So You Want to Speak for An Association

Speaking for associations is a great way to serve the community.  Whether you are a seasoned speaker or you have a favourite subject that you’ve become an expert on and you’re not afraid to stand in front of a crowd or present on a webinar, many associations would be happy to engage you.

From my experience, most associations have a program committee that makes the speaker and topic selection decisions.  If you look for associations via the web, see if they list their committee members, and if they don’t have contact information for the program chair, I would look up their name on LinkedIn and contact them that way.

Sometimes you can contact them through their website, but it doesn’t always work out. The website contact form is usually managed by the association staff and if you catch them on a busy day or they are engaged in a resource intensive project, they may just miss or delete the information without passing it along.

It is not a bad idea to cc the Executive Director when contacting a committee member, if you have their contact information.

I think email is the best first approach.  In the email I would offer to setup a telephone appointment at their convenience.

You might imagine that I get solicited every day with people who want to speak for my clients.  Many of them don’t bother to take the time to research our needs in advance and they really waste my time.  I would highly recommend reviewing a potential client’s website and look at their past events.  You could even contact some of their past speakers directly to get their feedback and assessment of the group.

Most associations, especially smaller ones, do not have a budget to pay speakers, but it is a great platform to get established as a speaker and of course you are in front of many individuals from various professions who have the potential to become a paying client.

Another tip would be to have a topic abstract ready, and send it in the body of the initial email.  I don’t like to get attachments in an initial approach – I probably won’t open them. As an event planner, I want to see four things in an abstract:

  1. Catchy title.  The title needs to have zing.  It should be 75 characters or less (think of how it is going to show up in social media when published and you don’t want it to hog the whole feed!).  It should be compelling and event controversial.
  2. 3-4 short sentences on what the subject is about
  3. 3 bullet points that will be learning outcomes or audience takeaways
  4. Brief bio

Bottom line is that whether it is association staff or a volunteer committee that you wish to engage, their time is precious and anything you can do to make it easy for them will improve your chances for selection.  As an added value, you can also offer to write a vendor neutral blog article on the subject.  This is a great way to provide content and help the association promote the event at the same time.

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