Written by: Rowena Figueroa
Expertise alone won’t make you a thought leader. Being one requires a significant following beyond the clients you serve, no matter how many or how loyal your clients might be. But how do you take your profile from best-kept-secret to industry wide prominence? According to our study of 220 visible experts, no other technique can boost visibility as much as speaking engagements do. Close to 67% of the study’s respondents rated it the most effective way to draw and grow their audience, which explains why nearly 75% of respondents used them as a technique to promote their expertise.
Anyone who has ever tried submitting speaker proposals knows full well how time-consuming it is. The move of most businesses to the digital world over the past year has only made the process more competitive. With many event organizers having folded, speaking slots have dried up, requiring speakers to do more research on events and maintain–if not boost–a digital footprint that helps establish their legitimacy and audience reach.
Fortunately, there are a few tools you can use again and again to show event planning committees that you meet their requirements, which are:
✓ Will present on a relevant, timely topic
✓ Will add value to the audience
✓ Are qualified
✓ Have done this before
✓ Have a large following
✓ Will hold the audience’s attention
The list goes on.
The following tools can help position you as an engaging, seasoned public speaker and authority on topics that matter to event committees and their audiences.
A digital press kit on your website
In today’s digital world, you don’t exist without a website. If you’re submitting speaker proposals, you need a digital press kit on your website that gives prospective hosts what they need to appreciate why you’re a good fit for their event. To check off their boxes, your press kit should include the following components:
- Your areas of expertise and credentials
- A demo or speaking reel from past speaking engagements
- Video testimonials
- A bio available in different lengths, from 50 to 100 to 150 words
- A headshot
- Contact information including social media handles
Here are a few examples of high-quality press kits:
Once you have a press kit, find a page on your site where visitors can easily find it. Be sure to include the link to your kit in each of your speaking engagement submissions. If your submission is successful, you can send the same link to members of the media looking for people to interview at the event.
Proof of performance
Most, if not all, events require proof of performance. These proofs can come in the form of a list of events you’ve presented at, a link to a video of you presenting to an audience, or a link to a summary of evaluations of a past presentation. This is why testimonials and speaking reels are key components of a high-quality press kit–they show that you check off the boxes linked to expertise and experience.
A thought leadership trail
Event hosts want experts with a track record for delivering insights on a topic. As a subject matter expert, you’ve probably written about your presentation topic or those related to it. Including links to your blog articles (published on yours or external sites), books, executive guides, webinars, and videos will help bolster your authority and set your submission apart during the vetting process.
Writing a book on any of your topics will put your thought leadership trail in another league. The same study on visible experts shows authoring a book is the second most effective technique to promote your expertise. But while 61% of visible experts ranked it second to speaking engagements, only 37% have written one. This signals an opportunity for experts who want to leapfrog other thought leaders.
Regardless of what format you use to publish your work, your profile as an expert rests on a foundation of trust in your mastery of topics. There’s no better way to build that trust than by using research-based data and insights to back your points. Opinions and predictions based on gut checks add to the noise. Research-based insights will distinguish you from other speakers, help you stay ahead of your audiences’ new and next challenges, and, in so doing, hasten the process of earning your audience’s trust, not to mention their business.
A relevant, useful, and fresh take on a topic
Your presentation is an audition–not a sales pitch–for a role as trusted advisor on prospective clients’ business issues. Our research indicates that buyers’ top criteria for selecting their service providers is the latter’s industry and subject matter expertise. Your presentation should therefore demonstrate–not stipulate–how well you understand your audience’s priorities. You can do no better than by delivering information they can use to solve their problems.
When thinking about topics for speaking engagements, give careful thought to the event’s participant profiles. What are their issues and priorities? What are their job titles and levels of experience? Next, look for theme descriptions or content streams on the event website. Which one of your topics is the best match?
Other questions to consider: What compelling story will you share? What actions can your audience take today? What research or data underpins your insights? Presentations that are based on research are more popular than ever as businesses scramble for ways to deal with new challenges in an unfamiliar environment. Presentations that include clients are also in greater demand because they provide data points on how problems have been–and can be–solved.
Once you’ve chosen a topic, what do you cover? Most 50-60-minute presentations will answer frequently asked questions about a topic:
- What is it?
- Why is it important or relevant today?
- What are the most current trends?
- How do you use or implement it?
- What can participants apply today?
How you answer all these questions will help you structure your presentation abstract and the accompanying 3-5 takeaways.
Your speaking engagement pitch–along with hundreds, if not thousands, of other submissions–will be read by an event’s planning committee looking for presentations that:
- Audiences will care about
- Will make audiences feel like insiders
- Will offer practical value
Let’s start with developing a catchy title. What makes a title catchy? It reflects who will care about your presentation and hints at what practical value you offer. If you start with this structure in mind, you can figure out how to express the title in clever ways.
Next, your description. Highlight what novel idea, new perspective, case story, or research-based insights will help your audience feel like they’re “in-the-know” of something important. Event planners are looking for useful, relevant content that participants won’t find in other events.
Finally, your learning points. Most conferences request three to five points that establish your presentation’s practical value. The sooner your audience can implement these learning points, the more likely they’ll remember your presentation, follow you online, or even contact you.
Getting booked for speaking engagements is more a marathon than a sprint. It requires a great deal of research into what’s important to your audience, the events they attend, and how you can help them the best. It also entails a lot of prep work on the tools you need–press kit, proof of performance, thought leadership assets, relevant topics, and pitches–to establish your expertise and set yourself apart.
Once developed, these tools will set up your submissions for success and, over time, help you grow your platform as a sought-after visible expert.
Related: Why You Must Be a Crazy Good Speaker