Have you ever sat in the audience at a conference panel or breakout session and thought, "Why am I not up on stage?"
Maybe you are a published thought leader looking to take your financial subject matter expertise to the next level. Perhaps you are seeking to expand your professional brand reach to new audiences and target markets. Regardless of your reasons, being vulnerable enough to consider throwing your hat into the conference speaker ring is worthy of a dramatic slow clap.
Going from noble applause to industry conference speaker acceptance takes more than guts. It takes strategic thinking and a strong proposal that aligns with the needs of the conference organizers and your path forward as a financial services thought leader. Here are four steps to position you for center stage conference speaker success.
Step 1 - Know Your Goal
If your goal is to pitch an insurance or investment product, stop while you're ahead. Product promotion and speaker engagements go together like oil and water. It is important to differentiate between pushing an offering and advocating for your brand. Whether you are looking to establish yourself as a leader in the industry or build upon your reputation in the insurance or investment marketplace, your unique value proposition should align with the conference, the topic you want to introduce, and the knowledge seeking needs of your attendees. That brings us to the next step.
Step 2 - Know Your Audience
The conference will dictate on a macro level the makeup of your audience. When it comes to putting on an insightful panel or being an engaging speaker, subject matter expertise is a dish best served micro. As you consider the topic to propose, ask yourself:
Is the topic foundational or is it intermediate to advanced?
Is the topic appropriate for the conference?
Is the topic being addressed by another speaker?
The conference that is on your radar may not be the best for you or your topic. That’s OK. There is no shortage of industry speaking opportunities. Be intentional with your search. It’s likely you’ll devise additional pitch ideas.
Step 3 - Know Yourself (Or Your Marketing team)
As you may have already guessed, there is overlap between knowing your audience and knowing yourself. Let’s revisit the moment the idea to pursue a panel appearance or speaker engagement sprang to mind. It’s important to evaluate not only what triggered this revelation but also your potential comfort level with the process. For example:
Is this something you want, or is this something driven by envy?
Do you have the temperament to share the stage with other panelists?
How accustomed are you to solo public speaking?
Can you speak on a topic for 20 minutes? 45? 60?
Do you have the supporting content to amplify your message?
Don’t try to come up with the right answer. This is a self-assessment to help you craft a solid proposal and eventually a winning session.
If you have access to an in-house marketing team, ask them to collaborate on proposal and content development. Self-marketing can feel boastful and self-congratulatory. An outside perspective can work to ensure your expertise is presented with confidence, not conceit.
If you don’t have a marketing team at the ready, consider contracting a freelancer to draft the proposal or consult with a trusted colleague or peer to ensure your message is clear.
Step 4 - Brevity and Spellcheck Are Your Friends
Conference organizers get inundated with pitches. Few things ruffle their feathers more than submissions that fly in the face of stated guidelines or that lean toward the long-winded instead of the high-level. The first draft of your pitch should be a stream-of-consciousness proposal that you have no intention of submitting. From there, edit for brevity and clarity in accordance with conference requirements. After you have a pitch that you are comfortable with, have a set of fresh eyes look over it. Finally, spellcheck and assess for grammar. It only takes one typo or tense misstep to torpedo your compelling proposal.
Take The Time To Put Your Best Pitch Forward
Once you opt to put your speaker hat in the ring, take a moment to acknowledge the decision and fight the temptation to put a timetable on success. Be thoughtful in your approach to following these steps. It takes patience and determination, attributes that have served you well as a financial services industry leader, and will all but ensure a positive proposal outcome.
Tara Meehan is marketing director, International Planning Alliance. She may be contacted at [email protected].