Episode 192:

Speaking engagements can be a great way for agency owners to connect with their sweet spot prospects and be immediately perceived as a subject matter expert. Wanting to book speaking gigs and being successful at making that happen are two very different things. Even if you have some speaking engagements under your belt, getting chosen by a conference planner is another challenge to navigate.

Even seasoned pros must keep their eyes on the prize. I have always used speaking as one of my primary biz dev strategies (for both my agency and AMI) but I learned early on that it’s easy to get discouraged, distracted, or dismissed if you don’t have a smart strategy in place.

How do you build a speaking strategy that serves your agency business development objectives?
In episode #192, I talk with Steve Markman, who offers some hard-earned, straightforward advice on preparing a speaker proposal and getting it noticed by decision-makers. We also talk about how to determine whether a particular speaking opportunity is the right strategic move. We even tackle the age-old question of “should I speak for free?”

We’ll dig into all the nitty-gritty details of how to take full advantage of the right speaking platforms and when to stay home.

Steve Markman started Markman Speaker Management, LLC in 1994. It’s a speaker’s bureau with access to an international network of speakers in all fields and industries. He also coaches business owners and professionals on how to best speak for the right reasons to the right audiences.

Steve has over 30 years of experience in the conference, event, and speaker business, working with groups like the Conference Board and Comdex. Having been a conference producer working with some of the world’s largest events, Steve understands the importance of quality speaking engagements from both the speaker and conference planner perspectives.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • The key components of a speaker proposal
  • How to respond to a call for speakers
  • How to ensure the audience is your target market
  • How to establish a connection with the conference organizer
  • The difference between formal and informal speaker submissions
  • Best practices for organizing your conference presentation
  • How to measure the value of presenting, even if need to pay your own expenses
  • How many speaking engagements is too many
“It’s never too early to strike up a relationship with the person in charge of the conference you want to speak at.” – @markmanspeaker Click To Tweet “Don't worry about getting paid by the conference. You should think about getting paid by the future client that you're going to get as a result of speaking.” – @markmanspeaker Click To Tweet “Using your unique point of view and approach to problem-solving can help you stand out from other potential speakers vying for a spot at a conference.” – @markmanspeaker Click To Tweet “The key to a proposal for speaking is to follow up. Don’t just submit it and wait for them to get back to you.” – @markmanspeaker Click To Tweet “The quickest way to get your speaking proposal rejected is to present a sales pitch.” – @markmanspeaker Click To Tweet

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Speaker 1:

It doesn’t matter what kind of agency run. Traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR. Whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. That’s why Agency Management Institute started the Build A Better Agency podcast a few years ago. We help agencies just like yours grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money, and keep more of what you make. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build A Better Agency. Welcome back if this is not your first episode, thanks for joining us if this is. Today’s topic is one that I know is at least marginally top of mind for all of you, and I think should be more top of mind than perhaps it is. And it’s this whole idea of using speaking engagements to position yourself and your agency as subject matter experts. Not only in marketing, but typically in your niche, or your vertical, or your subject matter expertise around a particular deliverable, whether it’s SEO, or social, or whatever it may be.

But for many of you, you have either played around with the idea, or you’re quite intentional about the idea of trying to get on stages where the audience are all potential clients of yours.

So I think many of us enjoy speaking publicly. I think many of us find value in it from a networking point of view. But I think with a little more thought and precision, we can really have this be a key element of our business development efforts.

So what I’m going to suggest to you is A, that you be really, really, really judicious about where you speak and making sure that the audience is not a vanity audience. So I get asked to speak at conferences where basically my peers are going to be. And I love them and I love hanging out with them. And I love hearing them speak and I learn from them. But there’s no one in that audience or there are very few people in that audience who are going to hire my company to do anything.

So there’s nothing wrong with my accepting those speaking engagements. And sometimes I do, just because they’re fun. But it’s not a biz dev effort. So I think the first step is figuring out who it is that would be in that ideal audience, and then starting to find conferences where those folks gather.

And then, how do you construct a presentation in a way that demonstrates your expertise without feeling like a sales pitch? Because obviously if you do that once, you are not going to be invited back to the conference a second time. And it also is not effective with the audience. You want to show them how smart you are. And you hear me say this all the time, by asking the question, how can I help my audience be better at their job today? What can I teach them, or show them, or talk to them about that will allow them to be more effective at their work today and demonstrate that this is how we help clients every day?

