In just a few weeks, several of the major financial industry conferences are scheduled including FutureProof and Schwab Impact among others. Whether you are participating, exhibiting or speaking, conferences are a key part of most of our clients’ outreach plans and for many, there is a special focus on speaking.   

Getting on stage at these marquee events is often a key strategy to demonstrate industry leadership. But there are other reasons to attend these events including networking with other leaders, recruiting new talent or meeting up with media who may be attending. While attendance at many conferences was slow to recover from the pandemic, it now feels like people are again eager to be together in person. 

Landing on stage 

There are numerous strategies to land a speaking gig. While many are “pay to play”—with sponsored speaking sessions taking up more and more of the spots, especially post pandemic as conference organizers seek to make up for lost revenue—the more powerful opportunities are earned, in our view. They are rarely easy to land, but there are still a few earned speaking opportunities worth pursuing. 

Whether due to inexperience or lack of awareness, you may not be able to land a speaking role immediately on your first try at some of the higher profile conferences, there are numerous events sponsored by industry associations or media outlets with speaking spots that may be easier to secure. Which are the right conferences? To get a sense which might be the right fit, look at the agenda, past sponsors and speakers. Look at the speakers’ titles to get a sense if you might be a candidate. If all the speakers are CEOs or CIOs and you are a mere junior portfolio manager, you might think twice. And if you haven’t spoken much in the past, start by seeking a role on a panel discussion or even as a moderator. 

“You can mention your firm or your product but only once.”

Landing major keynote spots requires a strategy, and the plan can take time to execute. Conference organizers plan their agenda months in advance and are looking for speakers who will be able to address a topic that is likely to be timely next year. Katy Boos, CEO and founder of Remix Communications (see sidebar), whose thought leadership agency focuses on landing these types of mainstage speaking opportunities, suggests getting inside the head of the event organizer. Bring an idea for a panel discussion and a few potential panelists. You may not be of interest to the conference organizer, but if you can bring along a board member or client who is a draw, that may help secure the spot.  

Just being on stage is testament to your credibility. So make sure you deliver something helpful and meaningful to the audience. Avoid the common mistakes of being too self-promotional or failing to know the audience. Conference organizers pay close attention to the feedback they get from participants and will invite the most effective speakers back. They don’t, however, want speakers who are trying to sell something. Just being on the stage should be enough. Boos’s rule of thumb: you can mention your firm or your product but only once.  

Making the most of your speech 

Landing a presenting gig kicks off a sequence of communications opportunities for you and your team. Start by posting the news to your website to let people know you will be speaking. Share the news in emails (add a promo to your signature), on socials and in your client newsletter. Conference organizers love when speakers promote the event, helpfully driving attendance. 

Use every speaking opportunity as a chance to connect with media too. Ask the conference organizers for a media list. Try to set up sit-downs in advance to make the most of your time at the conference. If you can’t pre-schedule meetings, most conferences have a media room. Stop by and network before or after your speech. And even if you aren’t a speaker at the conference, stop by the media room any way. Conferences are a great way to connect with media. 

Lastly, don’t forget to share your own and the conference organizers’ social posts during and after the conference using the conference’s hashtags. When you return, write a blog post about your experience.

It’s become increasingly competitive to secure speaking gigs. Over the years, the Lowe Group has developed a reputation with event producers for understanding which presenters might be a good match for conference audiences. Let us help you connect—contact us to discuss.

Getting Started

Katy Boos, CEO and founder of Remix Communications, was recently a guest on the Agency Management Institute’s podcast with a “how to” discussion with Drew McLelland about getting started speaking. She suggests creating a speaker profile including your bio and potential speech topics. Include links to past speeches or panel discussions, but only if they are good. Don’t have any? No problem. Create your own video talking about a topic of interest to conference organizers. 

Common mistakes speakers make, according to Boos: 

  • Selling yourself or your product too hard. Just being on stage is enough. 
  • Missing who the audience is. Speak to the audience.  
  • Pitching the right level speaker—if the panel has featured CEOs in the past, don’t pitch a junior technician.