Public speaking is a powerful way to get your firm’s message across, positioning the speaker as a subject-matter expert. Anyone who has spoken at a conference knows the power of wearing that speaker’s badge -- their words, even in a conversation in the lobby over a coffee and croissant, just seem to have more weight.
An effective content marketing strategy can help put your organization on that podium.
To see why good content can generate speaking opportunities, imagine someone we’ll call Rakesh, who’s in charge of finding speakers for a conference on urban planning.
Let’s also imagine that you’re the managing partner of a boutique urban planning firm and you’ve just made a key hire named Alice, who is a virtual rock star in the field of high-rise residential design. Part of your key objectives for Alice is to get her onto the podium at urban planning conferences. How do you make sure that Alice will get noticed by conference organizers such as Rakesh, and then convince him that she can be an asset to the conference lineup?
In a word, “content.”
To see how this works, think of the steps Rakesh will likely take to fill his conference program.
He’ll likely start with a topic search, to find the names of people associated with the topics he’d like to see covered at the conference. This means that the content that Alice produces -- articles, white papers, podcasts, videos and so on -- must be optimized with the keywords Rakesh is likely to use. These might include “urban planning,” but also the topics Alice is knowledgeable about -- “intensification,” “brownfields,” and “mixed use” among them.
Rakesh will also do a social search, looking through his own lists of contacts, as well as asking others in the field, who they might recommend.
He’ll then combine the results of his topic search and social search, and start to dig deeper into what’s behind Alice and the others, to find out who’s hot and who’s not. To see whether Alice is someone he wants to invite as a speaker, Rakesh will probably be looking for answers to three questions:
Is the speaker knowledgeable in the field?
First, Rakesh wants to know if Alice knows her stuff. How much has she written, either as part of your firm or her previous employers? Is there a constant flow of content over the years, indicating Alice’s ongoing commitment to sharing knowledge in her field?
Rakesh will look for content that shows Alice’s ability to explain big issues in terms that people from outside her profession can understand. He’ll seek evidence that she can discuss overall issues facing the sector.
Rakesh will also check out her LinkedIn profile -- and it had better be dazzling regarding what she’s published.
It may be my personal “text” bias at work here, but I think that Rakesh would value information in text more than other forms such as video, audio or infographic at this stage, because that’s still the way that most people convey complex ideas. So, if you want to present Alice as a subject-matter expert, be sure to have plenty of text-based content, optimized for the keywords and phrases a searcher would use.
Will this speaker be a draw for the event?
Rakesh also wants to know if Alice will be someone who will attract registrants to the event. This is particularly important in the case of plenary or keynote presenters, but it also helps if concurrent session presenters are a “name” in their field.
So, Rakesh will look at what content Alice has created that was published in industry and trade magazines and their associated online publications, the websites of professional associations, maybe academic and professional journals. He’ll look at the comments generated by her articles, to see whether they generate discussion, and whether her ideas survive this informal ‘peer review’ process.
To add a bit of sparkle to his conference lineup, Rakesh will look for evidence that Alice is just a little bit controversial -- that she has strong opinions and can express them well. He’ll look at her number of followers on Twitter, and whether her ideas tend to get forwarded -- all evidence of Alice’s stature as a thought leader.
Can this speaker deliver an effective presentation?
If Rakesh is satisfied on his first two questions, he’ll then want to know if Alice is an effective public speaker. This is a vital point in plenary and keynote presentations - having an engaging speaking style is important on the big stage. Some might say that style is more important than substance at big conferences.
For smaller, or more technical conferences, speaking style even in keynotes is less important than having something significant to say. In most professional or business conferences, having dazzling public speaking skills is less important than having information to provide.
But Rakesh would still prefer to schedule presenters who can actually present. And it’s now easy for anyone, such as Alice, to have a speaker demonstration video. This video could be of her doing a ‘real’ presentation, or just position her in front of an empty conference room and have her do a short speech, maybe just five minutes. This video doesn’t have to be Spielberg quality -- a standard consumer camera is all you really need, because the purpose is just to show Alice’s speaking skills.
This video can then be produced using easy-to-use software (I’m a Mac user, so I use Apple’s iMovie). It’s easy to insert title slides, still images, music and other effects. The results can be posted on your firm’s own website, or on YouTube, Vimeo or other public channel. This video needs to be optimized for search, using the keywords that a searcher such as Rakesh would use.
As with all of content marketing, leverage is key. The speaker-demonstration video, for example, should be on a topic Alice wants to be known for, so that the video also serves to demonstrate her subject-matter expertise. The articles that demonstrate her thought leadership to conference organizers also demonstrate her value to potential clients.
Good content strategy can get Alice wearing that “speaker” badge at conferences, engaging in her own high-powered coffee-and-croissant conversations with potential clients.