So I have invited to speak with us today a guest who knows all about the speaking gigs. So early in his career, he was a research director, and he worked for The Society of Professional Consultants. He’s worked for the conference board. So he was COMDEX. He was the guy that booked speakers for many, many years. So understood sort of the ins and outs of that from the conferences perspective. And then he launched Markman Speaker Management.

So Steve Markman is his name. And Steve now works with speakers of all varieties. So keynote speakers, people like you and me who are speaking because we have a business objective to doing it. Authors, folks like that. And helping them get on the right stages to advance whatever it is their goal is around speaking. So I asked Steve to come talk to us about some best practices, some tricks and tips of the trade that will help us make sure that we are getting out there, that we are getting on the right stages. And once we are on that stage, that we present ourselves in a way that is super effective for our biz dev efforts. So that’s the plan for today. Let’s get right to it.

All right. Let’s welcome Steve to the podcast. Steve, welcome.

Steve Markman:

Thanks Drew. Happy to be here.

Drew McLellan:

Happy to have you. Hey. So as I was saying in the introduction, for many agencies, there’s a huge desire to be on the right stage as part of their dev program, as part of their positioning themselves as a subject matter experts not only in marketing, but probably in many cases in a specific niche or industry. But many agencies struggle with how to get on the radar screen of the people who are planning those events, how to identify the events, and then how to make sure that their presentation is next then the result that they want. I know that that’s all things that you teach and talk about. So that’s where I want to dig in. So let’s start with this idea of how should agencies go about identifying the right stages for them to appear on?

Steve Markman:

Sure. Well, the key thing is to match up the talks that you have with the right places to speak at. So it depends on what kind of an agency you are. So the audience should always reflect the people that you sell to. If you’re a general agency serving all industries, you could go to marketing conferences that serve all industries. If you’re an agency that serves the pharmaceutical industry, or something else in life sciences, or in some other sector, you want to research those events that reflect those customers and the clients of yours.

Drew McLellan:

Where would I go to research that? Is there a place that has a list of all the conferences and who the audiences are? How do I do that legwork?

Steve Markman:

Sure. So there are numerous places to look at it. You start obviously with the internet. So your best friend is of course Google. And you can simply type in marketing conferences.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So there’s no database out there that’s going to show me all the conferences and the audiences?

Steve Markman:

Yeah. So there are a couple of companies that you can buy databases from that have association specific conferences. Those are accessible. And there are also some databases online, like allconferences.com and some others. TSNN, Trade Show News Network that also lists conferences by geography and by topic. And those are also accessible online. And there IS no charge. The ones that charge a fee are the directories that you buy from private associations. National Publications sells a directory for example of conferences that are association based.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So once I’ve identified a couple of conferences that I think as an agency owner I should be on that stage, I know that you believe that there is some prep work that needs to be done. I need to have a proactive action plan, but I’m assuming I need to have some stuff that I can send them or show them. So what do I have to have in my toolbox before I reach out to these folks?

Steve Markman:

Sure. So every speaker proposal needs to have certain components. Those components consist of the speaker bio. Could be the agency owner. It could be someone else senior level at the agency. The bio needs to be focused on some of the speaking experience, as well as what they’ve done in the agency world.

You also need to have, the most important thing is a summary of the presentation or presentations. I always like to submit more than one. It could be two, or three, or 10. But you have to have a two to three paragraph what we call presentation abstract that describes what you’re going to talk about in some reform. And that presentation abstract can take a number of different formats. But typically, it’s two to three paragraphs with or without bullets. I prefer bullets because they’re easier to read a lot after the paragraphs. And some one or two facts that demonstrate knowledge and expertise in that area.

Drew McLellan:

And in that abstract or summary, if we are thinking about the takeaways from the audience, is that where we would include that as well?

Steve Markman:

Yes, absolutely. So the second half of that abstract will say attendees will learn bullet, bullet, bullet, or key takeaways are. So absolutely that’s crucial.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. All right. So I’ve got my bio. I have basically my description of the presentation. What else do I need?

Steve Markman:

So you need to be able to have at the ready some demonstration of your conference experience. So if you have a list of some key places that you’ve spoken at already, that’s helpful. That could be in the body of the email. Typically, you’ll send an email along with the description or the proposal. But if you’re submitting to a formal call for speakers, it’s typically an online application, if you will. And sometimes, they’ll ask for previous engagements, and sometimes they won’t, but it’s good to have it at the ready.

