How to Get Invited to Speak at Conferences (And Get Paid)

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Becoming a conference speaker

Attending conferences is a great way to grow your career. You meet other people who are also #TryingToGetSomewhere, who are networking and expending resources to improve their life/career.

If you’re an average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, a conference is a GREAT way to level TF up.

In my own career, I’ve learned to just “show up” (at least every quarter) to a conference. Measuring the ROI from a conference can be difficult immediately after, but I have met wonderful friends and business contacts at conferences that are helpful years later!

Social media is great, but there’s nothing like face to face communication.

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Going One Step Further

Showing up as an attendee is great, but SPEAKING at a conference can impact your career in a myriad of ways:

  • Become a “thought leader,” and receive inquiries for press interviews
  • Share your own brand or product with conference attendees
  • “Pay it forward” and share your knowledge with others
  • Gain resources/help you’re looking for (especially helpful for people looking for funding)

Cool cool. We get that speaking at a conference is like rocket fuel for our businesses or careers.

So how does one speak at conferences?

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Why Should You Listen to Me? (My Street Cred)

One of the things I help my career coaching clients do is find conferences/events to speak at and pitch them. I’ve been on the planning team for many a conference/event (100 – 15,000 attendees), and I get all the politics that go into selecting speakers.

Below, I’ve shared some actionable insights on getting speaking gigs. This is honestly 5% of the game, but I’m writing a blog post, not a book! This blog post goes into HOW to become a speaker, but I’m not writing on how to figure out WHAT to speak on in this post.

If you want to up your speaker game, drop me a line here.

Pre-Work: You Don’t Have to Be “Super Famous” to Speak

Keynote speakers generally have more clout, but it’s actually a lot easier than you think to speak at a conference. Making sure to have diverse speakers and content is the job of a team of people, and your experience is valuable.

Seriously.

There isn’t like, a fairy godmother that comes down and tells you that you’re now a *~*speaker*~*. You just decide to be one!

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Pre-Work: Add That You’re a “Speaker” to your LinkedIn Summary

As you use these tactics to speak at conferences, the organizers are gonna creep on you. Be sure that your LinkedIn has a few sentences on your speaking offering.

Ex: “In addition to my work at (company), I also speak at events and conferences on (topic a), (topic b), and (topic c).”

Mine reads: “In addition to my work at The Huntswoman, I also speak at events and conferences on luxury retailing, making fashion brands more inclusive and influencer marketing.”

Point 1: Submitting for the “Call for Participation” or “Call for Speakers”

Also called a “CFP,” the Call for Participation is where the event organizers request interested folks to submit sessions and panels for the conference.

If you want to speak at a conference, check to see if the conference has a CFP period. It’s probably passed for the year (the conference pops up in your life when it’s going), so check what this year’s dates were and mark your online calendar to check around the same time next year.

I would also email the conference organizers and ask if the org does a CFP//how to apply to speak:

Hi (name),

My name is (Your Name), and I’m such a fan of (Conference Name). I’ve been (tweeting/writing/sharing it) for the last (timeframe). I’d love to apply to speak at next year’s event, can you share details on the CFP or application process?

Thanks so much!

Best,

(Your Name)

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Point 2: Engage with the Conference on Social Media

Conference organizers want butts in seats. In order to get butts in seats, they need people talking about the conference – especially on the interwebs.

A great way to be asked to be a speaker at a conference is to be a BIG supporter of the ones you love on social media. Share photos to LinkedIn. Live tweet the conference when you attend.

Your posts act as word of mouth marketing (WOM), and help the conference reach more people. “If she’s this loud when she’s an attendee, imagine how she’ll promote us if she’s a speaker!!” is the thought that will likely run through the heads of the conference planners.

Share in this content that you would love to be a speaker at next year’s event.

Closed mouths don’t get fed!!

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Point 3: Write a Review/Recap Blog Post

When deciding whether to attend a conference, people will google: “[Conference name] review” and see what pops up.

And if YOU write a review or recap (on Medium or your blog), it will show up in search.

Blog posts are wayyyyy more valuable to conference organizers, because they’re “stickier.” Social media posts stop getting new eyeballs, but a blog post will show up in online searches – and help get more butts in seats.

In your conference review or recap, be sure to discuss:

  • Favorite sessions/key things you learned
  • What type of content you’d like to see next year (and ideally, how you could run a session on this!)
  • Accessibility & organization (navigating the conference, food choices, etc)
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Point 4: Follow & Connect with Individual Organizers

Find the conference organizers on LinkedIn and Twitter, and engage with them! They’re probably posting about the conference year round, and you can stand out from the stack of speaker applications through 1:1 authentic engagement!

*** Getting Paid as a Conference Speaker***

“Cool, Bri!” you may be thinking. “But I don’t want to speak at a conference if it’s coming out of my pocket.”

Goal #1: Free Tickets

In my experience, when you first get started speaking, you’re going to be paying for stuff out of your pocket. But speaking on a panel or running your own session at a conference is a great way to get comp’d tickets to an event you were going to attend anyways.

Goal #2: Break Even

As you get more events under your belt, and you can show ROI in terms of tickets sold or in rave reviews of your sessions – you’re going to get extra perks like free flights or a hotel stay.

ALWAYS ASK! Even if it’s your first gig, you should ALWAYS ask about flights/hotel – don’t assume you have to pay out of pocket. If your session or panel is accepted, ask organizers what options are available for you in terms of funding.

When you first start speaking at conferences, your goal is to break even in costs. You probably aren’t making money through speaker fees.

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Goal #3: Getting Paid as a Speaker

As your following grows, you’ll get to the point where people are asking conference organizers to have you speak. Generally, the best way to know to start charging fees is when conferences reach out to YOU to ask you to speak.

They see your value or ROI, and they want you to come speak. Your seen as someone who is a thought leader, and your speaking at the conference will get others to attend.

In other words, the conference knows you’re making them money.

This is when you share your speaker profile, your rates, and your rider. As requests come pouring in, you’ll likely want to hire an agency or have your internal or external PR team manage requests.

BOOM.

What Conferences Do You Want to Speak At?

Let me know what conferences you want to speak at in the comments!

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[FTC Notice:  This post contains affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you purchase a product through my link. Affiliates help me write more great content, and I only endorse products I truly love.]