How to get yourself a platform!

Speaking at key events is just one way of getting your business name out there, getting media attention, and managing your image. Next time you are at an event, where you think you could offer a different viewpoint on the debate, think about how you might get yourself on the platform without actually rushing the stage.

Have a quick word with the organisers during the break to find out what other events they have planned and what the focus might be. Let them know that you would be interested in contributing to a session – either as a panel member or as a speaker. But keep it brief, as they will be busy with the event and wont be able to focus on every interruption. Get their details and an agreement to have a conversation about it once they have got the current event behind them. They are much more likely to remember you when you do make that call, than if you just leave without making an initial connection.

The annual events programme is bursting with events happening at any one time – from the short focussed seminar, for 20 or 30 people, to the full-on conference for hundreds. To find the most relevant event for you make sure you do your research. Look out for interesting events where you could make the best contribution and contact the organisers as soon as possible. The last thing you want to do is leave it until the last minute and find out that your perfect platform is already full.

Some top tips for making the most of events

Do your homework

Make sure you have something useful and interesting to say before contacting organisers. Not necessarily in the form of a fully-prepared presentation but bullet points and a short introduction will show that you are serious and have done your homework. Also it will help them see what you propose to bring to the platform.

Make sure that it’s the right event for the message that you want to get across and that the audience is right and is likely to be receptive. There is no point in having a beautifully tailored presentation on making wine work with food, if you are speaking to the annual teetotallers’ conference. A bit extreme maybe, but you get the point.

It’s not about selling

Remember, this is not about selling, it’s about sharing knowledge, experience and passion. Don’t get yourself on a platform under false pretences only to talk about your company or latest product. Although people do it, it’s not considered good practice, or etiquette, and you probably won’t get invited back. Having said that, if something about your company or a product is an integral part of the story that brings you to that platform it’s probably acceptable, but don’t push your luck.

Tell them a story

Event organisers are always looking for good ideas, and good speakers, that will attract an audience. Obviously they are not going to go for the first person that offers their voice. They will need to know what you would bring to the party. In particular, what experiences you have in relation to the planned event, that you could share positively with an audience? What tips and tricks, what solutions would you freely share for the audience to take away?

Share and enjoy

Speaking at events is a useful PR tool. It gives you an opportunity to shine on stage and for your business to share in the limelight. Once you have that coveted speaking engagement confirmed, don’t keep it to yourself. Share it on social media, add it to your email signature, and put a notice about it on your website and blog if you have one. This will help to promote the event, which the organisers will love, and send out the message to your stakeholders that you are a respected expert in your field.

The knock-on effect might be invitations to speak elsewhere from either those who hear your presentation, and want to hear more, or those who trust and respect the events that have taken you on and want to see what all the fuss is about. Either way it all helps to raise the profile and it’s a great way to inspire others, and give something back (and as an added bonus you might also get paid for it).

Public speaking isn’t for everyone

Of course not everyone is keen to stand up and talk in front of a crowd of strangers, however friendly. I am one of those people but having recently discovered the international public speaking organisation, Toastmasters (other public speaking organisations are available), I am working to change that, so watch this space.

Got any good tips – share in the comments below!

Deborah Rowe

Deborah is a chartered marketer, member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and fellow of both the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing and the RSA. She has more than 20 years of solid marketing and communications experience which she puts to good use as principal consultant of Sheba Marketing. Sheba Marketing provides no-nonsense business-to-business marketing support to small and medium-sized organisations that want to achieve great things.

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