The other thing that you’ll also want to have is some references from people who have heard you speak in the past. That’s always helpful. And the other thing that I like to be able to send is a little bit of name dropping. So if the agency has done work for recognizable companies or clients, it’s good to mention those regardless of their size. But the key thing is a recognizable name so people that are evaluating the proposal will say, “This person has done work with so-and-so and so-and-so.” Even if it has nothing to do with speaking. Just the fact that you as an agency owner or your agency has done work. Or if you’ve done work even in a prior job, just to establish some credibility.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. And what about a speaker’s video? Do I have to have a video that shows how I appear and how I present myself on stage?

Steve Markman:

Right. So 20 years ago, no one ever asked for video of a non-paid speaker. And we’re talking largely here this morning about non paid speaking engagements. There are speaking engagements for as you said business development, marketing, thought leadership. They’re typically not going to be for speaker pay.

So in the past, no one really asked for that because they weren’t paying you. Now because it’s so easy to get a video made by your phone at a pretty good quality, that even for non-paid engagements, I would say 25% of the time, people will ask for video. My feeling is if they’re not asking you for the video, don’t send it. Because you don’t know what the reaction is going to be on the part of the evaluator. And even if you think it’s a good video, they may be looking for something else. But because 25% of the time they’re going to ask for it, it’s good to have one ready.

Drew McLellan:

And I’m assuming that that should be in air quotes professionally produced, like some cuts of different presentations. And maybe you’re weaving in some testimonials. But I’m sure it has a length requirement. How long should that speaker’s demo video be?

Steve Markman:

Yeah. It should be probably no more than three to six minutes. That’s about the amount of time that people have to look at those. The main purpose of it is not necessarily what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it. They just want to see that you’re coming across in a way that’s interesting, and that you’re a pretty good speaker. And to have the video show actually on the stage speaking as opposed to just the talking head is always better. But if you don’t have that and they ask for a video, let’s say you’ve never spoken to anywhere before and you don’t have any videos of live action. It’s okay to speak into even a good iPhone and talk about some of the concepts that you’re going to talk about in your presentation.

Drew McLellan:

Early on, this was early, early in my career when I was starting to speak more. And at that point when I was putting together my speakers reel, I didn’t have any big stage experience. So I belong to a big super church that has this huge stage with great audio equipment and all of that. So I actually asked them if I could go and shoot some segments on that big stage just to show me working a stage and moving along on a stage. So I think you can also sometimes fake it till you make it and create video that shows how you would come across on a stage, even if you don’t have video clips yet. Right?

Steve Markman:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So, okay. So I’ve got my bio, I’ve got my abstract, I have my references. I have my name dropping, I have my video. Do I need anything else?

Steve Markman:

Those are the main things that you need. The key here is to follow up. So many events are being looked at and proposed. Typically, there’s three or four proposals being sent for each speaking slot on average. So you want to just stay on top of things. And even if you send it a call for presenters, what they a call for papers. It’s a holdover from the old academic days when speaking got started in a public way. You want to be able to know who’s on the other end of that funnel that’s receiving it. You want to be able to identify who those people are. So the key thing here is always follow up with the conference decision maker. And that’s really a key thing, because it’ll show that you’re really interested.

And the key thing is to follow up not with just a simple email, but have you made a decision? Because you should assume that no decision has been made yet. But to give them some reason to still evaluate you in a positive way.

So some agency CEO might be interviewed by a magazine or be quoted by Bloomberg in some way, or the Wall Street Journal. Sending an email to the conference director with that fact is good, because it shows that there’s some credibility, and you’re somebody that people want to know and hear about.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So you mentioned when we were talking about the video, that most of these speaking gigs are unpaid. And I think a lot of agency owners struggle with that whole notion of giving away their expertise. Even though they literally are being put on a stage, with all of that implied expertise attached to that. They struggle with the idea of not getting paid. So can you just address that a little bit?

Steve Markman:

Yeah. And I think you’re right. And I think there’s too much of an emphasis on the payment thing. Because even if somebody got paid, if they think they’re giving away some secret sauce, they’re still going to be giving it away. They may be getting paid, but they’re still doing something that they feel reluctant about doing. the pay doesn’t change that.

So what I say to people is don’t worry about getting paid by the conference. You should think about getting paid by the future client that you’re going to get as a result of speaking. So this is an investment in time, like any other business development or marketing effort, except that it’s in front of an audience of potential hirers. People who are going to bring you in for an agency.

Drew McLellan:

And what I say to agency owners is if somebody picked up the phone in your niche and said, “We’re kind of thinking about hiring an agency. We’d love to spend some time with you.” These owners would pay to buy a plane ticket and go see these people. So I think it’s funny and a little ironic that they get their undies in a bunch about not getting paid to speak. When in essence, it’s 200 people in their industry who are saying, “Hey, I’d like to learn more about you, and your agency, and your expertise.” Of course pay for the plane ticket if you have to, although in most cases, a lot of conferences will at least cover your travel expenses. Right?

