Episode 409

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One of the most powerful new business tools to establish credibility as an agency is right at our fingertips. Finding speaking opportunities at conferences, trade shows, and even as a podcast guest is a great first step to entering the world of thought leadership.

While it may seem daunting initially, especially if you’re new to this, thought leadership is about as easy as simple networking. Your network can get you into spaces you’ve never dreamed of if you have the right tools to navigate it.

This week, Katy Boos is giving us those tools to show us how practical and valuable thought leadership and public speaking can be for agency owners and leaders. With in-person events making a huge comeback post-Covid, the need for the best and brightest speakers is on the rise, too. Tune in to learn how to get your ideas in front of the right audience and establish yourself and your agency as one of the next great thought leaders.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

thought leadership

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The top most beneficial reasons for speaking at an event
  • Speaking at a big event vs. the right event
  • Looking beyond the room you’re speaking in
  • Determining who’s the right person to put on the stage
  • Narrowing down your topic and finding the right-fit audience
  • The post-Covid trade show and conference outlook
  • How to get conference organizers hyped up on your thought leadership
  • Getting in front of the right podcast audience
  • Creating content from your speaking event
  • Common mistakes that get us a “no” from conference organizers
  • Getting your foot in the door

“Sometimes it can be those smaller events that are exactly the right fit target you're trying to reach. Those smaller, midsize events can be great.” - Katy Boos Click To Tweet
“If you are curious about an event, look at the sponsorship opportunities. The sponsorship packet is where you get all the meat about gender title rules, companies, and regions. That will tell you who will be there.” - Katy Boos Click To Tweet
“When you see, ‘Presented by x, y, z company,’ it immediately takes away a chunk of credibility. You know that someone paid for that session. And you know that at some level you will be sold to.” - Katy Boos Click To Tweet
“I think it comes down to the topics. What topics are you bringing, and are they compelling and interesting? And are you someone credible to speak about those topics?” - Katy Boos Click To Tweet
“We're pitching events 3, 6, 9 months out. So you really need to be forward-looking about what's happening and what you think will be of interest at that point in time.” - Katy Boos Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Katy:

Resources:

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute community, where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money, and keep more of the money you make. The Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ is packed with insights on how small to mid-sized agencies are getting things done. Bringing his 25 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. If you are a regular listener, welcome back. Thanks for coming back. If this is one of your first episodes or maybe your first episode, glad to have you with us. Goal of this podcast is super simple, just to give you ideas and introduce you to folks who can help you run your agency better, more profitably, so that you have a more scalable, sustainable agency. We try and do that every week, whether it’s me doing a solo cast or I have a great smart guest with me who’s going to help us think a little differently about our business. So, that’s what we have this week is we have a really great guest, and I’ll tell you about her in a minute.

But first, if you are looking for short, sweet, soundbite-sized ideas on how to think about your agency differently as either an agency owner or an agency leader, we have a whole series of videos on our website. So, if you go to the Agency Management Institute website under the Resource tab, you’ll see weekly videos and each one of those videos is three or four minutes long on a variety of topics. It might be staffing, it might be a money issue, it might be biz dev. You can usually tell by the title what topic is or what the ballpark topic is. You can start from the beginning and watch all of them or you can search by topic.

You also can go to the YouTube channel if you would prefer to view them there, but hundreds of videos there, all of them with a unique and fresh tip, no repeats, I promise, of how you can run your business better. So, again, just something we do every week to try and be helpful. If those are useful to you, I encourage you to go check those out. So, with that, let me tell you a little bit about our guest. So, Katy Boos owns an agency out in California, and as she will tell you, what they focus on is getting their clients thought leadership positions specifically by placing them on stages at events and positioning them as podcast guests.

So, again, trade shows, conferences, events like that, and then podcasts. So, what I want to talk to her about is, “How can we as agency owners and leaders leverage that marketing strategy for ourselves and for our client?” Katy is smart and generous, and you are going to enjoy getting to know her while we learn from her. So, without any further ado, let’s welcome her to the show. Katy, welcome to the podcast.

Katy Boos:

Thanks, Drew. I’m so excited to be here.

Drew McLellan:

Me, too. I’m glad to have you. So, tell everybody a little bit about your background and how you help clients because we’re going to dig into that this hour. I think it’s going to be super helpful for agencies, agency owners, both for their own agency promotion, but also to think about for their clients. So, give everybody a little sense of how you spend your days.

