Getting involved in public speaking and choosing a topic to speak about

I’m a big believer in continuing one’s own personal development and I think the sign of a good boss, and a good workplace, is a dedication to this. We are always encouraged to take this seriously and we regularly go to conferences to learn new methodologies, cement our current understanding and meet like-minded marketers and SEOs. The most recent being BrightonSEO.

Having been to a few conferences now, the concept of speaking at one of these conferences has really started to appeal to me. Thankfully, recently the opportunity to do so actually came about thanks to Kirsty over at Many Minds Digital. Kirsty has been putting together a ‘Give It A Go Tour’ to help first time speakers have a chance at speaking in front of their peers. I jumped at the chance to do so and I’m set to speak for the first time at the end of February in 2019, how exciting!

The journey to getting there, however, has not been a walk in the park. It’s not always particularly easy to get to speak at conferences, and it’s not easy to just pluck a topic out of the air to speak about.

Finding a topic you’re fully passionate about is half the battle won

The key to any good talk is the passion and belief in what you’re speaking about. You need to find something you genuinely want to talk about and believe in; this took me a while to find. I came up with a list of possible topics and then chose 2 and drafted out what I wanted to say. You will always end up having loads of different possible ideas, but you’ll quickly realise which are viable and which are non-starters. Both scripts were OK, but I just couldn’t see myself getting up to talk about them which, in turn, would mean, if I did, I’d struggle to impart any enthusiasm over to my audience…Back to the drawing board!

In the end I chose a topic that was not even included on my original list. I chose to talk about Digital PR and Outreach and I had a real reason about WHY I wanted to talk about it. I’ve been attending conferences for the past year or so now and I’ve noticed a big tendency for speakers to focus on speaking about Digital PR over Outreach – I wanted to impart my views on this.

What’s your angle?

The next step is to think about the topic and find an angle. By an angle, I mean find a hook to get people interested in what you have to say. On conference agendas there will be a list of speakers and their topics. Having a catchy title can make a big difference on whether people turn up to listen to you unless you’re already a well-established speaker. I learned a few things from Hannah Smith over at Verve Search on catchy title topics! For example, her last talk I saw was titled “What happens when a werewolf bites a goldfish?” – Cool huh?! When you’re speaking at an event, the chances are that there is going to be more than one track so you’ll have to compete against many other established speakers. You only have a few moments, when attendees are reading through the schedule, to pique their curiosity enough to convince them to listen to you speak. A catchy title that offers just enough info on what the talk will be about, but also has an element of mysteriousness is the winner in my eyes.

Get your foot in the door

So, by now you have your talk written, you’ve got a catchy title and you’re ready to go (don’t forget, you will absolutely need to have put together a slide deck too, to support your talk!) – what’s left to do? Well, it’s actually time to get a speaking slot and get going. I lucked out timing wise with the opportunity to give speaking a go, but it may not be as difficult to get your foot in the door as you imagine.

The first thing to do is to have a word with your friends and colleagues and find out if they, or anyone they know, has spoken before at a conference and might be able to introduce you to conference organisers, or even just give you some tips and advice. Make sure you use your network for any help you can get!

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Dave Sergeant

Dave Sergeant

Dave has been working in content marketing and project management roles for the last 5 years, in both agency and client-side positions. He is part of the team responsible for managing client outreach and link-building campaigns, as well as coordinating the building and continuous improvement of a in-house CRM system. Also the GDPR guy.