Last Wednesday I was given the privilege of speaking at the Distilled Live Meetup which, somewhat scarily, was my first time getting up in front of the SEO industry. Fortunately, it went as well as I could ever have hoped (slide deck here for anyone who’s interested) with some great feedback but that isn’t really the point of this post…
What I really want to do is give some tips to people who’re looking to start speaking at events, and also say thanks to a few people who’ve helped me out.
So, as I mentioned on Wednesday, I’ve been lucky enough over the last year or two to speak at a few different events, and have a few others lined up which include BlogPaws 2013 in Washington, but this one was different… Distilled are one of the most trusted agencies in the world, those who follow them know their SEO, and speaking to your peers is an entirely more frightening experience than speaking to people who have very little idea what you’re talking about.
Learning to Present
By nature I’m quite a shy person and it’s taken me a long time to get over that (I’m talking going back to when I was at school and decided to take drama more than half a life ago) so don’t for a minute think that you need to be a real extrovert to start doing this kind of thing. Just build up your confidence slowly, watch yourself on video if you can, and make sure that you really know your subject… getting that bit right, for me, is half the battle. After that you’ll find that you can just talk naturally and with authority about your topic.
One important thing to remember, though, is that when you’re on stage you’re selling. Not a product. Or a service. You’re selling you and your knowledge.
Before pitching yourself to the industry make sure that you have some speaking experience; the last thing you want to do is make a complete arse of yourself by stuttering through a slide deck infront of the people in your industry! Whether it’s in front of small business network groups, going back to your University to present to students, at blogging conferences, giving free seminars… to be honest, anything that gets you in front of people is worth doing.
Again, I’ve been lucky enough to get myself invited to a few events in the past (from those listed above to Facebook developer conferences back in the early days of Hidden Pixel) and it really is just practice, practice, practice.
My first piece of advice for anyone wanting to start talking at industry events is to actually go to them. There are loads of Meetups in London every month – including those run by Distilled, SearchLondon and OMN - and plenty across other cities across the world… just get yourself to meetup.com and see what you can find. Primarily they’re great for a free couple of beers, a few nibbles, and the chance to meet people within the industry.
To be honest though, doing that isn’t why I was given this chance. The real reason is that I’ve been to more distilled conferences than I care to remember, went to the speakers dinner before SearchLove last year, asked Wil Reynolds and Will Critchlow for advice on speaking, and then a little later spoke to Lynsey and Lauren about letting me get on stage.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that you need to make friends. But not because you want something… because you really love what you do. I don’t think I’ll get any work from speaking at the meetup – if anything I gave my competitors an insight into how to make their processes better and increase their margins – but that’s what it’s all about… helping people and sharing knowledge.
Finally, a bit about the night
Although this isn’t a write-up of the night, it’s probably prudent to mention that the stuff that Tom Anthony and Marcus Taylor talked about was all really, really interesting – particularly Tom’s breakdown of the percentages of ‘safe’ and ‘risky’ content that you should be working on (full set of slides here). I hadn’t met Marcus before but it was an absolute pleasure – if you’re in the music industry and need some marketing I’d definitely advise getting in touch with him!
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments, drop me an email directly, or look me up on twitter – @mattbeswick.