Steve Markman:

Exactly. And the other thing Drew is that what agencies need to keep in mind is that they need to spend some time before they even submit a proposal, before they even say, “Okay, this sounds like a good place for me to speak.” Make sure that the people in the audience are your potential prospects and clients. It doesn’t have to be everyone. Because clearly, agencies go to conferences to sit in the audience and schmooze the network during the breaks and that sort of thing. But if the majority of the attendees are not your competitors, which you don’t want to do, but they are people who could potentially bring you in when they’re looking for an agency or at least start that conversation, then you know you’re on the right track. And that’s a key thing. So audience analysis is very important.

Drew McLellan:

So let’s talk a little bit about that. So what are some ways that I as an agency owner can research and evaluate the right speaking opportunities and make sure that the right people are in the audience?

Steve Markman:

Sure. So when you get to know what a conference is, let’s say it’s the American Marketing Association national annual conference. It’s typically held in the fall. So what you want to do is you want to see what they’re saying on the website. Who is is it that’s coming? And typically, the real nitty gritty demographic analysis of who attends a conference is typically found in the section on the conference website that is geared toward exhibitors. Because the exhibitors and the sponsors want to make sure that the traffic in front of their booths, or if they’re spending 30 or $40,000 to sponsor for some headline coverage, that their target audience is really their target audience. So you’ll get some of that data there.

Oftentimes, I have to send an email or make a phone call to the conference director and ask them for the more detailed demographic data. I want to know who’s coming by title. I want to know who’s coming by type of company. And I want to know who’s coming by size of company and their industry. So whichever way they dice it and slice it, I’d like to have that data.

Now, will they always give it to you? No. But by asking for it and saying that in order for you to invest the time to even speak, even if you don’t want to be an exhibitor or a sponsor, it’s really a good idea for you to have that information.

And sometimes they’ll say, “Well, all we have is the list of attendees.” They’ll say, “I can’t send that list.” So then you say, “Well, how about if you send me a redacted list? I don’t care about the names of the people. I just want to see their titles, and I want to see their company names so I feel good about spending my time coming to speak to your conference.” Especially if they’re not going to pay you to speak, or they’re not going to pay your travel. It’s a legitimate question to ask.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So once I’ve decided yep, this is a conference that I should speak at. Yes. I’m going to follow the call for submissions or call for speakers. I’m assuming, because you were talking about the follow-up, how do I know who is my target audience in that? So who at the association or at the conference, whoever’s holding the conference, how do I figure out who to be reaching out to? So for example, if I am trying to get a speaking gig at an industry trade show conference, and I’ve already submitted myself as a speaker, but I just had an article published in Forbes or Inc., or something like that to your earlier example. How do I know who to send that to?

Steve Markman:

So you want to find that out before you even submit it. And the reason why you want to do that is because you want to make sure that they have some interest in the topic. But also, just to establish a relationship with that conference organizer so they know that it’s coming. And when they see the name that Drew McLellan just submitted a proposal. “Oh yeah. I spoke to that guy last week.” How do you know who that is? Well, you just call up at the conference and find out, or it’s on the website.

So I would say a third of the time on the call for presenters, in the instructions online, there’s something that says, “Any questions about this submission, please contact XYZ.” Sometimes, that’s the person who’s handling the web part of it if there’s a breakdown in the system. But you can usually Google that person by name and just make sure, find them on LinkedIn and that sort of thing.

If that name is not there, the person who’s in charge of the conference isn’t there, then more times than not, they’re not there. You have to just simply call. So you call the organization, the association who’s ever putting it on and say, “Can you please tell me who’s in charge of this conference?” Sometimes the person answering the phone doesn’t know, so they’ll give you the conference or the event department, and they’ll connect you. And when you speak to that person, just a minute conversation and then get their email. So then after you submit, I like to send an email saying, “I just submitted a proposal. Please let me know if you need any additional information.” And now you’ll have their name.

Now who actually makes that decision on whether you speak or not? Depends on the size of the conference. If it’s a small conference, small association, it’s usually the conference director. If it’s a national conference like the Consumer Electronics Show that gets 300,000 people in Vegas every year, that’s done by a committee, an advisory committee that might have eight or 10 people. And the conference director is the person who’s the liaison, the person who’s coordinating it. But the actual decisions are made by this committee. And sometimes on a big conference, the committee members are listed on the website. And that’s helpful sometimes because you may know one of those committee members. And you can contact them and say, “Hey, I just submitted a proposal. Keep your eye open for it.” And then maybe you have a friend on the inside. So sometimes it’s helpful.

