Don't all jump on my case at once for being away for so long. If you follow me across social media (@brilimitless everywhere) then you know I have been extremely busy. Between having a hot girl summer and trying to climb the corporate America ladder, I am exhausted. All of that is coming to an end now, and I'm ready to focus on my brand that I plan to expand soon, trust me you all are in for a treat.
Today, I want to touch on a topic that I get asked the most questions about which is---"How do you secure speaking engagements?". It's a great but very loaded question so I wanted to break it up into a couple of different points which is why I'm making it a two part series. This article will cover the high level basics, the next part will cover putting together a good pitch.
So with that being said, my first point has to be:
My network is really big. Before I started speaking, I use to just go to a bunch of events around my city (I use meetup.com to find them) and see what was going on/talk to people. That's actually how I got on the Graveti board (https://www.graveti.com/) and also how I met one of my closest friends. Don't just show up, but actually TALK TO PEOPLE WITHOUT EXPECTATION. Do not approach networking as transactional or you'll be disappointed, not everyone has something to offer you---and even if they do, most don't like being approached that way.
KNOW YOUR NICHE, BE CONFIDENT
What are you good at? Why you? What value are you adding? What do you have to say and why is it valuable for other people to hear? These are all important questions to ask yourself because on most speaker applications you WILL have to speak to that. You need to understand your brand, and be able to speak to it every-time you apply. Also, make sure who you say you are matches who you really are (don't let that go over your head).
My first speaking engagement was at the Google Dev Fest where I gave a 10 Ignite minute talk. I pitched an idea about speaking on being black in tech. I knew that I wanted to get my feet wet but didn't want to pitch a full length talk because I had never done it before (also, I didn't know what I would say for 45 minutes). Google Dev Fest may not seem small, but starting even smaller might be internal to your company. Run meetings, present new ideas, get comfy being in front of large groups of people. Any opportunity you have to speak, volunteer for that.
GET YOUR STREET CRED UP
You need to be known for something in order for people to recommend you. Most of the engagements I've gotten in the recent years have been from word of mouth...I don't even remember applying to any except maybe 2 . People know me, they know my brand, they can speak for me when I'm not even around. It's important to be known for SOMETHING but not EVERYTHING so that when it's time for people to recommend you to others in your absence they don't have to scroll through a thousand pages to know who you are. I look at some people's social media and I don't even know if they know who they are.
GET TO KNOW THE ORGANIZERS
I'm really good with reaching out to people after I apply for something, and a lot of people bypass that part for one reason or another. Treat pitching for a conference like applying for a job, reach out to the people you see listed on the websites as the organizers. If you know friends who may know them, tap into their network. Don't just apply and close your laptop, maybe even tweet "hey just applied for blah blah blah, really hoping to be accepted this year"--the power of social media is extremely strong.
IS IT THE RIGHT CONFERENCE FOR YOU
When I first started applying for speaking engagements, I did the same thing that most people do when applying for jobs---I applied for everything. I found myself being an infrastructure engineer applying for design conferences...it just didn't make any sense. Everything is not meant for everybody and make sure that when you pitch, it is applicable to the conference you are applying for.
In the next part of the series I will write about putting the perfect pitch together. So stay tuned!
Side note: If you know me well, then you know I will always help if I can so never be afraid to reach out. It may take me days to respond, but the fact is eventually you will get a response from me. Send me a note!
Love you all, until next time -B.