Katy Boos:

Sure. Well, my background is traditional PR. So, I started out working in PR agencies, ended up working at Apple for about seven years in PR, co-founded another agency, and at that point, really realized that what I enjoyed the most was working with clients on thought leadership. As a result, I ended up spinning off of that agency and about six and a half years ago started Remix Communications. That’s our focus is thought leadership. So, we place our clients as speakers at top events, we place them on podcasts where they’re guests, and then we create complimentary content to go with that.

Drew McLellan:

So for you guys in the vernacular of the sell with authority is your client’s cornerstone or their big piece of content is speaking engagements and podcasts and then you’re making cobblestones off of that cornerstone, right?

Katy Boos:

Correct. Correct, exactly. Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

It’s interesting. I have a lot of agency owners say to me, “Boy, if I can get on a stage, I’m going to walk away with an opportunity to either do a proposal or I’m going to get a new client.” So clearly, that’s a viable venue. I think podcasts today, we have a lot of people who come on our podcast and afterwards are like, “Holy buckets. It’s like the floodgates opened and we got a lot of inquiries about our work and the connections and things like that.” So I’m assuming for your clients, they’re seeing similar results.

Katy Boos:

Exactly. Yeah. I mean, if you think about why does somebody want to speak at an event, people have different reasons and sometimes it’s obviously to promote the company, the company’s messages, that sort of thing, but it can really vary. A lot of our clients use it as a recruiting tool. For example, we work with a lot of large tech companies and it’s hard to find data scientists or cybersecurity professionals.

Drew McLellan:

Sure.

Katy Boos:

So if they can be at an event and get in front of those people, all of a sudden, the people in the audience are like, “Oh, I want to work for that company. They’ve got it all going on. They’re thought leaders.” So those are a couple of reasons.

Drew McLellan:

That’s an interesting take is it’s not just about getting new clients, but it’s also about attracting talent.

Katy Boos:

Exactly. People can have personal motivations too for wanting to speak. So, it might be their own personal brand. They might be looking to get a promotion. Maybe they’re thinking of writing a book or they have written a book and they want to get out there. So, there’s that. Networking with other people at events, including people who might be on your panel, for example, that can be a great thing. Then we also see the benefit of speaking in terms of ending up with some really interesting content that you can leverage. If you have a talk, why not promote that before, during, and after the session in bite-sized pieces? So yeah, there’s just a ton of reasons why people want to speak.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I would also think sticking on the employment thing for a minute, it’s also a great retention tool. Everybody wants the CEO of their company or some high ranking official in their company to speak at cool events or to be somebody who is a high ranking official and gets to speak at cool events. I mean, that would make me want to stay at the company that presents me with that opportunity.

Katy Boos:

Absolutely. It gives you that credibility in the industry that you are on stage at this big event.

Drew McLellan:

Well, is it always big events? Does it have to be that or is it about the right event?

Katy Boos:

That’s such a good question. We talk about that a lot. Sometimes it can be those smaller events. If it’s exactly the right fit target people that you’re trying to reach, those smaller and mid-sized events can be great.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and a lot of times, they’re more intimate, so you get more interaction with the audience, they feel more likely to approach you, things like that.

Katy Boos:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s not always about the number of people in the audience. If you have 25 people in the audience that sounds, “Oh, my gosh. Was this worth my time?”, well, maybe if it was 25 perfect people. But on that note, one thing that we really look at is, “How can we go beyond the room?” So you’ve got the 25 people in their seats, what about the 2,500 people who are just like those people who couldn’t go to that event? How do you reach them? So, that’s where I think the power of leveraging that opportunity for social media and for other types of content is really, really important.

Drew McLellan:

As part of your work, when you’re placing a speaker, are you also negotiating with whoever that presenting organization is to help them find more opportunities? For example, hey, Drew’s going to speak at your event, but he’d also like to write an article for your newsletter. Is that part of your job when you are representing a client to look for, as you say, what beyond the room can the organization even give you?

