Drew McLellan

Speaking Engagements: Every Agency Owner’s Ace in the Hole

By: Drew McLellan | July 19, 2018 | 
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Speaking Engagements Are Every Agency Owner’s Ace in the HoleStereotypically, speaking engagements may seem reserved for high-profile authors, nationally recognized experts, and former presidents.

And while not as obvious, marketing professionals should seriously consider how securing the right speaking opportunities will not only elevate brands but they also hold the key to developing successful business opportunities.

A common misconception about speaking engagements is they only serve to build a personal brand for thought leaders or authors.

As an agency owner, your goal is to establish credibility with your audience.

And by presenting at a conference or trade show with an audience of prospective clients and referral sources, you can successfully demonstrate your insights and expertise.

In today’s world, when a single tweet, post, or video shows your brand to the rest of the world, booking the perfect speaking gig has never been so invaluable.

Securing Multiple Speaking Engagements

There’s no one right formula for securing the ideal speaking engagement.

There are several different tactics to try, with speakers’ bureaus being a great resource.

And most big conferences have an open call for speakers. So you can pitch yourself as someone with something an audience is hungry to hear.

Aside from these more straightforward methods, do everything you can to prove your expertise and give people a reason to book you for their event.

I’ve written a weekly column for Iowa’s business journal for more than a decade, and my weekly podcast has passed its two-year mark and shows no signs of stopping.

Both serve as evidence to conference planners: Not only do I have relevant content, but I can also knit thoughts together in a coherent way to teach and inform.

The key is to establish your credibility so you’re invited to do the same thing on a larger platform.

And don’t just consider yourself—the leader of your agency—at these events.

Sending your employees to speaking engagements, even if they’re local events in your community, could give your team skills they need to grow.

There’s not a role at your agency that doesn’t require good presentation skills.

Think of smaller or local speaking opportunities as training and professional development for your entire team.

Booking the Best Event

Many people have a deep fear of public speaking. But it can be a fun way to expand your audience and build clout in your industry.

When you approach it as an opportunity to teach and help others, it’s nowhere near as daunting.

But don’t expect to get on the big stage right off the bat.

You’ll have to start at smaller events, and you’ll probably be speaking for free.

See it as practice and a chance to become familiar with conference planners.

Not only will each encounter make you a more confident speaker, but it’ll also bring you one step closer to that perfect gig.

Determine Your Ideal Clients

Understanding your target audience is crucial to booking the right speaking venues.

Identifying clients with whom you do your best work helps you understand which speaking engagements and future events will attract the most new leads.

Think about the topics and conversations you have with your best clients.

Those highlighting your industry and marketing expertise as well as those providing the most value.

This helps you develop a list of speaking topics and events where you can attract more clients (like the ones you delight now).

There’s no reason to invest your time and talent speaking at venues where the best prospects aren’t in attendance.

Guard against vanity speaking. It’s expensive and doesn’t deliver a return-on-investment that’s worth the effort.

Find Your Unique Speaking Topics

Most big conferences have their choice of speakers.

Because you need to stand out and earn an invitation, content has to be fresh with a strong point-of-view.

Your experience gives you a unique vantage point, so be ready to take a strong stand and challenge conventional thinking.

You can also share thoughts on current trends or teach something specific.

And most speakers can’t bring your big-picture viewpoint, so leverage it to your advantage.

Continue Repurposing Content

Once you’ve identified speaking topics, you can start demonstrating your expertise long before you hit the stage.

Create content that features elements of your presentations.

When conference planners do their research, they’ll discover blog posts and articles you’ve already written on the proposed topics.

That reinforces their understanding of the depth of your expertise.

The added benefit is it’s also relevant to your prospects and clients.

One way to ensure your content will resonate with your audience is by positioning yourself as a problem solver.

Whether they’ve read your blog or seen you on stage, your audience will have a concrete solution to whatever brought them to your engagement in the first place.

If you’re particularly good, they’ll share what you taught them.

Do Your Best to be Everywhere

Exposure matters.

True thought leaders are found in many places online, and you want to emulate that, as well.

If someone searches your name and sees you’ve written or spoken extensively about your topic, it increases their confidence in your depth of knowledge.

In fact, Google uses activity on social media to determine your site’s credibility.

So if you want people to see more than a few random pictures of you online, strategically place your original content on Facebook, Twitter, or even your blog.

Ideally, your online presence helps enhance your reputation and credibility as a speaker.

Relationships Come First

Speaker submission forms are great, but they probably won’t help secure a good speaking engagement alone.

You’ll want to find ways to establish a solid relationship.

Speak to conference planners, potential audience members for their input on topics they want to hear about, and anyone else who can help you land that next speaking position.

When you connect with these individuals, work to establish what speech experts call initial credibility.

By doing this, you’ll seem like a knowledgeable thought leader before you even give that first speech.

Your Best Business Development Avenue

As tempting as it is to take the easy route by just submitting the forms, there is more important work to be done.

By putting in the time to build your network, you’ll dramatically increase the chance of securing a reliable speaking engagement.

As agency owners, we can’t afford to miss out on successful speaking engagements.

They may not seem as profitable as focusing on day-to-day business needs, but speaking is more than just a way to promote your brand.

By following these steps, you may find a plethora of new business developments, all thanks to your stellar speeches.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

About Drew McLellan


Drew McLellan has been in the advertising industry for more than 25 years. For 18 of those years, he has owned and continues to run his agency. McLellan also leads the Agency Management Institute, which advises hundreds of small- to medium-sized advertising agencies on how to grow and build their profitability through agency-owner peer networks, consulting, workshops and more.

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