Derek Featherstone's Box of Chocolates: You never know what you're going to get

Box of Chocolates

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 - 9:33am

Getting Speaking Gigs

Every once in a while a friend asks me a question about speaking. The other day Anton Peck and I chatted about speaking gigs and I thought it might be a good idea to put some thoughts together that were specific to Anton, but done in such a way that they might apply to everyone that is interested in looking at getting more speaking gigs.

You are great at something. Speak about that. I don’t mean just “good” either — this is your chance to figure out what you do BEST. For Anton, I suggested he talk about his illustration. Anton’s digital artwork is stunning (I’ve actually hired him before to do illustration work for some of my presentations). He’d be smart to start there.

Pitch the practical. In almost all cases, a person wants to come away from a talk with things that they can use right away. For Anton, I suggested he talk about his illustration with a hands-on bent. I think the hands-on is an important piece of this when you’re starting out — a common concern for conference and event organizers is ensuring that audiences get enough of the practical techniques that they crave.

Be proactive and approach people before they approach you. This is a fact of life as a “new” speaker. Being a known speaker has a huge advantage because it is harder to get a speaking gig if you don’t have experience and if you don’t have experience… well, you know how that goes. So, go out and hunt them down.

Seek and ye shall find. Search engines are key — look up those keywords and find conferences that fit the bill. For Anton we searched for Hands-on illustrator workshops and hands-on illustrator conference and could easily expand to include the phrases how to, demonstration, speaking. The point? It isn’t that hard to find places if you know how to use Google.

Find speaker related sites. Sites like SpeakerSite or the freshly launched SpeakerRate are filled with other speakers. And where there are speakers, there are conferences and organizers. SlideShare is a great starting point as well — a quick search there will help you find people and conferences that are related to the topics you have identified that you want to speak about. Once you’ve identified those, go hunt them down.

You must choose wisely. Pick the right conferences. Looking at Anton’s logical topic choice — hands-on illustration, focused on technique — he needs to target specific types of conferences. Off the top of my head I could think of two conferences that would be a great fit: TODCon and Adobe MAX . TODCon is a smaller conference that alternates between Orlando and Las Vegas with a focus on practical how-to sessions. MAX is the pinnacle of how-to sessions for Adobe products. They aren’t all how-to/demonstrations, but a large portion is and this would be a perfect match for Anton.

Get an introduction. The next step, of course, is to get Anton an introduction to the right people at those conferences. I’ll be introducing Anton to my contacts for both TODCon and MAX so that he can get on their radar.

Tell it like it is: You have to tell people that you’re looking for speaking gigs. Much like Anton did to me :) Who should you tell? Everyone of course, but I’d focus on friends and clients as a starting point.

Certainly LinkedIn and Twitter can be part of your search as well — leave no stone unturned and I’d bet that you can come up with several opportunities within a week.

Have other suggestions? Things that worked for you? Would love to hear them in the comments!


Some of my thoughts on getting speaking gigs, if you’re interested in that sort of thing:

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

Great tips! RT @feather Some of my thoughts on getting speaking gigs, if you’re interested in that sort of thing:

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is reading a great post by @feather on getting speaking gigs: Lots of good advice and pointers to sites I hadn’t seen.

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@feather: Getting speaking gigs law bloggers should be proacatively seeking to further enhance reputation

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Angela Colter

February 24, 2009

Start small.

Lots of professional organizations have local chapters that are always looking for speakers and topics of interest to their membership. There may only be 20 people in the room listening, but an audience is an audience. It’ll give you a chance to develop your presentation topic and gain some experience actually presenting it.

Thanks for those tips & references Derek, I’ve been mulling over thoughts of getting into speaking one day so very useful.

Though I don’t think I could ever keep up with your pace! :-)

Being proactive is the biggest. We always love when people come to us but the fact is, it rarely happens that way. Instead, you need to go after conference organizers to get a spot. And when you do, have session ideas in mind; possibly one or two. If a schedule has already been posted but has a couple open spots, suggest something that fits into those spots (ie: don’t suggest a topic that is mostly covered by another session already scheduled). Otherwise, it sounds like Anton is well on his way!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for posting this, Derek. Your advice on IM was already enough to get the ball rolling for me, and taking the time to post a blog article about getting into speaking makes all the difference in the world.

I’m hoping that I can start easing my way into the industry a little deeper when it comes to sharing my knowledge to other people.

Wish me luck!

Derek Featherstone rocks my socks.

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Angela — great point; starting small really does help new speakers. And practice with a topic is critical to being able to present it well to a large audience.

Cindy — all I can say is “go for it!” You don’t know until you try!

Snook — yes, indeed. Proactivity is something we could all use more of; good strategy too on “plugging holes”

Anton — hope it all happens for you, my friend. I’ve put out some emails to a few people and we’ll see where it might lead…

Something I’d add to the ‘start small’ advice – don’t assume you have to start with a conference, workshop or some other “long” presentation. BarCamp (unstructured), Webjam (3 minutes) and Ignite (5 minutes) are just a few examples of shorter formats that will let you get a feel for speaking to a room. They’ll also teach you how fast your time runs out :)

Good advice Derek. Especially in finding the gigs, that can be the hardest part.

Also allowing yourself to be honest about your own USP. Often it may not be what you want it to be. I could be a skill or a knowledge base that you consider secondary or not the one you see yourself as representing.

Agree with Ben the short run gigs are hell, they really sort you out.

Interested in speaking gigs to share your knowledge? Useful tips from @feather

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Join a Toastmasters group, you get contacts, practice and evaluation. They have a wealth of information and activities to help you grow. And if Harvey McKay, Zig Ziglar and Paul Harvey recommend it it cannot be all bad

It was so great to read that your number one advice was “find the thing you’re the best at”. This captures the essence somehow. Thank you for pointing it out like this, Derek!

Obviously, there are tons of techniques out there you can realy on though you always need to find your own individual way to cope with the hardship along the way.

You can use presentation tools, you can join a local Toastmaster Club and you can educate yourself via the vast amount of knowledge on the Internet but the first step is to find your message. You’re so right about that, Derek.