10 Factors for Assessing a Speaking Invitation

10 Factors for Assessing a Speaking Invitation

So, an invitation comes across your desk from a conference producer, or maybe even your agency, asking your Senior VP of Strategy to speak at a conference next quarter.  You’ve heard of the conference, but don’t know much about it. Now what do you do?

You need a systematic way to evaluate a given speaking invitation.  At S3 we’ve developed a 10-point process to evaluate any conference speaking opportunity.  Here’s an outline of that process:

  1. Reputation

    The reputation of the conference organization and the conferences they produce is important. Is the conference producer a reputable firm? Are they an organization your team has heard of? Do they have a strong track record of producing solid events? Are there previous conference agendas and speakers you can review to help you understand this?

  2. Subject matter

    Does the conference address topics where your speaker is an expert? Is that topic the producer’s main expertise or are they moving into new ground because it’s a “hot” area? If a producer changed their long running conference from ”Cloud Universe” to “AI Universe” this year, that’s a red flag. You may want to dig a little deeper.

  3. Audience size & makeup

    How big is the audience? And whom is the audience made up of? While speakers often want to get in front of large audiences, sometimes a small audience of invitation only C-level executives is more valuable to your speaker and your company than a large audience of consumers with little buying power or influence. Be sure to also ask the projected audience size for your speakers particular session as sometimes other sessions will be happening concurrently which will significantly reduce the audience size.

  4. Type of speaking opportunity

    What is the speaking opportunity offered? Keynotes or fireside chats are usually much more valuable than breakout sessions in concurrent topic tracks. If a panel is being offered, ask whom else has been invited or confirmed and who the moderator will be. This will help determine if the speaking invitation is the right level.

  5. Agenda placement

    A conference audience will be typically more alert and engaged earlier in the day and earlier in the week. It can be tough to be the session right before lunch, or late in the afternoon on the last day of a multi-day conference. If you are offered a poor location on the agenda, ask for a better placement. If you can’t get one, take that into account in your overall assessment of this opportunity. You don’t want to waste your speaker’s time.

  6. Confirmed speakers (past speakers)

    Which other speakers have already been confirmed? That will tell you a lot about the level of the conference. Your SVP may not want to speak at a conference where the other speakers are programmers or mid-level managers. If you’re considering the conference early in its planning cycle, who spoke last year? That’s often a good indicator of the types of speakers they’ll attract this year.

  7. Media – traditional

    As we’ve mentioned in other posts, you can amplify your speaking opportunity by bolstering it with media interviews. Which publications will be there? Can you get access to the press list in advance so your team can set up on-site interviews prior to the event? Or is it second tier media that doesn’t have wide readership? Sometimes a conference is strictly off the record (aka: Chatham House Rules), which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if the audience it convenes is exceptional.

  8. Media – social

    Will the session be recorded and posted? Will it be live streamed? Sometimes online views can outnumber live audience members 50-to-1 or more. What type of social media promotion before, during, and after the conference will there be? Can your speaker participate in social media efforts developed by the conference producer?

  9. Location

    The physical location of the conference can be a major factor for some speakers. Travel budgets or time out of the office can be key considerations for busy executives. Sometimes you can align a pre-planned trip abroad with a conference in that region to extract even more utility from that travel. If a conference is in a small, out of the way city, you may want to check the audience it attracts to ensure it’s high quality.

  10. Sponsors

    Look at the current or past list of sponsors. Are these companies you want your company to be associated with? Are they of the right caliber? Are they likely to address subjects your company also cares about?

  11. Pay to play

    We usually focus on non-sponsored, earned speaking opportunities that are won on the merits of the speaker or her proposed topic. Some conferences require all speakers, or all vendors, to pay a sponsorship fee in order to speak. This can be OK if that’s part of your speaking strategy, but always be aware up front if this is a requirement by simply asking the person who sent the invitation.

OK, so that was eleven.

There’s no magic formula when it comes to evaluating the merit of a particular speaking opportunity. Many other factors certainly come into play when determining if the opportunity is a worthy one. But, by assessing a potential speaking engagement using a defined set of criteria, it will be easier to determine if the opportunity aligns with your goals.