Make the most of speaking at an event
Your name is on the speaking event program; your speech is ready. Now – how do you get the event publicist excited about you and ensure you get noticed?
So you’ve finally had your paper accepted at a conference or have been invited to talk at a major event. You’ve worked hard for this – congratulations! Public speaking at an event is one of the biggest stepping stones to becoming an acknowledged expert.
But inevitably at any good event there will be a range of fantastic speakers on the program, probably including a headline guest from overseas who has a new book. How will you get noticed among them all? It’s a good question – but not impossible to achieve.
I’ve publicised major events, including Sydney Writers’ Festival, where there can often be 200 authors attending. From this experience I know there are easy ways to make sure the event publicity team know who you are and why you’d make a great media interview. It doesn’t matter if you’re at an event with ten other speakers or two – these same rules apply.
Create a compelling profile
Start by preparing a one-page document profiling yourself. Give an introduction to the subject you’re speaking on and why you’ve chosen it. Add points covering any other related subjects you can cover.
"A good publicity photo will be selected over one that is poor quality or out of date – so make sure yours ticks all the boxes."
Include some bullet-point highlights that demonstrate you’re respected and renowned. Mention major clients, recent business achievements or awards and your latest appearances in workshops, seminars or other speaking events. Insert links to any previous media coverage or sites that show more about you.
Make sure you align all of this information with your event subject. You may have highlights that are quite unrelated to current interests. Don’t confuse things by dwelling on these.
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Invest in a quality publicity photo
Before you take a snap with your iPhone, do a little research online and flick through some magazines to find profile photos of other experts. What colours are they wearing? How much of their body can you see? (I recommend a bit more than the head but not the whole body.) Are they smiling or serious? Take a good look and think about presenting yourself in a style that suits your personality and business.
The pictures you take may be used on the event program or in the media; so it’s worth doing well. Please don’t use a photo taken several years ago. I know you looked younger and your hair was less grey; but it’s important to be authentic. It’s surprising how quickly photos date and media will prefer a recent picture. A good publicity photo will be selected over one that is poor quality or out of date – so make sure yours ticks all the boxes. For women, consider having your makeup professionally done, ensuring you brief the makeup artist that you want to look professional, not nightclub-ready. This can work wonders for your confidence and appearance. When emailing your photo, remember that to be suitable for print it must be high resolution (at least 300 DPI) and very large.
Directly contact the event organiser or publicist. Make sure they receive your one-page document and photos. Don’t assume they’ll already know everything there is to know about you. Take the time to have a conversation so they can hear your voice and learn a bit about you.
You may be able to tell them the themes media typically pick up on in your area of expertise. Ask if there’s anything you can do to make their job easier. Tell them you’re happy to do any media appearances or interviews that come up. Publicists love people who are ready and willing. If you have media contacts who may be interested in covering your event, discuss these, too.
Implementing all of these points will give you a much better chance of being noticed at your next event. You might not be the international guest with the new book, but you could be the best-prepared and most-available speaker on the program. And that could make all the difference.
What tips do you have for getting the most out of speaking at an event?