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The Experts' Guide to Becoming a Recognized Expert: Get Great Speaking Gigs to Build Your Reputation

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The Internet is a phenomenal tool that enables anyone to build a reputation as an expert. With specialist knowledge, an Internet-enabled computer, and a bit of determination, anyone can become a global celebrity in an area of expertise.

However, an Internet-built reputation can be greatly enhanced and reinforced by speaking at industry events. This article provides a checklist to help you win valuable speaking gigs. Invest some time in getting on the stage, and it will pay off many times over in helping you build your Internet business.

What Do You Want to Achieve?

Before pursuing speaking opportunities, you need to be sure about what you want to gain from them. Here is my 10-point checklist; most of the points should be relevant to you:

  • Objective #1: Build my reputation as an expert in the minds of my audience. I want to become the person everyone thinks of when they think of my subject. I want to be a thought leader.
  • Objective #2: Build traffic on my Web site and convert some of the visitors to subscribers.
  • Objective #3: Reach new people who have not heard of me.
  • Objective #4: Get feedback on my ideas. I always try to introduce some new and fresh thinking into every speech.
  • Objective #5: Gather material for new content on my Web site. I always record my speeches and then turn them into multiple podcasts. I also ensure that I network with the other speakers and the audience to gather new ideas, news, and rumors.
  • Objective #6: Recruit partners to help market my site and services.
  • Objective #7: Get future speaking events by giving a memorable and valuable presentation.
  • Objective #8: Get photos for the Web site.
  • Objective #9: Sell my books and DVDs.
  • Objective #10: Have fun. Sitting in front of a computer all day can get boring and tedious. Getting out and mixing with smart people from my industry is always a welcome change.

Choosing Which Events to Speak at


The first thing to do is create a comprehensive list of all the events that are relevant. It is worth keeping this regularly updated, as events come and go. Also, if you know any regular speakers, ask for their advice. Some events, particularly the big industry conferences, only let people from the sponsoring companies speak.

After you have drawn up a list, rate them in terms of their desirability. Use the questions below to help you decide. If you are new to public speaking, try the smaller regional events first to get some practice.

There are two types of events that I prefer: large events with big relevant audiences, and small specialist events that are attended by the key movers and shakers. To be quite honest, to get started you generally have to take what you can get. However, your time is valuable, so have a checklist for evaluating each opportunity.

Here is my list:

  • Question #1: Who is the audience? What percentage will be interested in my subject matter and Web site?
  • Question #2: How many people will be at the event? How many will be at my presentation?
  • Question #3: What speaking role can I/will I get? It can range from the keynote speech to being on a specialist panel.
  • Question #4: When will my speech be? If you are on a panel after the last speech on the third day of a conference, you could be disappointed by the audience that attends (if any).
  • Question #5: Will the event's reputation enhance my reputation among my target audience?
  • Question #6: How far will I have to travel and how much of my time will the event take?
  • Question #7: What are the marketing opportunities beyond the show? Press or TV coverage? An event Web site?
  • Question #8: Are there named individuals I really want to meet who will be attending? Being a speaker often will get you privileged access to the key players.
  • Question #9: How much preparation will I need to do? Will I have the time (or enthusiasm)? Can I reuse the speech?
  • Question #10: Am I excited by the prospect of speaking at the event?

Hot Tip: If you can't find many events that are suitable, try creating one with an audience that already exists. A good way to do this is to approach societies, associations, and organizations and offer to speak to their members or employees. I have found that this can be very productive.

Ten Tips for Creating a Great Proposal

When you are putting yourself forward, you will need to provide a pitch about what you propose to say and why you should be selected as a speaker. Here are some tips about what to say:

  • Tip #1: Research the audience and make your speech relevant.
  • Tip #2: Do some research into who spoke and what they talked about at previous events. If you know people who attended previous events, ask them for input.
  • Tip #3: Don't send the same proposal to every event organizer, and don't offer to do the same speech that you have just done for another event.
  • Tip #4: Don't make the speech just about you, your service, or your company— unless that is what people want to hear.
  • Tip #5: Try to introduce something new, exciting, and possibly controversial into your proposal. Event organizers are always looking for something original for their audiences.
  • Tip #6: Always ask the organizer whether there is a submission form or guidelines for speaker proposals. If there isn't, it is worth including the following items:
    • The brief speech outline
    • A bio including previous speaking engagements and any positive feedback, testimonial,s or references an organizer can follow up on
    • A photo to use in promotional material
    • A business card with mobile number
    • Copies of any materials you intend to hand out
    • Your Web site details
  • Tip #7: The speech title is CRUCIAL. Put some time into thinking about the speech heading. If this grabs the organizers' attention, you are halfway there.
  • Tip #8: Make the proposal short, punchy, and well structured. Event organizers tend to be short on time, so make their lives easy. Include a section called "What the participants will learn..."
  • Tip #9: Have a section on your Web site about your speaking achievements, and possibly include video clips of yourself in action. Event organizers often do some online research into speakers they are not familiar with.
  • Tip #10: Presentation is important. Spend time ensuring that the proposal looks fantastic—well printed, nice layout, professional folder, etc.

Hot Tip: If your proposal is rejected, send an email and letter offering to be a last-minute substitute should any of the speakers drop out. At the very least, organizers are more likely to remember your name; at best, you could end up speaking.

10 Tips for Presenting Your Speech

Now that you have gone to all this trouble to get the speaking spot, put the effort into making it memorable.

  • Tip #1: Prepare well and practice.
  • Tip #2: Phone the organizers a few days before the event to make sure all the things you need will be provided, including a projector.
  • Tip #3: Arrive early to check out the room, the equipment, the microphone, the timing, etc. By the time you step up on stage, you should be totally comfortable with your surroundings.
  • Tip #4: Provide handouts. People do make notes and take handouts with them. Be sure to attach your bio, Web address, and contact details.
  • Tip #5: Make sure that your speech is original and exciting.
  • Tip #6: Don't overuse PowerPoint slides. As a guide: You should have a maximum of one per minute and preferably one for every three minutes of talking. Have as little text as possible. The slides should just capture the key points you want your audience to remember. Use more images than words.
  • Tip #7: Offer to send attendees an extra report, whitepaper, copy of the slides, etc. if they leave you their business card. If possible, have a colleague with you. He or she can both give you feedback about the presentation and also help handle questions (and collect business cards) at the end.
  • Tip #8: Take questions. I prefer to have designated times for questions rather than have the talk interrupted. Make a note of what people ask, as you can often turn the answers into articles for your Web site.
  • Tip #9: If possible, video the presentation. The benefit is twofold. You can use it on your site, as it makes great content, and by watching it you can improve your public-speaking abilities.
  • Tip #10: The last slide, which you should leave on the screen during the Q&A session, should have your Web address, contact details, and any special offer you have created for the attendees (10% off an annual subscription, free e-book for newsletter sign-ups, etc.).

10 Post-Event Follow-Up Actions

It is easy to breathe a sigh of relief after the event has finished and get on with business as usual. If you do this, most of the benefit of giving the speech will be lost. Here is a list of follow-up actions:

  • Action #1: Email everyone who left a card. Thank them for their interest, send them a gift (whitepaper, copy of the slides, special report, etc.) and ask whether you can add them to your newsletter mailing list.
  • Action #2: Write a thank-you letter to the organizers; it will get you remembered. Few speakers do this, so it is a very valuable trick.
  • Action #3: Write a press release about your experience of the event and send it to the journalists who attended. Do it as soon as you can after the event. Remember to send a photo with it.
  • Action #4: If the organizer got the audience to fill in a questionnaire, ask for a copy of the results. You might not like the feedback you get, but it is extremely valuable. If the feedback is very good, use the questionnaire as a testimonial for future speaking opportunities.
  • Action #5: Get your speech on your Web site as a video or podcast as soon as you can.
  • Action #6: Based on what you learned and heard at the event, create a list of articles that you will be writing and put a "Coming Soon" announcement on your home page with a list of articles.
  • Action #7: Make changes to your presentation while it is fresh in your mind. Don't wait until the next time you plan on delivering the speech, as you will have forgotten many of the points you need to change, remove, or add.

Conclusion

If you invest time in seeking offline speaking opportunities, you will reap the benefits many times over. You will also gain a significant advantage over Web-only experts who don't create a strong real-world profile. Follow the tips and tricks above to maximize the benefits and, most importantly, enjoy yourself.


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Miles Galliford is a co-founder of SubHub (www.subhub.com), a company set up to help bloggers, writers, and publishers commercialize their content on the Internet.

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