Speaking at a large conference may be intimidating to most people, but today’s guest, Stefanie Grieser, explains why marketers should be actively searching for speaking opportunities.
Stefanie, Co-Founder of Shine, the professional speaker accelerator for women, and Director of Marketing at Sphere, shares her first-hand experience on how to land a speaking gig even if you’ve never spoken at a large event before and takes us step by step on how to nail your next presentation.
listen to this episode
- Why speaking at events is something marketers should care about
- Two key characteristics you need to execute a successful speaking engagement
- How to secure large scale speaking gigs
- Tips on choosing a specific, actionable topic
- Identifying conferences or events to target for speaking engagements
- How to successfully pitch yourself to conference organizers
- The components of a great presentation
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour, and welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the no-fluff, actionable, marketing podcast for marketers, founders and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketers. I’m your host, Louis Grenier. In today’s episode, you’ll learn how to secure a large scale speaking gig even if you’ve never spoken at a big event before.
My guest today is the co-founder of Shine, the professional speaker accelerator, for women and director of marketing at, Sphere, a platform democratizing coaching. She was an early employee at Unbounce, founded the Call To Action Conference, helping marketers becoming better at what they do. She’s obviously a big deal, because she was selected as one of the 50 women you need to know in MarTech 2018 and of the top 100 amazing women marketers. So Stefanie Grieser welcome aboard.
Stefanie: Thank you, thank you for having me. What an introduction.
Louis: Yeah and I fucked up the name of your company, and I’m not even going to edit it, that’s how raw we like it in Everyone Hates Marketers. Why is speaking at events something people listening to this podcast right now should care about?
Stefanie: Actually that’s a really great question to start this podcast off with. The other day I saw this tweet that was about Gazeer, I think I might have screwed up her last name, but she talked how much time she’s invested in her speaking. Money, time and talking about being asked to speak for free and the true cost of speaking, and I responded to that, I said it isn’t free, it’s a lot of work, a lot of time and before you speak you have to know that going into it, especially if you’re a speaker that is a little bit new to the speaking circuit.
You have to put a lot more time into honing your skills and your story but it’s also a marketing channel, and we don’t like to think of it as a marketing channel because as soon as we label something a marketing channel then people think, “oh my god, marketing, sales, that’s sleazy,” and that’s why you have this podcast to begin with right?
Essentially speaking can be an excellent marketing channel, it can be like paid advertising, content marketing, or email marketing. Like any other marketing channel, you want to do it right, you have to invest. That’s why you should care about speaking.
It might not be the right channel for everybody but of course, you need to assess whether it’d be great for you. For those people that are listening, that are consultants or work for an agency, speaking can be a great way to get clients.
You speaking on stage is a direct, one-to-many channel, of you sharing your expertise and somebody in the audience listing can be like, “oh, we really need somebody, there’s lots of generalists.” I’m a generalist marketer at Sphere and can I do everything very very well? No, I can do a couple of things really well, where I’m specialized, I’m T shaped and then there’s obviously a ton of things, I’m probably not the most, or the best person to be working on technical SEO, straight up. Or even implementing our paid ad campaigns
So when I go to a marketing conference, and I see somebody speaking that might trigger a thought of me working with them and then you can talk to them afterwards. So anyways, long story short, speaking can be an excellent source of referrals and also if you’re a contractor or a freelancer or work for an agency and also a great marketing channel if you’re in-house.
Louis: I suppose it also brings respect to you, leadership, as a brand, you can be your brand, get direct feedback from people, because you present you get feedback after that, a lot of other benefit. I’m glad you mentioned that it is a marketing channel like anything else that you’re doing as a marketer or someone who wants to get some “sell” stuff or get some clients.
That’s something that we talk about on the podcast a lot is the fact that it’s not that we are talking about it right now this podcast and you’re listening to it that you should do it. I’m not Neil Patel trying to sell you SEO if it’s not the right thing for you, so it might not be the right thing for you, speaking. There are a lot of factors that you should consider before saying, “actually I’m going to try that out.”
So maybe we can touch briefly on what are the traits or attributes of people you’ve seen and you’ve dealt with at Shine and maybe in your career that makes it a worthwhile marketing channel to try out?