Katy Boos:

Yeah, yes, for sure. We look for opportunities like that with the organization. We always like to work with PR agencies. When we have that opportunity to collaborate with the people who are doing media relations for our clients, we love to collaborate with them. Part of that is because we have that relationship with the conference, we’ll negotiate and try to get the list of preregistered press, for example, who are attending. So, when we can get that, we can share that with the PR agency who then can set up one-on-one press interviews at the event. So, that’s another example of going beyond the room.

Drew McLellan:

On behalf of your clients, how do you evaluate who should speak? So is it always the CEO? So for an agency owner, oftentimes, they’re the thought leader. So, is it whoever is the public facing thought leader or is it something… I have a lot of agency owners say, “I’ll write a book, I’ll write blog posts, but for the love of God, do not ask me to be on stage in front of people. I just can’t do it.” So how do you help clients determine who’s the right person to put on that stage or on that podcast?

Katy Boos:

Some people do not want to get on stage, period. So, we have to really respect that. Some people are afraid but willing to try it. In those cases, one approach that we like to take is let’s ease them in. Let’s do some panels, for example. Panels are much lower lift. You can sit with a number of people. You don’t have to create a formal presentation, just have a few messages that you want to share, and you get to meet some cool people and go to a good event. So, that’s a great way to ease somebody into speaking. In general, what happens is those people who really want to speak, they make that known. We find that out in the process of working with the company, but we also really look at the topics.

So, for example, I mentioned data science that it’s hard to hire data scientists right now. Well, maybe you have a VP of technology or CTO that really can speak to that, and they’re somebody that is willing to get out there. So, that’s what we look at is, “Who’s got the good topics, who’s willing to speak, who can with some coaching get out there and be in front of people?”

Drew McLellan:

How do you help a client? So if I’m an agency owner, how do I determine what I know that is of value to an audience? And then how do I match what I know that is of value with the right podcast or event? So two-part question, I guess. For number one, most people know a little or a lot about a lot of things. How do I narrow the focus to find something that’s really a nugget of value? And then two, how do I match that with the right venue?

Katy Boos:

A narrowed focus is often the best way to go. If you go pitch an idea-

Drew McLellan:

That makes me happy when you say that, right?

Katy Boos:

I know, niche down. Absolutely, but it’s so funny. It’s like people will pitch ideas to conferences and say like, “Oh, what’s happening with AI?” That’s a huge topic. It’s way too broad, right? So what if you said, “What’s happening with AI and public relations?” and really took a slice of it? You could even go down from there. So, I think that’s one thing is to really consider how narrow and specific can you go and still have enough to speak about, and then is it something provocative? Sometimes that can be a way to get in the door as well. We like to meet with our clients and we have these story mining sessions, where we brainstorm with them, we ask them lots of questions, and we come up with these angles that maybe they hadn’t thought of.

So, it can be something that maybe it’s more of a personal angle, maybe it’s something that the company’s doing around DEI, for example, that they hadn’t really thought of talking about, but it’s something that we know that conference organizers are interested in. So, I’d say that that’s like the first part of your question. Then the second part is, “How do you find those events that are the right fit?” It’s really important to think about who do you want in those seats, right? So who are the people that you want to be talking to? And then it’s really a matter of digging. If you don’t already know the event landscape, it’s digging, “Where do those people go? What events do they attend?” and trying to narrow the focus that way.

One tip I would give to people is if you are curious about an event, you want to know the demographics, it’s not obvious, go down and look at the sponsorship opportunities. Typically, there will be a sponsorship packet that you can get, and that’s where you get all that meat about gender, title, roles, companies, regions. Are they global or not? So that will tell you who will be there. So, that’s one way to do it. The other thing that’s really important is to look at past agendas and look at who spoke. Is that company on par with your company? Really important is to look at the titles. If it’s all VPs speaking and you’re a director, that’s going to be tough.

Drew McLellan:

A tough sell.

Katy Boos:

A really tough sell. So, you’ve got to really see, “Do you belong there? Does your topic belong? Does your title belong?”, that sort of thing.

Drew McLellan:

So with COVID, we went through two, three years where everything was virtual and painful. Now, I think the trend is live events are back with a vengeance and people want to attend them, but are you finding that are the conferences more or less choosy about their speakers? Is there more or less opportunity? And then I want to talk about podcasts too. I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that there are opportunities other than live events, but right now, for live events, conferences, trade shows, things like that, are there fewer of them? Are the conference planners easier to deal with, harder to deal with? Are they more desperate for great speakers? Are more and more people catching on that this is a great strategy, so it’s harder to get somebody placed?

