How To Develop a Winning Speaker Proposal

The year of my blogging career kicked off with a bang thanks to Rick Calvert and Deb Ng, part of the brainpower behind BlogWorld and New Media Expo. They provided a myriad of tips for creating a winning speaker pitch.

Thanks also to Stacey Nerdin from Tree, Root and Twig for taking thorough notes while listening, tweeting and managing an active preschooler. You can also check out a brief summary over at SuperCatCalhoun.

And a big thank you to everyone who participated! This was such a hit, we are already planning to offer it again.

And now Stacey’s notes.

It’s not difficult to write a speaking proposal.  In fact, the hardest part may just be DOING IT.  Deb suggested that you get over that initial fear and just go for it.

Ask yourself:  why do I want to speak? If you want to speak to be positioned as a thought leader or to sell a product, you are submitting for the wrong reasons.  Those things might come as a result from speaking, but your main purpose for speaking ought to be:

  • What information can I share?
  • What content can I bring?
  • What can I teach that will be of value to those who are listening?

The organizers of Blog World Expo are looking for:

Like the person who thought to put a hard boiled egg on a stick, think out of the box for your pitch.

  • Great content.  BWE is often misunderstood as a “tech event,” but truly they are a “content event.”  With this misunderstanding, they often get an overwhelming amount of male vs. female speaking proposals (although this past year it was closer to 50/50 than it has ever been).  Don’t get overwhelmed by what you “think” BWE is all about – if you have great content to offer, pitch it!
  • Related to great content is actionable take-aways.  The audience is not there to hear how great you are or watch you make a name for yourself.  They are coming to LEARN.  Make sure you have three actionable take-aways in your presentation in order to offer value to your audience.
  • “Butts in the Seats”: BWE wants to see that you are committed to using your reach to bring people to the conference.  This doesn’t mean you need to have 50,000 followers on Twitter.  You may only have 500 followers, but you can still promote the event, promote your involvement, engage your followers, and leverage your actual reach to make the event and your session a success.

The organizers of Blog World Expo do NOT want to see:

  • A sales pitch.  If you have a point to make, use the success of other bloggers to illustrate it.  Include those you like, respect, and admire in the case studies you present.  Taking yourself out of the equation endears you to the audience (and those selecting the speakers).
  • A snoozer.  A successful presentation relies on keeping the audience engaged and motivated to listen.   PROJECT YOUR PASSION.  And don’t forget that passion in the speaking proposal – it’s what’s going to assure the organizers that your audience will be engaged, too.
  • Prima Donnas.  Don’t peg yourself as “difficult to work with” by acting above the process or above the people you will be speaking to.  At BWE, everyone is equal.  Approach the organizers and the attendees as peers.

Follow these guidelines when submitting a speaking proposal:

  • Keep it brief.  Organizers must sift through sometimes several hundred submissions – they do not have a lot of time to dedicate to each submission.  It should not be too difficult to communicate your idea within 1-2 paragraphs, or roughly 500 characters.
  • Stay on topic.  If it takes organizers too long to figure out what exactly you want to speak on, your chances for being selected go down.  Keep it short, simple, and dedicated to exactly what you want to speak about.
  • Know your audience. In Blog World Expo’s case, they have two groups of attendees:  those who are content creators, and those who are business owners (small to enterprise).  Content creators want to hear about how to create, distribute, and monetize content.  Business owners want to understand how to use new media and connect with those already immersed in it.  Gear the content of your speaking proposal to THESE subject for a better chance at being chosen to speak at BWE.
  • Offer real take-aways. (mentioned above)
  • Complete the submission form.  This may seem like a small thing, but many proposals arrive at BWE incomplete.  They throw these out!  You won’t even have a chance for consideration if you do not follow directions and complete the entire submission form.

Solo v. Panel Presentation (good, bad, and ugly)

  • BWE typically likes to see beginners pitch panels, because it is easier to play off of others in a panel, and the sometimes opposing viewpoints make for interesting conversation.
  • BUT, panels can become convoluted.  There are a few dangers with panels:  they come unprepared, and certain speakers can dominate, while others don’t speak at all.  Or, not all members of the panel were consulted, leaving the panel incomplete and the organizers in a lurch. Sometimes panelists are friends and end up sharing “inside jokes” and forgetting their audience.  A great panel needs to have everyone consulted, everyone committed, and – most importantly – a great moderator.
  • Solo speakers can work out fine, but the solo speaker must be prepared to keep the energy level up and the quality content coming for a full hour.

You’ve submitted a speaking proposal:  Now what?

  • You should receive confirmation that organizers have received your proposal.  If you don’t hear back, it is appropriate to follow up, but just once.
  • Be patient.  Organizers have a lot on their plates.  They want to get to you as soon as they can, but won’t be able to if everyone inundates their Twitter feed and email with questions.
  • Don’t play the friendship card.  Everyone is on equal ground when submitting proposals.  Don’t try to play off an existing relationship to get a “leg up” on everyone else.


A note on Keynotes at Blog World Expo:

When selecting keynote speakers, BWE organizers are truly looking for individuals who transcend their own sphere of influence and can absolutely hit the ball out of the park with their presentation.  They are not only looking for what new media looks like right now, but what it can be.  If that does not apply to you, please be realistic before considering a proposal to offer a keynote at BWE.

Expect fewer flags and more excitement from a BWE speaker


Important things to remember
:

(In response to a question from the participants)  “Speaker experience” refers to anywhere you might have spoken in relation to new media – other conferences, even local business meet-ups.  If you have little experience but want to make an impression, send a video submission so they can see how you speak.

And finally…

Your proposal may not be accepted.  That does not mean that the idea was not good, or that you are not a likable presenter.  Keep working at it!  Also, the proposal might not be accepted as is.  Organizers may like the headline of your talk, but may want to work with you on tweaking the content to match the impact of the title.  Or, organizers may have a different panel where they believe you are a better fit, or a session track where your content may be better suited.  The point is, you will never know this unless you submit a speaking proposal in the first place!  So JUST DO IT!

Posted November 19th, 2010 by admin and filed in Business of blogging

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