forbes or Fortune event, for example, as “stretch goals,” so that my clients understand that these are highly competitive, typically feature well-known brands and will be tough to secure. I name the speakers who have presented most recently and educate them that editorial teams often drive the roster, based on their relationships. I emphasize that this is a process, that it will take time and that building a relationship with the organizer is critical.
Who you know, what you say
If you or someone on the client side have worked with an editor or reporter at one of these types of media companies, you can often leverage those relationships to: 1) find out who the Content Head or Senior Programmer is for a particular speaking event and 2) by association, help you validate the value, integrity, importance of the work your client is doing. Even if you simply receive permission to say, “your colleague so and so gave me your name,” in the subject line, your email will be opened and read– which already gives you a leg up.
Once you know that the email will be opened, you want to grab the interest of the organizer in the first few sentences. No one is going to read dense paragraphs and generally no one will read more than a page, if that. I generally hyperlink the executive’s bio and the company site when introducing the client as a potential speaker. I quickly get to why the organizer should care and specifically how the executive would add value, given the theme(s). Bulleted angles or areas of expertise work well. So do data points if your client has achieved great things or done research that has uncovered important information that their audiences should know. I may include a few links to articles. Video clips can really help. I don’t send full abstracts. I try to start a conversation.
Know thy audience
If you are working with an IT company and your client wants to speak to an IT or CIO audience, you probably know those opportunities almost universally require dollars. I have had more than one client over the past few years where my best advice has been “spend the money sponsoring,” rather than on a speaking program.
A trap which it can be easy for PR people to fall into, is to focus on securing the gig– success! Until you find out that the audience is not the right one. Some tech events, for example, mainly cater to vendors. The long list of “who should attend” on a conference site will not help you. You need to know the demographic breakdown of the audience that is typically provided to sponsors. Are 50% or 70% of attendees those your client cares about? Or 20%? Sometimes that info can be found on a conference site or you may need to reach out to a coordinator or the sales team for the prospectus/details.
Many roads to success
Even if you don’t secure that first speaking engagement, building relationships with organizers can pay off in many ways. They may be open to including your client at another conference they organize or be more apt to consider him/her next year. They will be more likely to answer your questions going forward or share program or audience details that are not posted. Once your client is known for delivering high value content, you can secure contributed guest blogs, Q&A’s and other pre-event publicity to drive greater attendance at your session and keep your client front of mind for important audiences. And they will consider you a high value resource.
Deb Moses has 20+ years of experience focused exclusively on executive speaker consulting— working closely with public and private companies, Venture Capitalists, non-profits and others to secure high value speaking engagements at premiere events.
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