I really liked this piece by Dana Oshiro, “How to Land an Event Panel Spot or Speaker’s Invite,” – it has some great information. Having managed two speaker’s bureau programs at two different organizations, I’d like to add my two cents to her excellent advice.

I think a speaker’s bureau is integral to any organization’s public relations/marketing/external communications program. The opportunities provided to company representatives who obtain speaking engagements at target events are endless. Companies can secure media opportunities before, during and after the event.  Organizations can network and speak directly to its target audiences. Working within the confines of an event’s theme, you can convey all of your most important key messages and promote your products and services. And you establish your client/company and its executives among your industry’s peers as thought-leaders and experts by speaking at important tradeshows and conferences.

Sounds great, right? Well, I think it is, but nothing worthwhile is easy. Securing speaking engagements take time and hard work. Hopefully the information here can help you.

The first time I managed a speaker’s bureau, the program was already in place; I just grabbed the baton and ran with it. The second program I inherited was in complete disarray. No one really knew how to put together submissions, how to work with executives on crafting messaging for these types of events, or the sometimes tedious process of securing speaking engagements. I also didn’t quite have the buy-in of my client contact, who wondered why I spent so much time researching tradeshows and conferences…but wanted to get her executives speaking opportunities…

A couple of things:

  • Patience is golden with a speaker’s bureau program. Call for Speaker applications for major tradeshows and conferences are normally posted online a year before the actual event.
  • I usually start my research in the fall for the following year. I review event Web sites to note location, costs, attendees and other participants, additional responsibilities required of speakers such as exhibiting, as well as previous speakers and speaking topics. This may be different per various industries – do your research. Go online, read industry trade magazines and visit trade association Web sites for more information.
  • I always call or e-mail the event coordinators and introduce myself and my client/company, even before I actually submit anything. I’ve found that developing a rapport with the event coordinators makes the process much smoother, and can be a great opportunity to “sell” your executive and their expertise. They are usually more than helpful in providing tips on putting together the Call for Speaker application, and even negotiating prices should your client/company want to pursue a sponsorship opportunity.
  • Once you have a list of the events you want to apply to for speaking engagements, secure the executives you want to submit for the opportunities. You want to ensure you will have the right person/people available. Carefully explain the process to them and what you will need from them when the time comes in terms of the Call for Speaker application and if the opportunity is secured, the actual presentation.
  • Give yourself at least a month to prepare the application. I keep a calendar with key dates and the final deadline to ensure I am not late.
  • Many tradeshows and conferences establish a theme for the event and a list of desired topics they want people to present. I recommend sticking to their topic list. I’ve never had any success submitting a topic that fell outside of the list.
  • Read the application carefully and follow the directions to the letter. Some of the information they ask for may seem redundant or unnecessary, or you may feel they are asking for way too much upfront. Think about it this way: if you do what they ask of you, you increase your chances of securing the opportunity. You will also have a lot of information already prepared for the presentation.
  • The actual opportunities available, presenting alone, on a panel, or keynote speaking opportunities, vary among events and industries. Sometimes you will find that with a keynote speaking opportunity you must sponsor something – a luncheon or other event at the tradeshow or conference – at a specific dollar amount. Deciding whether or not to make these investments depends on your budget and how much your client/company wants to participate in a particular event.

The process can be daunting and labor-intensive, but speaking engagements position your client/company and its executives as thought-leaders and experts in their industry. The opportunity to craft the perfect message and deliver it directly, unfiltered, to peers and potential clients, reaps immediate and long-term benefits, and establishes the organizations that participate as leaders.