Katy Boos:

It’s an interesting question. We love to have relationships with conference organizers, and so we’re speaking to them all the time. In some cases, we’re really contributing a lot of great content to them and helping them.

Drew McLellan:

Sure.

Katy Boos:

That’s how we view it, is that we’re helping them by bringing content that they’re interested in. In terms of the events themselves, I do think it’s becoming more competitive. In a couple cases, it was interesting. I did see where some events, they were on hold because of COVID, and so as a result, they were looking for more sponsored speaking sessions where before they were earned speaking sessions. So, hopefully, that’s a trend that we won’t see continuing, but I do understand that they’re trying to make up for lost time during those COVID years when they had to cancel the events.

Drew McLellan:

It’s interesting. With the Summit, our policy is no one can buy a speaking spot. It’s fascinating to me how we get approached by people that’s what they’re looking for. They’re looking to buy a speaking spot. Our rule is absolute that’s just not the point of the conference for us, but clearly, it is a trend that’s happening in the industry because we get hit up for it all the time. We’re a small conference.

Katy Boos:

Right. That’s interesting. I always look at it as when you see presented by X, Y, Z company, it pretty immediately takes away a chunk of credibility. You know that someone paid for that session and you know that at some level you will be sold to. So, with earned sessions, hopefully, you’re not feeling that way at all. In fact, we coach our clients. My rule of thumb is you can mention your company one time in your talk, and it should be by way of example. You shouldn’t be up there continually talking about your company. Really, there’s such a credibility that comes with the association of getting on that stage.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right.

Katy Boos:

Being part of the agenda and being part of all the event promotion and then your own promotion that you really shouldn’t weave that in too much into the fabric of your talk.

Drew McLellan:

Agreed. I mean, that’s part of our expectation too, is for us, sponsorship and speaking as church and state, they’re completely separate and the speakers are there to educate and help and no selling from the stage. We’ve been fortunate that our speakers have been great about that, but I’ve also been to conferences where it feels like the last 15 minutes is a sales pitch.

Katy Boos:

That’s the worst.

Drew McLellan:

I think you actually undo all the credibility that you were given by being on that stage. There’s a sense of almost desperation that comes from that, right?

Katy Boos:

100%.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Katy Boos:

Absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

So in your conversations, because you have these relationships with all these conference organizers, you have a really interesting insight into what gets them excited about a speaker. What gets them whooped up and like, “Oh, my gosh. We have to have this person”? What are they looking for from us as we present ourselves as potential speakers?

Katy Boos:

One thing that a lot of organizers we work with love is when we can bring them a session on a silver platter, and it might be a few top executives on a specific topic that is a little different. So, for example, last year at South by Southwest, we had pitched our clients, which were Adobe and Stitch Fix, and then we wanted to round out that session. So, we invited two other companies that weren’t our clients, LinkedIn and Microsoft, because we knew that that would make just this killer panel. The session was all very high ranking women talking about how to build an inclusive tech culture. So, we got the placement.

Drew McLellan:

Of course, you did.

Katy Boos:

It was amazing. It was standing room only. You might ask yourself, “Well, couldn’t have Adobe done it on their own or couldn’t have Stitch Fix done it on their own?” Maybe, but this made for such a powerful session. Then the extra bonus was all four of those people were promoting it before, during, and after. So, the reach of that particular session, it was standing room only at South by, that’s great, but we really went beyond the room with that session.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think, to your point, an interesting side benefit to that is your two clients met two other powerful influential women in their field, and I’m now thinking as their employer, their network just got stronger and better. We got associated. Our companies got associated with LinkedIn and Microsoft. So, again, that whole idea of recruitment and retention of employees, that’s beautiful. I mean, I think a lot of people don’t think about building a panel around what they do.

I’ve seen some agencies who’ve tried to get speaking gigs where they wanted to do a case study and they presented it with a client. That seemed to be something the conference folks really liked too, was when the client and the agency both told their sides of the story around the work and what happened as the result of the work. So, again, building a panel as opposed to a solo speaker.

Katy Boos:

You bring up such a good point, Drew. We do that a lot. You or your agency or your company, you might be small and not necessarily well-known in the scheme of things, but mayb