Drew McLellan:

So how far in advance, so if I’ve identified that I want to speak at the one legged ditch diggers conference in 2020. How far in advance even before they ask for a call of submissions, how far in advance should I start creating that relationship? And is there a point where it’s too far out, they’re like, “I don’t even want to think about you yet.”

Steve Markman:

Right. So let me spend a couple minutes talking about the two types of submissions. There’s the formal submission and the informal. So the formal submission is when there is a call for speakers. And that, you cannot really do too early. Because when it comes out is when you can start obviously filling it out. It’s good to know when it’s coming out. So once you’ve identified a conference, I would right away get on a phone or send an email to the person who’s in charge of that conference and ask what is the process for submission. Is it a formal process where they’re going to issue a call for speakers? When is that call for speakers put out? And then approximately how much time do you have? So if you call today, someone might say, “Well, we’re going to put it out on June 1st, and you’ll have until August 1st.” Typically, it’s about a six to eight week time period to submit. If it’s not a formal process, they may say, “Just send me an email with the proposal attached. Send me your bio, send me a summary of your presentation.” And then they’ll follow up.

So it’s probably 50/50. On a national conference, mostly there’s a call for speakers. On a local or regional conference, let’s say it’s the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association. Unless they themselves do a big annual conference for their monthly luncheon or dinner meetings which have speakers all the time and can sometimes be a good outlet, usually it’s informal. So they just say, “Send it to the vice president or director of programming,” which is a guy like you or me. It’s a volunteer. that’s not their day job. And what they’re going to do is they’re going to tell you who that person is. On a chapter level, those people oftentimes are listed on the website. You find out who they are, you track them down through LinkedIn. Sometimes their email is listed, and you start a relationship. It’s never too early to start those relationships to answer your question directly, because then you’ll have an idea of when are you supposed to submit.

And what I like to do is create a spreadsheet of some type so that you’ve tracked it. So as you’ll go crazy trying to remember when do you submit, and when do you follow up, and what’s the deadline? So all that information you should put on a spreadsheet once you’ve established your target conferences for speaking.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So it’s never too early is what you’re saying?

Steve Markman:

Correct.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So let’s assume that I’ve been invited to do a breakout session, and that session is about 45 minutes. Is there best practices around constructing my presentation, the length of the presentation, how much time I leave for Q&A, and all of that sort of thing? Are there some best practices that we should be following so that we are good speakers at the conference and get invited back?

Steve Markman:

Sure. So a typical presentation should be somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes. How long it’s actually going to be will be dictated by the conference, not by the speaker. So the conference will put together an agenda. They’ll know how many topics they want to have. They’ll have the time slots worked out. It’s usually 30 to 45 minutes for a session.

Some sessions for a solo presentation are 60 minutes. You should have it, when you’re doing it and rehearsing it, 60 minutes. You can always cut back. It’s a lot easier than needing to add 15 minutes. But most conferences, the sessions are going to be 30 to 45 minutes. And you’ll do maybe five to 10 minutes at most for a Q&A period.

Drew McLellan:

Really? Why not longer?

Steve Markman:

Because the conference doesn’t want that. There are some conferences that will tell you, “Don’t take any questions,” because it gets out of hand. And it’s hard to do the timing. They don’t want to cut people off. They’re afraid that somebody might do too short a presentation.

When I used to run the conference division for the conference board, I was responsible for dozens of conferences, and occasionally somebody would do a 20 minute talk when he was supposed to do a 40 minute talk. And he figured, “Okay, well I’ll just take questions.” And then all of a sudden, you’re afraid that somebody has to start telling bad jokes, because the time needs to be filled. So five to 10 minutes of questions is typically enough. Unless it’s a keynote. And then they may say, “Do a 45 minute talk and leave 15 minutes for Q&A.”

Drew McLellan:

Okay. When we come back, I want to talk about a question related to that. But let’s take a quick break, and then we’ll talk about how to handle questions if you don’t have enough time during the Q&A. So we’ll be right back to dig into that.

Thanks for tuning in to Build A Better Agency. I just want to take a quick second and remind you that throughout the year, AMI offers workshops for agency owners, agency leaders, and account executives. So if you head over to the AMI website and you check out under the training tab, you’re going to find a calendar of all of the workshops we offer throughout the year.

We cover quite a wide variety of topics. Everything from biz dev, to creating a content machine for your agency, to making sure that you are running your business based on the best financial metrics and dashboards that you can.

