Speaker Series Part 1: Preparation & Engaging

June 22, 2011 at 9:20 pm 1 comment

By Steve Etzler

Welcome to BDI Lunch Break, our new blog dedicated to providing useful information for marketing and communications professionals that attend, speak or sponsor conferences.

I and the rest of the BDI Team will share our experiences and insights from working in the event industry with hundreds of speakers, sponsors, and attendees.

My first blog series will attempt to share thoughts from working with a multitude of speakers at BDI’s conference over the past 10 years. In my role as a conference organizer for hundreds of events both large and small I have seen it all! Speaking at a conference can be a significant opportunity.  My advice is to be fully committed to your presentation or don’t do it.  Like most things in life, you get what you put into it.  Too often, I see speakers who claim to be so busy that they don’t properly prepare for the opportunity.  First of all, I’m skeptical of anyone who uses the “I’m so busy” excuse.  No one wants to hear it and it sounds amateurish to even say. But to all you “I’m so busy” people:  Join the club! We are all busy!

Part 1:  Preparation & Engagement Before The Conference

Now that I got that off my chest, let’s focus on how to best prepare for your speaking opportunity.  Step one is to identify what your goals are.  You should strive to provide interesting and valuable content to the attendees through your presentation.  Of course you want to increase awareness of your company’s products and services; however, you must be careful not to sell your company.  Overtly promoting your company will turn off the attendees and will backfire on you.   (That especially goes for speakers where your company has paid to sponsor.)

The best ways to generate new business opportunities are to meet your attendees’ needs by thinking about what is in it for them.  Most attendees crave thought provoking, valuable content that they can share with others.  You want them to walk away from your presentation and say, “That lady was really smart.  I learned a lot and she sparked a new idea I can’t wait to share with my colleagues”.   Unfortunately, too often they say, “Did I really pay to attend this event to hear a sales pitch?  I’m not interested in this company and that guy is really pushy and annoying.  I so don’t care about his product’s features.  Time to check my email.”

Forgive me for saying what should be an obvious principle; but, know your audience!  Don’t only rely on the event website or an email from the conference organizer that says, in general terms, the profile of the attendee.  I mean really know your audience.  Request the attendee list of your event as well as past events.  If the conference organizer is hesitant to share, then ask for the company names and titles.   Keep in mind that the attendee list will grow over time and ask for regular updates right up to the day of the event.

Understanding your audience is important for a few reasons.  Obviously, you want to tailor your presentation and content according to who is attending.  However, here’s the opportunity that only a select few embrace regarding knowing your audience:  Connect with and engage attendees, speakers, sponsors before the event!  Follow them and retweet their interesting posts on Twitter and invite them to join your network on LinkedIn.  Attempt to identify what the other speakers will cover in their presentations.  The conference organizer should be able to help you with that; but, don’t only rely on the organizer.   Contact the other speakers directly.  If you build relationships before the event, you will greatly benefit during and after the event.  And don’t tell me you are too busy.

Stay tuned for the next topic in this series How to Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Presentation.  Click the Subscription button on the left to receive an e-mail when the next topic is posted.

Steve Etzler – Founder/CEO

Entrepreneur with experience in marketing, sales, business development, consulting and management. Thought leader about how technology impacts marketing and communications. Interested in the latest trends and opportunities in marketing, media, communications and technology.

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Entry filed under: by Steve Etzler, Speaker Series. Tags: .

Sponsor Series Part 1: Participation

1 Comment

  • 1. Gregg Weiss  |  July 20, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Good topic. Many Social Media conferences have begun to get repetitive — mostly because presenters aren’t thinking about what unique things they can share that will be inspiring and thought-proviking vs a “look at what we’ve done — aren’t we so great approach.”

    I also think presentations are best when they have a specific topic — vs the “overview of what we’re doing” type of approach. Nobody cares that Company X has a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Linkedin page. There’s nothing interesting there. Short presentations about very specific topics tend to be the most interesting ones!


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