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What if instead of looking for conferences that had open calls for speakers, you looked for conferences that folks in your personal network had some involvement in organizing? I’d classify this technique as intermediate level for folks in the public speaking game. The reason I say that is you are going to need some social proof in the form of recorded presentations and written recommendations that you’re a decent speaker.
Don’t ask if they need a speaker
Many times I’ve made this mistake myself: Asking the event organizers if they need a speaker at their conference. That’s like asking a carpenter if he needs a hammer and nails to do his job. What if instead I presented that carpenter with a hammer and nails that would let him get his job done 50 percent faster? Oh yes, he’d buy those.
The trick is to present your friend, the event coordinator, with a compelling value proposition. By compelling value proposition, I mean a completed speaking proposal but in the form of an email with a personal introduction and links to your social proof. Following is the basic format I’d suggest for such an email:
Hello [insert friends name here],
How’s the program looking this year?
Any interest in having a program that looks like this:
Background: I (We) have spoken many times on [insert topic here] and here are some videos of what that looks like: [insert links to videos of you speaking]
Session Title: [Insert your session title here.]
Session Abstract: [Insert your session abstract here.]
Targeted Attendees: [Insert who could benefit from your session. (They might have tracks and this helps them pick the right one.)]
Anticipated Takeaways: [This is so important. You sell a conference like anything else: with benefits. They need these takeaways to write their conference promotional material.]
Bio(s): [Insert your bio here and that way if they accept you, everything is ready to go.]
I sent just such an email last week and heard back before the end of the business day. It’s not yet 100 percent confirmed; but Shelby and I will most likely be a morning keynote at a conference directly related to one of the two businesses we work in together.
There is still some luck involved
Your results (and mine for that matter) will not always be almost an instant success. However, if you get your email in front of the right people at about the right time, then you will have set yourself apart from the crowd that applies above and beyond the open call for speakers. I know it sounds unfair; but the longer I do this the more I realize it’s typically the way keynote gigs are awarded.