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What It Means To Be A Conference Speaker


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 08:13 PM

With more and more conferences available for web designers, usability folks, SEO, and marketing/advertising to choose from, I thought a discussion on the life and times of a conference speaker was due.

If you work for a company that sends speakers, why does your company do that?

Why do you accept the role? Do you miss out on work? Are you paid by the company to go?

Do conferences pay speakers for their time and/or travel expenses?

My biggest curiosity is whether or not blog coverage of sessions is viewed as a positive or negative? Do you think it's fair to put out all that information for free, for those who are not there? Should only people who pay to attend be privy to knowledge delivered at conferences?

Does it matter what conferences you speak for?

How do you become a speaker?

What have you wondered about? Would you want to be a speaker yourself? What does it take to be a good one?

#2 EGOL

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 10:45 PM

I don't speak at SEO events but have a long history of speaking at conferences in my field of expertise which is outside of SEO. This spans 35 years at multiple employers.

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If you work for a company that sends speakers, why does your company do that?

The main reasons... Brand Recognition, it lets others know that we have expertise in certain fields. This can lead to grants, contracts, links, recruitment advantages and professional contacts which can dwarf the cost of attending the event. And, we like to earn a few white hats. They are like currency.

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Why do you accept the role? Do you miss out on work? Are you paid by the company to go?

This is expected of most people who hold leadership positions. You don't miss work - this is the "virtuoso performance" of the job - most employers offered relief from other duties to prepare. Travel to attend meetings for professional development has been a budget line item throughout my careers and if you are making an invited presentation or an accepted presentation there has always been extra money available. At two of my employers I was confident that I would never be turned down if I exceeded my travel budget to present.

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Do conferences pay speakers for their time and/or travel expenses?

Most of the time there is no financial assistance from the conference for speakers. However, if you are the keynote speaker or if they really want your expertise they will pay your full freight and sometimes give compensation.

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Do you think it's fair to put out all that information for free, for those who are not there? Should only people who pay to attend be privy to knowledge delivered at conferences?

Advertising is very expensive. Getting all of that coverage out for free is a huge perk. The SEO company that operates closest to what I have known in other fields is SEOmoz. Expertise is advertised and given away freely as long as it is general - but if you want work done on your own property that is when you are charged.

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Does it matter what conferences you speak for?

Sure! Does it matter where you advertise?

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How do you become a speaker?

Most of the time you propose to the organizer. But if you have specific expertise they come to you.... and if you are TopGun in your field your staff is probably running the show.

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What does it take to be a good one?

1) An ability to understand the perspective of your audience and to present your topic so that they can understand AND have significant take-away. (Very few people take the time to do this.)
2) Lots of preparation time.
3) Realization that significant take-away is not the same as the brand message of your company. (Most speakers that I see at SEO conferences fail miserably here.)

Edited by EGOL, 05 June 2007 - 10:52 PM.


#3 lee.n3o

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 12:32 AM

:) --- Kim are you thinking about speaking at a few conferences now then???

#4 cre8pc

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 07:41 AM

I was invited to participate at Pubcon and have been asked to speak elsewhere, but so far have not jumped at the chance because of the expense involved and/or headaches in leaving a blended family that depends on me being here and my business obligations.

The ramblings of SES and SMX competing (which they're not), and conflicts with Pubcon and SES (unfortunate this year. I got some inside info that it wasn't intentional and both are trying to make the best of the situation)...I thought I'd start asking questions that I have, and I thought others might have as well.

Am hoping experienced speakers tell us their stories :spambuster:

#5 Black_Knight

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 10:29 AM

If you work for a company that sends speakers, why does your company do that?
As EGOL so wisely said, this is publicity, a taste-test, and a testimonial all in one. Potential customers get to see and be made aware of your company, its work and workers. Just being invited to speak is quite a boost to reputation and credibility and can be quite the reference or testimonial for the company. "Speaker at the X conference" is similar to "as seen on TV" in effect very often.


Why do you accept the role? Do you miss out on work? Are you paid by the company to go?
I certainly don't accept all offers. I have to see a benefit of some kind, even if purely in enjoyment potential.

The work time you miss in attendance, and indeed in preparation, is usually made up by chalking the time down to marketing, which it is. Many deals are made at conferences, and more deals yet are made possible from the testimonial effect, or the taste-test effect, etc. Conference speaking, and even mere attendance, can be effective marketing tactics.


Do conferences pay speakers for their time and/or travel expenses?
Most conferences do not pay most speakers, in my experience, although many do throw in accommodation when appropriate. However, the heavyweight headliners will usually be paid or recompensed for their involvement if necessary.


Should only people who pay to attend be privy to knowledge delivered at conferences?
I've read the blog summaries of many conferences I have attended, and never yet have I failed to be amazed at what was excluded, missed, or even, misrepresented. Reading someone else's notes of a conference is never a substitute for being there. So in general, it is a mixture of publicity that may help fill future places, but which may also often somewhat misrepresent what was really said and offered.


Does it matter what conferences you speak for?
Yes. It needs to be something that offers a recognizable benefit. Will attending act as an advertisementof your services/products to the right audience? Does the conference have enough fame and credibility for speaking there to be a testimonial? Do you actually want to do it? You must be able to answer "Yes" without hesitation to at least one of those questions.


How do you become a speaker?
Either by having enough fame and approachbility to be asked (either as an individual or as a company), or by carefully seeking out conferences you'd like to speak at, have something worthwhile to say there, and making a good pitch to the organiser(s).


What does it take to be a good one [speaker]?
Confidence certainly helps. Not just in yourself, but in the material you are presenting. If you are not a naturally confident and gregarious soul, then relly nail the preparation of your presentation so that you have cast-iron confidence in that, if not yourself.

Be genuine. When speaking, pick out a few people scattered around the room/audience that you can effectively address directly, and that helps you to speak to everyone that way. Never talk to 'the room' or 'the audience' as one big mass, instead, remember that it is made of individuals, and you are simply speaking to each one individual, but simultaneously.

Humour is good, and it can be especially worthwhile to have an ice-breaker, just some little comment or jest at the start that helps the audience identify with you.

Most of all, go to some conferences yourself and watch the speakers. See who you like, and who you don't and think about why. Emulate the best practices, but don't be afraid to make your own approach either.

#6 bwelford

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 10:33 AM

I only give speeches if asked to do so. This limits the opportunities but I will usually accept, given the possible publicity. In many ways I prefer to give on-site seminars to companies where you're working with small groups and can get better audience interaction.

As it happens, this Monday I was invited to chair a panel (in French) on eBusiness entitled New Strategies for Getting Seen Online. This was part of the Visa Small Business Conference held here in Montréal. There were no fees or expenses for this but a small honorarium was given. You did get a free, somewhat meager lunch. Luckily we managed to get a reasonable discussion going and overall I enjoyed my participation.

Edited by bwelford, 06 June 2007 - 10:33 AM.




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