We also have a workshop on agency owner management hacks, all the best practices that agency owners are using to run their businesses well and profitably. And of course, you’re always going to find our Account Executive Bootcamp and our Advanced AE Bootcamp. So go ahead and check it out on the website. And hopefully, one of those will meet a need for you and your agency. And we’ll see you soon. Let’s get back to the episode.

All right, we are back. So Steve, before the break, we were talking about that if for example, the conference coordinators say you’ve got a 45 minute time slot, that you should prepare your deck or your presentation to be about 10 minutes shy of that, so you’re leaving about five to 10 minutes of Q&A.

So a lot of times when I speak, and a lot of times this is because when I’m presenting a lot of times, it’s based on the Agency Edge Research Series that Susan Baier and I do together. So a lot of times, we’re presenting research results. So there are a lot of questions.

So if you are presenting for 45 minutes, you allow five to 10 minutes for questions, and people have a lot more questions that they’re not answering, what is the best way from both the speaker’s point of view, and also the conference’s point of view? Because again, you want to be a speaker that they invite back.

So let’s say I’ve wrapped up my presentation. I know somebody else is coming into the room to do the next breakout session. So I have to get out. But people have a lot of questions. What’s the best way for me to handle that that makes the conference organizers happy?

Steve Markman:

Sure. So what you want to do is in your presentation, if you have any kind of slide show, whether it’s PowerPoint or something else that you’re using, the last slide should simply say contact information. And as you’re answering those last few questions, that slide should be up. And so people can write down your phone number and your email address. So the last thing you say is, “As you can see, here’s my phone number and my email. If you have any further questions or we didn’t get to your questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.” Or you might also say, “I’m going to be around later at the reception, or the break, or the dinner,” or what have you. “Feel free to come up to me and ask me questions. I’ll be around for a little while.” Then you start getting these side hallway conversations oftentimes. But you’re out of the room. You’re not disturbing anything, and everybody’s happy.

Drew McLellan:

So is another option for me to say, “Hey, I know they’ve got another speaker coming in the room. So if you have more questions, I’m going to head out into the hallway. And I’m happy to stand there and answer questions for as long as you have them.” But to get everybody moved out of the room.

Steve Markman:

Yeah.  Absolutely. The only downside of that that I could think of is that if you’re getting people out of the room that want to hear that next session, that might make the conference organizer a little unhappy. Because now you just lost some people because they’re talking to you instead of listening to the next speaker. And that might make the speaker a little unhappy. So I wouldn’t necessarily do that unless you see there was so many questions. I would just say, “Please get in touch with me later, and I’ll be around for a while,” that kind of thing. And I think it would be implied that some could always follow you out if they wanted to. I just wouldn’t want to put you in a position where someone got mad at you for doing that.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So let’s go back to the submission process. So what are some of the mistakes that speakers and subject matter experts make when they submit their proposal that gets their proposal tossed in the no pile?

Steve Markman:

Right. So the fastest traveling velocity to the trash can or the no pile is a sales pitch. So the most important thing is to create a presentation that is objective, that talks about trends, that talks about technologies, what companies should be thinking about. What are the trends in social media, or whatever the topic is for an agency to talk about, to demonstrate their expertise.

And that is the only thing that should be in there, except when you’re talking about a case study. Because then you might say in the abstract say, “Case study of a company,” and maybe even name the company, “Will be talked about.” But once you start saying Drew McLellan agency, the third leading agency in the United States with revenues of blah, blah, blah, and Drew McLellan is the best thing since Swiss cheese, then it gets thrown out. Because they are assuming that you’re going to get up there, and you’re going to start talking about your agency for five or 10 minutes, and not about the topic. You may do it unconsciously. You may not even purposely do it. You may just, you gravitate because you’re the agency CEO, and that’s what you love talking about. So that’s the kiss of death right there. It can’t be any kind of a sales pitch.

How you get around that and still get the exposure that you want is you make sure that in the introduction, that the person who’s doing the introduction of the speakers has a two or three sentence bio. Not a two page bio, but a two or three sentence bio that tells the audience who you are. And that’s an opportunity to do some demonstration of expertise that will help you not in the talk itself.

Drew McLellan:

So don’t be pushy, don’t be salesy. Don’t demonstrate in your proposal that you’re going to be pushy or salesy on the stage. On the flip side of that, what are some things that move you higher in the yes pile? So for example, I know that when Susan and I are looking for places to speak and we know that we’ve got new research that’s coming out, and that this will be one of the first places that people hear about that research. I know that that plays really well with conference organizers. What else are they looking for beyond, “I’m a subject matter expert and I can talk about it.” What are the things that I can talk about, or put in my abstract, or indicate that I have from a topic point of view or a case study point of view, that would make it even more attractive to them?

