This post was written by TCCS member, Clare Hastings
Dry mouth. Wobbly knees. A thousand frogs doing a mad breakdancing routine in my stomach.
Speaking in front of people is literally the stuff of my nightmares.
I’ve worked with a conference company for many years, and I’ve seen hundreds of people rock the stage with some kind of magical confidence to share their stories of innovation and ingenuity.
But would I ever brave it? Hell no!
Like many copywriters, my crippling imposter syndrome (coupled with a fear of seizing up on stage and my general laziness) means I’d never even considered speaking in front of people.
But for those who can overcome these barriers, speaking at events and conferences has clear benefits. It can win you respect, recognition, and sometimes even revenue.
Now is a great time to be speaking at conferences and events
While COVID-19 put a big fat full stop to big face-to-face conferences, it also opened up alternative platforms such as virtual conferences and webinars. And with restrictions easing in some states, many conferences are starting to call for speakers. Such as CopyCon, the world’s greatest conference for copywriters.
But where to start?
I spoke to people in the know to get the lowdown on how to get found, how to overcome imposter syndrome, and where to find your next conference speaking gig.
Squash the imposter
Imposter syndrome is one of the biggest factors holding people back from speaking at conferences.
For some of us, a client call is terrifying enough. But standing on stage in front of hundreds of people, just waiting for that curly question to shine a light on how much of an imposter you really are? It’s enough to send even the most confident people running for the hills.
“I thought no-one would be interested in what I had to say. But honestly, it was such a positive experience” she says.
Angela said speaking at CopyCon increased her visibility among other copywriters, which led to more referrals and more engagement on social media.
Here are her top conference speaking tips:
- Think about what unique insights you can give and share your personal experience. People want to hear it.
- Spend some time practising and refining your message.
- Just try to relax and enjoy it. Your time on stage passes really fast, especially once you get through those first couple of sentences.
“If you’re given the opportunity to speak at a conference, just put your fears to the side and go for it” Angela says.
Get on LinkedIn and get found
Kyle Tate, Conference Producer at The Eventful Group says LinkedIn is where he goes to source speakers. So establishing yourself as a subject matter expert with a strong personal brand is key to being found.
Finding speakers is a two-fold project for Kyle:
- The first, and most important, is finding the right story that fits the narrative and shows innovation in the area.
- The second is finding the right person to tell the story.
“We look for confident speakers who can articulate their successes through great storytelling,” Kyle says. “Being able to tell a great story is the hardest quality to find, but can make the biggest difference to a presentation.”
Ultimately, people attend conferences to hear how others have overcome a challenge they might be facing. So highlighting how you’ve approached things in an innovative way is another key aspect of a good speaker.
“Sharing an alternative approach to doing things empowers people to return to their organisations to achieve the same,” he says. “Without the story being innovative it’s just repetition of the norms that already exist.”
Don’t ask, don’t get
TCCS member Leanne Shelton has led workshops for City of Parramatta Council and Macquarie Community College. She’s also spoken at networking events and even runs her own.
Her advice for landing a speaking gig is simple: Just ask.
“When it comes to speaking at networking events or running workshops, I simply asked the organiser. I either approach them in person or send them an email saying I’d be interested in speaking on x topic at an upcoming event. Seems simple, but it works.”
She says it helps if they know you. So make sure you’re attending the events you want to speak at.
Once you’ve presented, her top tips are:
- Collect email addresses and phone numbers from attendees and send them your slides. It’s a great way to generate warm leads and start building connections.
- Do a follow up call about two weeks later. Ask them if they have any follow-up questions or want to book a free discovery call. People often say they appreciate the call as it’s personal and not part of a bulk email.
How to find conferences and events to speak at
If you’ve successfully smooshed down your imposter syndrome and want to start speaking at events and conferences, here are some ideas to get you started.
Note: This list was compiled in the “before times”, when we were allowed to gather en masse and shaking hands wasn’t a deviant act. Many larger conferences have “pivoted” to a virtual format, with some planning to run in 2021 and beyond (fingers crossed).
Copywriting and marketing events are a good place to start because it’s in our zone of genius: Think of events such as Copycon, Mumbrella, and B2B Marketing Forum.
Industry events: If you niche by industry, speaking at industry events means getting in front of potential clients. Have a poke around your industry bodies, associations, and local industry groups to see if they run events. Think about how you can help your audience do business better. For example, if you’re speaking to accountants tell them how to make accounting sexy on social media. Or for a real estate audience, how to write punchy listings.
- General Assembly runs free and paid seminars on a range of topics including digital marketing, social media, and copywriting.
- Co-working spaces such as We Work often run free lunch-and-learn sessions, which is a good way to connect to local business owners.
- Bio events hold monthly member events specially curated to make sure people get maximum value from attending. They run mixers, industry meetups, and panel discussions.
Women’s events: Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there are a lot of them around. And more are springing up by the day. If you have the necessary bits and a great story to tell, this could be for you.
Wellness events: Wellness in the workplace is a hot topic for many businesses. And freelancers face their own challenges when it comes to wellness. Do you have an interesting way to balance your work and life? Are you passionate about mental health? Are you a carbon-neutral workplace? Are you powering your laptop with a bicycle?
Organise it yourself: Platforms such as Meetup have made it easier than ever to host your own event. It can be a lot of work finding a space, setting up tickets, and marketing the event, but running your own meeting means you can fill it with ideal clients.
If big conferences are just too terrifying, look into smaller local events or speaking opportunities:
- Speak at local networking events. Your local Chamber of Commerce is a good place to start.
- Run a workshop. Local councils are often looking for expert speakers on small business marketing, etc.
- Speak at regional events. In my area, there’s a Wollongong digital marketing conference.
Over to you
If you have a story to tell, whether it’s business-related or otherwise, get out there and find somewhere to tell it. You’ll reap the rewards in the long run, even if it’s just proving to yourself that you can do it.
Clare Hastings is a content writer for B2B brands who have insights to share. A journalist-slash-marketer, she liberates your leaders’ expertise and writes articles, eBooks, whitepapers, and case studies to position your brand as a trusted authority.
You can find her at Write My Content (or guzzling endless cups of coffee at the local café to keep up with her two little kids).