How to nail your next conference speaker slot

Navigating the many sponsorship options available to you at your next industry conference takes some thought. Do you stick with the basic stand, brand the lanyards, or perhaps sponsor a drinks reception?

Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, all are viable considerations – ok, maybe not the drinks reception (never get suckered into that one; you’ll get a cursory nod of appreciation then stand idly by while everyone gets smashed at your expense.)

Invest in a speaker slot

One of the most favored (and effective) sponsorship options is a speaker slot.

Most industry conferences will make a handful of presentation slots available to sponsors and, from personal experience, if done well, it can be a hugely effective lead generation source.

Unfortunately, most aren’t done well.

That’s because for every killer sponsor presentation, you’ll find a hundred vendors lined up ready to deliver a dry sales pitch.

Try running a client panel to maximize engagement with delegates

Let’s make it clear. Delegates have not invested time and money to sit in a conference hall and watch you run through your corporate slide deck. If your presentation fails to impress in a one-to-one meeting, you need to question what the reaction is going to be from a room full of hungry and oxygen-deprived delegates.

Adding a speaker session to your sponsorship pack isn’t cheap, so it’s important to get it right. If delegates find your content engaging and fresh, you’ll increase your chances of them wanting to engage with you.

How to your nail your conference speaker spot

Here are some proven tips to help you nail your next speaker session and maximize your ROI.

  • Sales pitches never work. Use the opportunity to promote your business as a thought leader with something interesting to say. Perhaps you’ve got some industry / client research that offers a unique perspective on the market. Exclusive research and data (that the delegates can’t get anywhere else) is always a hit.
  • Consider bringing a client on stage with you and running a case study session. Let the client talk about their challenges and experiences. It may sound counter-intuitive to handover your expensive 30 minute slot to someone else, but client advocacy is powerful and gives delegates confidence in your offer.
  • Go even further and run your own panel session comprising several of your clients. Structure the session around questions that promote your offer and show differentiation, “What was the size of the problem? Why did you decide to address the problem in this way? Did you look at other ways to solve the problem?” Done well this has been the most successful format I’ve used.
  • Talk to the conference organizer in advance about the make-up of delegates. Why are they attending? What job titles will be most prevalent? This will help you to finesse the tone of your content.
  • Understand how you will capture leads. Many large conferences have multiple speaker tracks so you’ll be fighting for attention against other speakers. Make sure the organizer is scanning delegate badges so that you get a breakdown on attendance and can follow-up accordingly.
  • Be relevant in your follow-up with delegates. If your speaker session included research findings, send them an accompanying white paper. If you co-presented with a client, send the case study. Continuing the theme of thought leadership (and being relevant) after the event is a great way to prompt an interaction and qualify the prospect.
  • Check with the organizer how many vendor / sponsor presentations will take place over the course of the day. Given they are a valuable source of sponsorship income, conference organizers are often tempted to shoehorn in as many as possible. However, too many and it dilutes the value of the entire event. Delegates will lose interest quickly, and so should you.
  • Timing is vital as delegate attention and attendance varies over the course of a conference. Negotiate a prime slot and never accept a slot after 2pm on the afternoon of the final day. Attendance will tank. A spot in the morning of Day One is what you’re aiming for.

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