Marketing / Public relations, PR

Getting invited to speak at business conferences

Speaking at conferences establishes you as an authority in your field and provides great networking opportunities. But how do you land those highly sought gigs speaking at business conferences in the first place?


Don’t wait to be invited to speak at business conferences

Identify areas where you can add value as a speaker and then hunt down conference organisers who specialise in those areas. Some business conferences are advertised before the speaker line-up has been finalised, so contact the organisers and offer yourself as a speaker.

Start pitching early

The conference organising industry is highly competitive, and conference producers are under a lot of pressure to be first to market. Consequently, new conference topics are often kept under wraps until they’re ready to be marketed.

It’s still possible to get yourself onto the program though. Take a look at past business conferences that you’d have liked to speak at. Call a couple of the speakers and ask what the experience was like. Find out how many delegates attended. If the conference was successful, there’s a very good chance that the organiser will repeat the topic, or run another program with a similar theme – so contact them now and present your credentials.

Some organisers specialise in particular topics, so keep a list of the organisers that run conferences on your favourite subjects and stay in touch with them on a semi-regular basis. It also pays to keep a calendar of yearly business conferences and to get in touch with the organisers during their production window.

"Conference producers typically look for speakers from a wide range of sources, so being visible in a number of spheres increases your chances of being invited to speak. "

Respond to calls for papers

There are some conference organisers that put out a call for papers, but many don’t. It pays to be proactive and find the associations and commercial organisers before they’ve produced your ideal conference. But if you do see a call for papers, by all means grasp it with both hands.

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Put your hand up to be an understudy

If you’ve missed the window and the program has been finalised you can still offer your services as a replacement speaker, although if you end up being a late addition to the program, you’ll have missed out on being profiled in a brochure that’s sent to thousands of people. It’s definitely worthwhile being on the program from the outset!

Share the spotlight with a client

If you’re an industry consultant, it’s common for conference organisers to try to give you the brush off by suggesting that delegates don’t want to hear from you.

One way to get around this objection is to offer to bring a high profile client to present alongside you. Conference producers are often looking for presentations from well-known corporations. Big names help sell delegate tickets.

So, if you have a client that the conference organiser wants on the program, offer to run a tag-team presentation where you and your client split the speaking time.

Everyone wins. The producer gets a “name” on the program, and you also get to speak at the conference. Plus you’ve opened up an opportunity for your client to boost her own profile at the same time.

Make yourself easy to find

Conference producers typically look for speakers from a wide range of sources, so being visible in a number of spheres increases your chances of being invited to speak. Join and be active in the relevant professional associations. Write books or articles (or be quoted in them), and become an effective networker.

Many conference organisers also select speakers from other programs, so once you have spoken at a few business conferences, and especially if you rated well, the organisers might start hunting you down!

Getting the opportunity to speak at business conferences can elevate your professional profile to a new level. Has it worked for you? If so, please share your tips for getting your foot in the door!

Peter Chaly

, the Managing Director of the SMARTink Marketing Agency Brisbane.


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