If you’re looking to get more eyeballs on your brand, align your company with a really meaty trend, or position yourself (or your CEO) as a thought leader in your industry, securing really relevant, reputable speaking opportunities throughout the year should be a major piece of your PR game plan.
But it’s safe to assume (especially if you read my ramblings enough) that you know this part. What you might not know is where you’re supposed to find all of these relevant, reputable speaking opportunities—especially if you’re an industry newbie.
Short answer: It’s going to take some Googling. But to make your Googlefest a little more productive, here are six different ways to track down the best speaking opportunities for your brand.
1. Go Where the Big Kahunas Go
First, you’re going to need to identify the major players in your industry. What thought leaders, CEOs, and influencers are people in your field always referencing? When you read your favorite industry blogs, who is always popping up to give commentary? What are your favorite companies in the industry, and who leads them?
Once you have a list of the top 5-10 influencers in your industry, Google around to see where they’re speaking. (Hint: Important people tend to not speak at sucky events.) Also, see if they have their own social platforms. By following them on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll learn about the events they’re joining in on in real-time.
2. Read the Trades
As you’ve likely already discovered, almost every industry on the planet has trade publications dedicated to writing about the topics and communities specific to their industry. For example, if you work for an ad agency, you’re probably addicted to publications like AdAge and AdWeek.
Trade publications are also where you can learn about industry events. Almost all trade publications will cover the big ones, and some even have an “events” section (though it often only lives on their websites—so be sure to check both the print and online editions).
3. Keep an Eye on Your Clients
What events are your clients attending? Remember that you shouldn’t always look for the biggest and splashiest events—especially in the beginning—but the ones that bring together the most relevant audience for your brand. You’ll probably get to know the bigger (more expensive) shindigs pretty quickly, but keep your eyes peeled for interesting small- to medium-sized events that offer great opportunities for you to connect with your target audience.
4. Follow the Hashtags
One of the best ways to get to know the people, trends, and events in your industry is to identify the most commonly used hashtags by your community.
For example, the education industry has an ongoing Twitter chat around education news, and the hashtag used is #edchat. If I wanted to learn about the best events in the education space, I would monitor the #edchat hashtag to see what events were mentioned. Once I pinpointed the events I was most interested in, I’d look to see if the event itself had a dedicated hashtag (these days, most do). Through the event hashtag, I’d then track what event participants were saying about the event, what speakers were secured, and which industry topics were creating the most buzz.
5. Ask the Question
If you’re new to an industry, or just putting yourself out there for the first time, it’s easy to get intimidated by members of the community who seem to be doing figure eights around the speaking circuit. Don’t be. Instead, use it as a talking point to introduce yourself to these key players and ask about their experience speaking at a recent event. It’ll help you weed out the bad ones pretty quickly, and it’ll give you a nice excuse to grow your network.
6. Build it Yourself
Want to guarantee a speaking gig? Create the event yourself. Host a fireside chat, create a conference, or launch a Meetup that you think your community will love. Just remember: If you’re introducing a new event to the industry, you need to 1. tell everyone, everywhere, over and over again, and 2. make the content amazing.
Now that you’ve got your event list down, want to know how to actually pitch yourself or your CEO as a speaker? Tune in next Wednesday.