To some, public speaking comes naturally. No nerves, no disfluencies, just confident, engaging eloquence. If you’re one of these rare specimens of humankind, we’re impressed. A lot goes into preparing for a speaking engagement that finally comes together when you take that first breath and start talking. But it may come as a surprise that there’s actually more you can do to maximize your event besides creating a PowerPoint, posting on social media, and picturing the audience members in their underwear.
What really makes you a great speaker is the story you tell. Overcoming an obstacle, making a great discovery, experiencing a disaster — there’s always something that can inspire you and give you stories people want to hear. However, sometimes the tricky part is getting the right people to listen in the first place.
Say you’re locked in as the speaker at a conference or an event, but you need to get the word out. How can you make sure that you’re doing everything you can to capitalize on the opportunity? How will you be able to meet as many new people as possible and even engage new potential leads from these events?
The answer begins with content marketing.
Here’s a guide on how you can use content from the minute you get accepted as a conference speaker to weeks after you get back from the event.
If you aren’t prepping and actively creating content to engage potential conference attendees leading up to the event, then you’re missing an opportunity. You don’t have to exhaust yourself, but here are a few things I recommend doing:
To get the most out of a speaking engagement, we at Influence & Co. typically put together a blog post beforehand that serves as promotion for the event. It allows us to create something fun but also highlight any sessions that our company leaders will be speaking at. And then we share the heck out of it.
In these blog posts, we typically include a list of sessions we are excited about, tips for navigating the conference, places we love to go in that particular city, and any parties or happy hours we recommend. Here are some examples of those blog posts:
We also make sure to schedule social promo, linking to the event or the session to get our network interested and alerted. We have our creative team create graphics that are engaging and include specifics about the event, such as the dates and city. We try to schedule these promotional posts consistently leading up to the event so that all of our followers who might be attending know that we’ll be there, too.
I recommend sending out an email to your leads and clients letting them know that you’ll be at the event and speaking, in case any of them are attending as well. Make sure this email lists your session time and day (and room, if possible) so that there’s no confusion over when and where to find it.
This email is a great opportunity to set up a meeting with contacts who are in your pipeline and to give them another in-person touchpoint with your company. For example, at INBOUND, our CEO Kelsey Raymond met with several leads at the event who were talking to various salespeople within our company. This outreach was so successful that all of the leads she met with eventually closed in the next couple of months.
There’s actually a lot you and your team members (even if they’re at home base instead of the conference) could be doing while you’re at the event to help you get the most out of the experience.
So many conferences today find ways to incorporate social media into their events that it’s key that you or someone from your company is actively tweeting or sharing things on social media while you’re there. For example, at HubSpot’s yearly INBOUND conference, there’s usually a feed of tweets that is displayed on a monitor on the main floor. It pulls all the tweets that use the conference’s hashtag and puts them front and center for attendees to see. Getting your company’s Twitter or other social handles seen on such a visible display could mean more followers, and it can help get your company more attention while there.
If the conference allows, you should bring something to give out to people who are attending your conference session. In the past, we’ve brought John Hall’s book, "Top of Mind" and worksheets that we put together based on what the session was about. These gifts are great because they serve as a lasting reminder about you, your brand, and your session.
Make sure that the presentation deck you’ve prepared has a page at the end dedicated to contacting you. It should list any social channels as well as your email. Sometimes, sessions can seem so impersonal. So to counteract that, I highly recommend including "office hours" on your contact page as well. This allows you to list a time and place on the conference grounds (maybe a Starbucks?) where people can come later that day after your session to meet with you directly and ask questions. We’ve done this before, and it was very successful.
There’s typically no easy and seamless way to get session attendees’ contact information so you can follow up with them directly after the conference. Instead, launch a gated piece of content right before the event, preferably one that is tied closely to what you’ll be talking about, and promote it at the end of your session. That way you’ll know that the majority of people who download it that day most likely attended your session. This will help you be more specific and personalized in your communication with them. We actually created a resource library, which we shared out at the end of a recent presentation, that includes all of our blog posts and gated pieces of content that we thought session attendees would find applicable based on the session’s focus.
If the conference spans over a couple of days, there are usually networking events and happy hours that the event organizers put on for everyone. They can be really fun, and while you don’t have to go to all of them, they are a great chance to eat some free food and casually mingle and network. Make sure you have some of your content on hand or can easily pull it up on your mobile device to show people who you are and what you know.
Once the event is over and you’re back in the office, the real outreach can begin. Here are some things you’ll want to do immediately so your contacts don’t forget about you and can easily connect with you again.
Don’t go to the conference without knowing ahead of time how you’ll be reaching out to your new contacts. It might be helpful to already have an email created and ready to send out as soon as you get back. Or first ask connections if they caught your talk to see whether they have any questions. Later, you can follow up with slides and additional resources that open the door for sales-related conversations if a contact is interested.
It probably goes without saying that you should bring some business cards to the event, but also make sure you ask other attendees for theirs. Since these are most likely people you’ll be casually striking up conversations with, put together an email follow-up plan that is separate from your other outreach. Make sure it comes directly from your email account and that the message mentions something specific from your conversation so that it’s more personalized and helps your new contact easily remember the encounter.
Applying for speaking engagements requires a lot of time, thought, money, and content. Once you’re there and ready to tell your story, you should feel confident that enough of the right people are there to listen and engage. Don’t let all that work go to waste by not having a plan in place that allows you to fully capitalize on the event. Hopefully, the tips I've outlined above will help you find ways to utilize content more fully and make the most out of your speaking opportunities.
Natalie Slyman is a content marketing and social media professional. She enjoys reading her favorite blogs, perusing Instagram, and talking about her cats (even when no one is listening).