Steve Markman:

Sure. So demonstrating or talking about research results, that’s always terrific as you just said. Another thing that is always at the top of the list is co-presenting with not another agency person, but with a client. So if you co-present with an executive of a client that you’ve implemented a plan for, you’ve done some work with. And that’s a piece of what you are going to talk about, could be half of it. That’s terrific.

So what I like to recommend there is that the agency person talks about things that would apply to everybody, and that everybody would get great information about from an agency perspective, sort of a global perspective. And then you introduce your client Mary Smith, and Mary is going to talk about a program that you implemented that is an integrated marketing plan. Just making this up as I go now, and she’s going to talk about how it resulted in a 40% increase in revenue and a major number of hits on social media, etc., etc.

So now the conference organizer, when they see that description, they think, “Okay, so I’m getting the practical information from the client. And I’m also getting the worldview from an agency that talks to a lot of clients.” You get the best of both worlds. So that probably has the edge over an agency person talking about just the concepts that they know about.

The next best thing if you can’t get a co-presenter is to do a case study. Spend five or 10 minutes talking about a client, hopefully getting permission from that client to do it without them. And being able to name who that client is so people can say, “Oh yeah, I learned about how General Motors did X, Y, Z. And I can use that in my business, because it’s similar to the problems that we have.”

Drew McLellan:

Okay. If I don’t have a client who is going to share the stage with me, are there any other things I can do to be particularly attractive to the conference organizers?

Steve Markman:

Well, having new information is always good. Something that’s not the same old, same old. When social media first started to come to the fore, it was new. So the first 10 or 15 people who said, “I’m a social media expert,” they got on the circuit a lot. Now, it’s thousands of people doing that, and it’s old hat. And if you don’t know about social media, you got to climb out from under the rock and get with the world. But you may have a way of thinking of how clients should approach something that’s different. And if you can give examples of how you’ve done that with certain clients, that would be helpful.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So we’re getting close to the end of our time together. So I want to circle back to what I think is one of the sticking points for many agency owners, which is this whole idea of compensation. So if they’re not going to pay me to speak, what is reasonable to ask for? Because I want to be on that stage. And I know that it’s critical that I’m there. And I know that it’s critical that I somehow can have ongoing communication with the people in the audience. So is it reasonable to ask for an attendee list? Is it reasonable to ask for my badge or my attendance fee to be waived? Is it reasonable to ask for travel? What falls into the reasonable category?

Steve Markman:

Right. So I’ll take those in the order that you asked. So in terms of the list of attendees, that’s 99.9% going to be a waste of time. They just don’t give it out. They don’t even give it out to the 50 and $60,000 sponsors. They keep that information pretty close to the vest. Sometimes if you are a big sponsor like that, they will say, “We’ll give you the attendee list.” They’re really trying to avoid what they know is going to happen. Someone’s going to do a mailing and use this as a marketing tool. So they try not to do that.

Certainly if you’re just a speaker, not to downplay say just a speaker, but if you’re not the keynote speaker or you’re not a big sponsor, you’re not going to get that list. In 90% of the cases, you’re not even going to get your expenses paid. Is it reasonable to ask? Sure. Because you may be that 10% that they say yes, or you may be a name in the industry. And they say, “We’ll make an exception and we’ll pay for part of your expenses.” They may not pay your round trip airfare, but they may pay up to three or $400 for your airfare. If the conference is typically at a hotel or a convention center that’s connected to a hotel, they’re getting a break and free rooms in some cases on some of their hotels. So they may give you a free hotel room. So I always ask. They say no, they say no.

What you need to be prepared to know is that the answer is going to be no to pretty much everything that you just asked for, right? No to the list, no to the expense coverage. No to pretty much anything you want of compensatory value. So the value that you have to decide even before you submit and go down this road of some time consumption, you have to decide do you want to speak here? If the answer is I can’t get anything other than being on a stage in front of potential customers and clients. If the answer to that is it’s still worth it, then go for it. If it’s not and it’s sort of borderline, my feeling is then don’t do it at all. Because you don’t have that kind of time as an agency owner or a senior executive to waste your time doing something that is not in front of the right audience. And in that case, don’t even bother doing it.

Drew McLellan:

So if I’m not going to get the attendee list, are there some techniques where I can collect names? So for example, when we do the Agency Edge Research presentations, we always include a text number that says, “If you send a text to this number, we will be able to email you the summary of the research,” which obviously we can’t hand out here in the conference. Are there other things that agency owners can do to try and get contact information from at least the audience that’s in the room, if not the whole conference?

