By Lisa Hurley
As a working event professional, you know it’s smart for you to speak at industry conferences. But if you are still a little shy about submitting a speaker proposal, here are three reasons to speak at event conferences, and to take the plunge:
1. Speaking gives you exposure on overdrive.
If you are speaking at a reputable industry conference (and if it’s not an important conference, whether large or small, think twice), you will gain far more than exposure to event attendees alone. Professional conference organizers will promote you as a vital part of their program, which gives you a special boost of credence in your industry and the business world at large.
It’s what PR professionals call the “implied third-party endorsement.” By promoting you as a speaker, the conference organizers are now throwing their reputation behind you. Even in a room of VIPs, you become a Very VIP. Industry media will often share news about you, which in turn can be picked up by the mainstream business media. You speak once, but reap results before, during and after the conference.
2. It’s who you don’t know.
You may have been in the industry for years and think you’ve already met everyone. But you haven’t. A good conference—and again, don’t waste your time with bad ones—is constantly at work updating its attendee outreach. The turnover among sponsors and attendees can be as much as 50 percent every year, and so organizers fight hard to bring in new blood.
When you are walking around the conference site, be sure you’re wearing your “Speaker” badge; most attendees will not be shy about coming up to ask you questions. In an industry as fluid as special events, making new contacts is invaluable to keeping your own client and vendor pipeline flowing.
3. You get smarter about your own work.
Preparing your presentation is a lot like cooking for a dinner guest who is a gourmet. No matter how well you know what you are doing, you will find yourself trying to up your game.
I’ve had the pleasure of speaking on a couple of themes over the years I’ve been with Special Events. Each time I’ve reviewed my presentation before the event, I’ve found that I’ve never been able to grab last year’s PowerPoint deck and just switch the date. I’ve always run across things I wanted to update, to sharpen. Sometimes I’ve dumped entire topics altogether because technology has changed the way everyone on the planet works. (In my “Working with the Media” speech, I can’t remember the last time I suggested faxing a pitch to an editor. But that once was cutting-edge, I swear!)
Speaking of PowerPoint, it’s best used with care–but it’s still often best. A few years ago, I spoke to an ISES chapter that applauded me for using PowerPoint, because they told me that my slides functioned as pre-packaged Tweets. I thanked them for saying so–and pretended I’d planned it that way.
Presentations at conferences such as The Special Event have always been ahead of those in other industries largely because event pros already know that it’s a mix of elements—music, decor, entertainment—that makes presentations come alive. You have so much to offer to your industry—if only you will speak up.
P.S. Call for Speakers for The Special Event 2016 is still open!
All photos courtesy Special Events magazine