How to Get Speaking Engagements

Femke Asks: As someone that wants to be more active with speaking, I was wondering how you manage to get speaking gigs? Do you reach out to them and pitch your talk? How did you start getting into this?

Great question! The answer is luck. But I made my own luck. So how do I do that? There are a few key methods for generating "luck" that relate to speaking gigs so let's get into them!

Just Ask!

What you might not realise that a lot of organisers of internal conferences, meetups, external conferences and more actually want speakers. One of the biggest fears for these people is that no one wants to speak at their conference, and then no one attends. There are literally thousands (if not more) of dollars at stake when organising a conference, so applying to speak or offering a short talk at a meetup will bring a massive smile to the organisers ear. So reach out, say "I have an idea for a talk, since I've done xyz recently". :)

After that, it's a numbers game. Apply for every darn CFP, the process in which you make a proposal for a talk, you see (that makes sense). Some more practical tips - a website I hear being popular is Callback Women – and this does a weekly email of conferences (mainly tech) that you can apply for. It goes deep with information such as travel and accommodation assistance and sometimes childcare. There's also many, many articles online in most communities of "conferences on technology x" that are worth subscribing to and keeping an eye on. 

Networking - Knowing the Organisers

One of my most favourite conferences I've spoken at (Dev World and MS Ignite) I actually got into through pure networking. In both cases, I'd previously met someone on the organising committee at a conference, through friends or just general networking. Sometimes, this will help. Other times, conferences might use a double blind process for choosing speakers, where this wont help. But for me, this hasn't been the case and it has helped. So always talk to that person at that thing - you never know who they might be! Remember: It's not what you know, it's who you know.

Nailing Your Last Talk

They say musicians are only as good as their last concert– the same is true for speakers. Taking every talk seriously like the world's conference organising committee is in the room is key to succeeding as a public speaker.  This takes work. I recently got asked to speak at a new type of conference (which I'm pretty excited about) and when I enquired how my name got in the hat, they referenced my ITx talk. Remembering back, I spent ages on that talk. I was thinking about it for about 6 months prior to writing it. I spent about 4 weekends at my work desk writing the script and slides. I got a designer (my wonderful partner, Amy) to do the slides and create custom imagery. I then practiced the talk over and over. It would have been about 40-50 hours of work all up just for 30 minutes. When I got to the room, it was seemingly small, maybe 100 people at most. I was a little disappointed if i'm honest. Then after the talk, I realised there was a journalist in the room, and a few other really important/influential people. Doors opened because I'd put the work in and done a good job. I haven't half-assed a talk since. I later presented that talk two more times, and appeared on NZ's ITX blog. 

So in summary. It's the courage to ask, to put your hand up. It's the courage to network and put yourself out there. Finally, it's putting in the work, not taking those first 50 engagements lightly and building a reputation as a consistently good speaker. 

Good luck! 

PS: Confused? Here's why you should start public speaking.