Speaking Engagements–Traction Channel #18

Speaking Engagements as a Traction Channel can be fairly easy to enter for a startup owner or team. Traction by Weinberg and Mares suggest, “Start by giving free talks to small groups of potential customers or partners. Speaking at small events can improve your speaking ability, give you some early traction, and spread your story or message. It’s also good for personal growth if you’ve never done it before:  Mark Zuckerberg has talked about how improving at public speaking has vastly improved his management ability. It is a good idea to  give at least one talk even if you choose not to pursue this traction channel.  The other option if you have a startup team is to evaluate yourself and your team’s strength when it comes to public speaking. If one of team member is naturally better at speaking, then it can be a quicker win and more enjoyable for that team member to put the effort into this traction channel.  Dan Martell is the founder of Clarity, an advice platform that connects founders with successful entrepreneurs. He spoke to Weinberg and Mares about getting traction through speaking engagements:

“Speaking is funny. You know to me, it’s the old school concept that teaching sells… Teaching is what content marketing is all about: webinars, blog posts, and the like. I look at [these] things as the future of good marketing. The opportunity to teach and be in front of a room for 45 minutes introducing your company and your story to potential customers is time well spent.”
This channel works well if you pitched the people right and they help bring momentum for your business. How to Land Speaking Engagements So if you’ve never spoken at a conference, how do you get an invite? It’s easier than you might think. Just follow these steps …(from How to Get a Conference Speaking Slot)
  1. Go to the conference and meet the organizer in person. The best way to do this is agree to volunteer for free. You’re doing the organizer a favor and he’ll feel obligated to return the favor at some point. This might seem Machiavellian but it’s not. It’s just How to Win Friends and Influence People 101.
  2. Do something really creative. Create an open-source tool, do a fake re-design for Berkshire Hathaway and explain why it’ll work, use the web to help a charity raise money. It doesn’t matter, it just needs to be creative and attention grabbing.
  3. Record a three-minute video sampler of a talk you’d like to give about the project. Tips for the video: head and shoulder shot, good sound, simple one-color background (not the wall in your bedroom), decent lighting, do NOT be boring. This video is about convincing the conference organizer that you’re going to be a great speaker.
  4. Send the video to the organizer and say that you’ve created something really interesting, recorded a three-minute video sampler of your talk. You’re willing to pay for your own flight, hotel and expenses. All you want is a chance to really delight their audience.
If you have a good idea for a talk and see an event that aligns with an area of your expertise, simply pitch your talk to the event organizers. Building A Speaking Reputation In addition to industry experience, conference organizers will want to see that you are a decent speaker. If you’re not well known as a speaker, they’ll be hesitant to book you (even for free) Getting valuable early speaking experience is not difficult.
  • Start by speaking for free at co-working spaces, nonprofits, and smaller conferences or events.
  • Use these smaller scale appearances to refine your talks and build your speaking reputation. The world of event organizers is relatively small and they pay special attention to who is speaking at events. As a result, you’ll find your number of engagements growing organically.
  • Example:  As Dan Martell of Clarity says: “To become a speaker you have to speak once. If you speak and you’re good, people in the audience will ask you to speak at other events. That’s just how it happens. I’ve never marketed myself as a speaker; it’s not in my bio or anything. What happens is, you speak at a conference, people see it or talk about it, and you get invited to other ones.”
  • If you do a good job at smaller events, leverage them into talks at larger events by asking for referrals and using past gigs as social proof.
Different kinds of Speaking events have different crowds and different expectations of speakers. There are a few types of events you should be aware of: (from Traction book)
  • Premier events are well regarded and attended national or international shows. Often, there will only be a few of these per year in an industry. These events will require much longer lead times to submit a proposal, often six to twelve months.
  • Regional events bring together industry players within a day’s drive. Depending on the event, expect to land a speaking engagement roughly two to four months before the show.
  • Local events draw city residents around a particular topic. Like regional shows, lead times can vary but are usually one to three months before the show. Organizers consider timing, topic, and credibility when selecting a speaker.
By establishing yourself as an expert on an appropriate topic and submitting proposals far in advance, you maximize your chances of securing one of the best speaking engagements at the target show. Speaking Tactics (from Traction book)
  • When you start a talk, the audience is usually thinking about two questions –
    • Why are you important enough to be the one giving a talk?
    • What value can you offer me?
    • These questions will be burning in their minds until you address them, so answer them immediately.
  • Once you’ve captured the audience’s attention:
    • Keep it with a compelling story. All successful talks tell a story: otherwise, the audience loses interest.
    • Your story is about what your startup is doing, why you’re doing it, and specifically how you got to where you are.
    • Try to figure out the two tracks your potential customers might be interested in and teach them about that.
    •  Giving a number of talks is helpful, it gives you more practice per talk, which helps you identify spots that may not be clicking with the audience. The more practiced and comfortable you are, the better your talks will be and the more you can improve them.
Advanced Speaking Tactics
  • Leveraging social media to reach people outside of the conference is a similar tactic. Rand Fishkin of Moz:
    • Tweets his slides before every presentation, which lets his followers find out what he’ll be talking about.
    • Posts a video of his talk, there is already some buzz and interest in hearing what he talked about.
    • Leverages social media during his talk. He asks for the audience’s “divided attention,” meaning he wants them to tweet and share good content from his presentation as he gives it. To facilitate this, he includes his Twitter handle on every slide and asks people to tweet at him if they really identified with something he said. This way, he can find out the content his audience enjoyed the most, while also growing his reach.
    • Asks for a call-to-action at the end of his presentations. This is a simple request of the audience – something like asking them to sign up to a mailing list or to check out a link where they can see his slides. This tactic tells him whether or not members of the audience found the information engaging enough to act on it.
  • Building Relationships The main driver for being a speaker in the first place is to build relationships. At most conferences there is a speaker’s dinner, where presenters get to meet each other and network. Often, this can be the most valuable part of a conference – you meet other individuals and make connections for future events. Similar to trade shows, you can also do preparation ahead of time based upon who is likely to attend the event where you are speaking.
    • Get a list of attendees from event organizers and reach out to people you would like meet.
    • Tell them exactly when and where they are speaking and suggest to meet up afterwards. Now that they’ve heard you talk they’ll be more receptive to your pitch.
The facts are if you are a startup creator, you need to get the word out about your product and company. Speaking engagements are a good traction to do just that.  It is one of the few channels that can quickly cement your place in an industry.  Weinberg and Mares’s challenge is? “If you give the right talk at the right time to the right people , it can make you a respected industry leader.”  Resources ]]>