How to get a speaking slot at a Business of Software Conference.
While every event has different criteria and some conferences can have hundreds of speakers(!) every conference has some sort of framework to assess potential speakers and their fit with the event they are running.
Business of Software Conference is a little unusual – our challenge is never filling the 15 (max) speaking slots with great speakers, we have over 500 applications a year to speak.
We have to craft a story across all of the talks – and the limited number of speaking slots means we think very hard about every speaker who has a speaking slot.
There are four main things we consider when assessing potential speakers for Business of Software Conference. Other events may have different criteria but if you are applying to speak at any software conference, bearing these four things in mind will make your application stand out at any event. (You might also be interested in Neil Davidson’s original post on this which includes some real examples of speaking applications).
Here is the secret formula for successful conference speaking applications…*
We take a lot of CARE over selection of speakers. Think about your speaking application with CARE too.
We thought we would share our methodology for assessing speakers – every event uses a different method – but if you think about the criteria that events have for assessing speakers when you submit speaking applications, you will be laps ahead of most potential speakers. Once you know how events honestly assess your applications, you can take this into account when applying.
We consider potential talks by thinking about four primary metrics…
CARE – Content, Authority, Reach, Engagement.
- This is about speaker’s ability to tell a story in an entertaining way that will draw our audience in and offer them some concrete ideas/points to apply to their own business. It is both about the speaking style as well as the words and slides.
- It is also of course about having a topic that is of interest and relevant to the audience.
- Basic point but, the best way to demonstrate your capability here is to share a video of you speaking. It is almost unheard of these days to discover a great speaker with stage presence that doesn’t have video evidence of their ability – (even if it is a self shot video).
- Business of Software Conference is unlikely to be the event that offers you a platform for a one hour keynote talk at a single track conference because you would like to challenge yourself, give speaking a try. We take pride in breaking little known speakers, eg Greg Baugues, Patrick McKenzie, but by the time they are picked, we have taken a lot of time to establish their abilities.
- Need to spend 10 minutes explaining why you have authority? You probably don’t have authority.
- If you describe yourself as a ‘Thought Leader’ on your LinkedIn profile. No one who is a thought leader would describe themselves as such. You don’t have authority.
- If you describe yourself as an ‘International Keynote Speaker’ on your LinkedIn profile. You don’t have authority.
What gives someone authority? Experience, position and achievement.
- People who have experienced great success or failure in business have authority. People who have been the final decision maker – the entrepreneur, the person whose career was on the line, to talk about those experiences and what they have learned from them.
- NB Some people in particular roles, eg attorneys/lawyers, corporate financiers, see across a large number of transactions and are thus able to aggregate the experiences of many. However, for our audience, they generally have less authority than someone who has sold their business to talk about the process from the entrepreneur’s perspective. Our experience has been that these experts create and receive more value by interacting with a smaller group of highly qualified people at birds of a feather lunches for example.
- How can a speaker help us sell tickets/extend our network? Pretty obvious but what channels could and would a speaker be prepared to use to promote the event?
- Who in your team do you think should be coming to the event or are you only interested in speaking? That is a clue for us…
- We all want to extend our reach and networks. If someone is speaking and we agree to have them talk, there is a pretty high probability that our outlooks coincide, what can we do together to bring great people to the event?
- A hugely important thing that we use to filter speakers.
- Many of the people who attend Business of Software Conference do keynotes at other events. Speakers often attend for many years before they speak and continue to attend when they don’t speak. Demonstrating your knowledge and engagement with the community gives us a sense that you will understand the audience, the type of talks that make a difference, the spirit of the event. It’s fair to say that they understand that we don’t do panels, product or company pitches, sponsor pitches etc.
- At the simplest level, a marketing exec applying for a nameless exec to speak on a panel is really easy to reject as a potential speaker. We have not had a single approach from a marketing person on behalf of a ‘big name’ speaker that has resulted in a great speaking engagement. Ever.
- How often do they attend the event? Don’t drop some BS email saying BoS is your favorite conference when you have never been, aren’t on the mailing list, have no engagement with social media…
- We will obviously check out social media channels of potential speakers etc. Don’t be that speaker who seems to spend their life dropping in to speak at events then leaving when their talk is done.
- If you aren’t chosen to speak at the event for whatever reason, would you still attend? Pitching yourself to speak two weeks before the event because you just found out about it is unlikely to result in a speaking slot. Telling us that as you aren’t speaking, you are too busy to attend this time but would like to speak next year makes you a very special kind of person. We probably won’t get on great.
- Neil Davidson’s previous, ‘How to get a speaking slot at a conference‘ for some examples of what he considers good and bad pitches.
- My previous post, ‘How to Submit a Killer Business of Software Conference Speaker Proposal. (And how to guarantee you will never get to speak)‘
- And another, ‘How do we select speakers?‘
Still want to give it a go? Great!
Thanks and good luck.
*Obviously not a secret formula any more.
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