September 28, 2017
As some of you know already, I am gearing up to present at Hero Conf London in just a few short weeks. Reflecting on my experience writing pitches for Hero Conf (both successfully and unsuccessfully), I thought it might be useful to share what I’ve learned along the way. Whether you are fixing to secure your own spot at Hero Conf in Austin this Spring, or aiming for a different speaking gig altogether, these 5 tips may just provide the edge you need to seal that deal.
Tip #1: Don’t Procrastinate–But Invest the Time
Writing and submitting a Hero Conf speaker pitch isn’t a particularly difficult feat, but it does require careful mental preparation. Though I may have written my “winning” pitch just hours before the deadline closed, I had been tossing around possible presentation ideas for weeks.
There are three aspects of a great speaker pitch that require an investment of time to prepare:
- Relevance – Your topic needs to be one that marketers (from agencies or individual organizations) find practical to their daily labor. Keeping tabs on your favorite industry blogs, Twitter hashtag groups, or LinkedIn thought leaders are a great way to see what other digital marketers are most excited—or concerned—about at a given moment.
- Research – You will want to support your pitch topic with some kind of data to prove its relevancy or impact (see tip #4). Finding high-quality supporting data requires an investment of both time and energy as you prepare.
- Innovation – If you are an event planner trying to find the best assortment of speakers, creativity and innovation are likely at the very top of your “to-find” list. This means that every winning pitch will be innovative in some way that makes it interesting (see tip#3). As a speaker, then, it’s important to realize that while there are countless strategies and ideas to stimulate creativity, none are effortless. You must be willing to commit the mental time necessary to find a truly innovative approach to your chosen area of expertise.
Image via Wordstream (Inc.com)
Tip #2: Start with What You Know and What You Care About
I mention your personal area of expertise because this is another vital piece of the winning speaker pitch: knowledge + passion. It’s said that you should “write what you know,” and while that is key, I believe it is even more important to write what you care about. Find a topic that you’ve enjoyed working on, where your experience exceeds the realm of “this is my job” and spills onto the platform of “this is why I love my job.”
Maybe you’ve recently had a breakthrough with an account that’s been generating nothing but headaches and sleepless nights. Maybe you participated in an SEM beta and saw unexpectedly cool results.
I pitched about RLSA for YouTube Viewers after hearing about an upcoming opportunity from our Google team and preparing a related strategy deck for one of my clients. It was a topic I knew about from my research, but beyond that, one that I was excited to get others excited about. So whatever it is, take your wins and losses, something you can’t keep yourself from mentioning in every colleague conversation, and build from that passion to create your pitch foundation.
Tip #3: Find an Interesting Angle & Actionable Takeaways
Hero Conf touts its goal of “continually challenging the idea of ‘traditional marketing conference,’” meaning that topics must reach beyond the norm. If you have your own blog, or regularly contribute to a company or industry blog, identify a post that has received a lot of engagement—comments, likes, shares, links from other posts—and determine if you can expand upon that principle. Ask yourself, “If I were attending Hero Conf on behalf of my company, what information would I find interesting and actionable?”
There is no list of winning pitch topics—it all comes down to how you present your case. So be sure you are showing why your perspective will captivate the audience, organize your pitch into concise, digestible paragraphs and specifically highlight any practical takeaways that attendees can draw from your presentation.
When in doubt, use this simple-yet-effective template for building your composition:
- Introduction: Why is the Topic Important to the Industry in General? (where does it stand now, how is it growing, where will it be in the future?)
- Innovation: How is Your Approach Unique and Innovative? (why should the event organizers choose your presentation over another on the same topic?)
- Conclusion: What Actionable Takeaways Will Your Presentation Offer? (what will attendees gain from participation in your lecture/presentation/workshop?)
Tip #4: Support with Data
Once you have your pitch outlined—why your presentation is important, innovative, and actionable—it’s time to support your claims with the research you’ve prepared. This support might come in the form of reputable stats, a recently published case study, or relevant personal experience (i.e. participation in a beta with significant results).
Your job is to carefully weave the supporting evidence into your constructed outline, preventing any clunky language or data overloading. Make the pitch conversational, but professional, and you should find a solid balance that will connect with reviewers while clearly demonstrating your qualification.
Tip #5: Roll the Dice (Making the Pitch is Half the Battle)
Finally, you have to go ahead and take the leap! Even if means submitting your pitch at 11:00 pm on a Tuesday evening (not saying I did this…not saying I didn’t). Whether hours, days, weeks or months ahead of the deadline, the moment you press “Submit Form” on that landing page, you’ve already got the first victory under your belt. From there on out, the biggest challenge will be waiting for a verdict.
Now, waiting might seem like the hardest part of the process because it is outside the realm of your control. The most difficult element, however, is remembering that even if your pitch doesn’t get selected, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed or that your insights weren’t worthwhile. Every high-quality conference, PPC or not, is competitive to the point that even good (or great) topic proposals may need to be passed over due to time, space, or budget limitations.
If your topic doesn’t get selected, continue to share your knowledge through blog posts and pitching for other conference opportunities (including the next Hero Conf!).
If you DO get selected as a Hero Conf speaker, well…be on the lookout for presentation tips when I get back from London!