How to become a speaker at a conference!

You’re good. You want to help others.

Do you have an expertise on a subject that you’d like to share?  And speaking in front of your organization’s board members once or twice a year doesn’t quite cut it?

Now here's a board of directors! yikes.
Now here’s a board of directors! yikes.

Maybe you were at a luncheon listening to the keynote presenter thinking,  “I can do this, too. I know a lot about X (insert your  favorite topic)!”

What a fun lunch bunch.
What a fun lunch bunch.

If this sounds like you, you may want to consider applying to become a speaker at an event!

Google your area of expertise. Google keywords that you are interested in talking about along with the word “conference.”  For instance, you may be amazed how many relevant hits you’ll receive when you type, “Chocolate Conference.”  I know. I tried this.

Make a spreadsheet.  Blech. I hate Excel. (which is my own fault as I have never taken an Excel class  plus  my version happens to be in Italian.) But you’re going to need to keep track of your research.  Include the name, the place the dates, the urls, the email contact information, anything you think you’ll need.  A spreadsheet keeps it all handy in one place.  There are other ways to do this besides Excel of course.  I now use Google Drive’s version. Much easier. And in English.

Search for “Call for Papers.”  Depending on the conference, it may be tricky to find out where to apply to be considered as a speaker.  If you search your conference name plus “call for papers” that may help you zero in.  Sometimes it may be described more simply like, “Apply to Speak.”  If you can’t find it easily, email the conference’s contact and ask directly.

Start small.  Unless you’re already a seasoned conference speaker (in which case you’re likely not learning much here!) you will probably not land the biggest worldwide conference in your field.  So narrow your search to smaller conferences and consider attending the bigger ones to get a feel for them.  Once you have spoken at a few small conferences, you can use them as leverage to land the larger ones.

To sponsor or not to sponsor? Some organizations put on conferences and only allow speakers who are members of their group or who are a paying sponsor.  Maybe this is a great professional opportunity and worth the investment.  The ups and downsides of this type of event, depend on you and your situation.

Get your presentation paper ready.  As with any presentation, the title should be attention-getting.  Get contrarian.  Be provocative.  How many applications might the organizer be receiving? Make sure your abstract (3 or 4 paragraphs that describe your presentation) is as grabby as your headline.  Give a few bullets of surprising things your audience will learn and make sure to sell yourself as an expert and interesting speaker!

Begin searching now for 2014! The lead-time to submit speaker applications is often six months ahead of the conference itself.  It’s not too soon to start now!  If a 2013 conference is still on their site, email them directly and ask if they have set next year’s yet.  Make your lists and conference relationships early, so you have a better chance.


Next time I’m at a chocolate conference and you’re the speaker, come over and say “hi!”

Good luck!


Copyright 2013 Gina London. All rights reserved.


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