Steve Markman:

Well, so I suggest that you as a speaker bring somebody with you to work the room. One thing that you asked me before that I forgot to mention is getting a free conference.

So up until about 10 years ago, it was 100% that any speaker at a conference got a free pass for the full conference. That’s starting to change a bit. There are some conferences that say you only can go to your session or your day. There are others that give a discount, which personally I think is crazy. Someone’s giving up their time. They’re not getting paid. They’re not getting expenses paid. Give them a free ticket and a rubber chicken lunch. But they somehow think that they’re leaving money on the table, and I don’t think they realize that. But that’s a very small percentage. Most of the time, you’re going to get a free pass to go.

So if that’s the case, I say bring somebody with you to work the room. Bring a colleague. Don’t just go in and out. I really recommend staying for at least a lunch, some of the networking, maybe a reception if you can. can’t always work it that way. But if not, bring a colleague and have the colleagues stay, and get as many business cards as you possibly can get.

And then you could also ask the conference organizer if they would allow some way, and they may have their own built-in method of collecting cards or telling people that if they give you their card, you’ll send them something. You need to clear that in advance so they’re not surprised, because you don’t want to jeopardize any relationship you have with them so you’re invited back. But I would talk to them in advance.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So last question. How much is too much? Can an agency owner be so many stages, that they become old news to their audience? Is that such a thing, or should it really be our goal if we do have a subject matter expertise within our agency to be the right stages no matter how many that number may be?

Steve Markman:

Sure. So I think let me rephrase that question a bit, or restructure it a bit to say that there is usually not that problem to begin with. So speaking is much harder than most people realize. There’s so many people that want to speak. It’s extremely competitive. Sometimes I get calls from people that say, “I only want to speak once a month.” And I sort of chuckle to myself because I’m thinking they’re not going to speak once a month, so it’s not a problem. It’s very competitive. If you can get on as many stages as possible because you have something amazing to say and people want to hear it, go for it. I don’t think there’s ever too much. The reality is you’re probably going to get three or four a year and that no one’s going to say, “I keep seeing him every time place I go.” Because the conference organizers are also following the other conferences. And if someone is overused, they won’t want to have you at every conference anyway.

Drew McLellan:

Got it. Got it. Steve, this has been great. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and all of these practical tips. I know this is a big to-do on many agency owners’ lists. So I think that this episode will help many of them advance that along much quicker and much more successfully than before. So thank you for your time.

Steve Markman:

You’re very welcome. And I’ll say what I preached before. If anybody has questions or needs any follow-up information, happy to talk to them.

Drew McLellan:

So what are the best ways for them to track you down Steve, and to learn more about what you do, and some of the educational materials that you have and that sort of thing?

Steve Markman:

Sure. So my website is markmanspeaker.com. The company is Markman Speaker Management. And my phone number is area code (781) 444-7500. My email which is on my website is [email protected] And I’m based outside of Boston, and I travel wherever somebody needs me for training or coaching. So happy to talk to people about that as well.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome. We’ll include all of that in the show notes.

All right guys. So this wraps up another episode of Build A Better Agency. And as always, my goal with these conversations is to give you things to put on your to-do list, or give you things to cross off your to-do list to keep you from making some bad choices. So hopefully, you had a lot of takeaways from this episode, and you are thinking about how to build out the toolkit that you need to even begin presenting yourself as a speaker, and some of the best practices that Steve walked us through.

I also want to remind you that every week, we do a giveaway. So many of our podcast guests are authors, or have courses, or have something else that they sell as a general rule, that they are happy to give us for free, which we’re grateful for. And then we do a giveaway of those items every week. So if you have not signed up for our weekly podcast giveaway, head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com/ and then all one word, podcastgiveaway. Put in your name and your email address. You only have to do it once, and you’re in the drawing every week for whatever it is we’re giving away. Sometimes we give away an AMI workshop, or a seat in one of our on-demand courses. And we certainly are often giving away books or courses from our guests as well. So head over there and sign up for that.

In the meantime, I will be back next week with another guest to help you think about your agency in a new way. And if you need me before that, you know how to find me at agencymanagementinstitute.com. There’s a contact us box there that you can fill out, or you can always just shoot me an email at [email protected] I will talk to you next week. Thanks.

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Build A Better Agency. Visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to check out our workshops, coaching packages, and all the other ways we serve agencies just like yours. Thanks for listening.