Stefanie: I’m so glad you asked that. Speaking might not be for you or might not be the best channel for you. In terms of traits or characteristics, I think that even taking a step back, you kind of need to have something to teach and the first rule of speaking at a conference is that you’re not pitching. It’s so key to not pitch.
Yes, you want to put yourself out there, it’s very similar to content marketing, people can smell bullshit, they can smell a sales pitch. When you’re at a conference and the first slide is how many companies you worked with or a big logo of your company and you go into 3 minutes of what that company does, that immediately turns people off.
You are there to teach people, to give people valuable advice that even if they weren’t to buy your product or hire you as a consultant, that they would walk away with value. I say this to everyone, it’s not a sales pitch, you have to treat it like content marketing essentially.
Speaking is very similar to content marketing, you write blog posts, or you write pieces of content to give people value. My number 1 rule is don’t pitch on stage and it is a very fast way for you to get a reputation of pitching and as a conference organizer, I know that people that I’ve gotten to speak, who were very sales-y and pitch-y in their talk, one, it came out right away in the attendee feedback, it was clear as day, there’s a bunch of attendees that would say that, it would come back in their speaker scores, and also we not ask them to come back again.
Essentially you are shooting yourself in the foot for any future speaking engagements and it to be an actually long term channel for you. So rule number 1, don’t pitch, and provide value.
The second thing that you should do is get people to comment on your talk, or are they getting value? Feedback is the fastest path to excellence when it comes to speaking. It’s why we created Shine in the first place because when you’re creating a slide deck presentation in isolation, and then you go present it in front of 1000 people, 500 people, that might not hit the mark. So get feedback along the way.
Often times when you’re a subject matter expert, so this is another thing, you should be a bit of subject matter expert in what you’re teaching people about and I say teaching not speaking because you really need to get in the mindset or teaching the audience. When you’re a subject matter expert sometimes the basic things you roll over, it’s like asking an expert skier how they ski, sometimes they’re like, “well, I just do it, I don’t know how I do it.”
So you need to break it down for people, so getting feedback is a great way to understand where you might just be skipping from point a to point d instead of explaining, no you need to go A, B, C, D. Get feedback. Make sure that you’re that you’re breaking it down for the audience in a way that they can learn and understand.
Another thing I wanted to bring up is that people often say, “Oh my gosh, I could never speak, I’m an introvert.” One the best introverts, some of the best introverts. Some of the introverts that I know are some of the best speakers. So it doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it’s just about if you have something valuable to teach, if you can break it down in a way, and if you’re willing to get feedback in that process. I think those are some of the main things that you should consider when you’re thinking about speaking.
Louis: Let me summarize what you said before I forget. So you need to have something valuable to teach, you need to be able to break down things into clear, aspects, and bring clarity, break down complex stuff into simple things. You should also enjoy teaching to others, maybe it’s in your team or whatever, you must get a kick out of explaining something to someone else in simple terms, get a kick out of teaching people.
As you said introvert versus extrovert is really not an issue, but you should feel somewhat comfortable speaking in front an audience even if it’s a small one, if it’s your biggest fear, that might be a challenge for you, but there might be other marketing channels focused on, that might be more valuable right? I cut you there, you were about to say something unless you forgot.
Stefanie: I may have forgotten.
Louis: Let’s move onto the practical stuff now, I think we touched on why it’s important, who should do it, and all of that. Let’s go about how to actually secure an upscale speaking gig, step by step, and how to do it. It’s great because of the Shine bootcamp that you’re running, it seems to be a very very strong methodology right?
I’m especially curious about how to do it when you’re not a white male, in their 30s, who has been super lucky in life, who can just have a bit more ease to get those speaking gigs than others. Let’s talk in particular about people who are not in this category, who can get value out of it, even if they don’t have a network and all of that, shall we?
Stefanie: Yeah of course. I would say just to that one point, white men will raise their hand though, even if they aren’t, maybe they’re 60% ready, they’ll raise their hand and say, “yep, sign me up, I’ll speak,” versus somebody else, some of the women who might not, A, raise their hands or, B, they feel like they have to be 100% ready to raise their hands.
I would say raise your hands, if you have something to teach, you know you have something to learn, even just raising your hand to speak. Once you have that speaking gig secured or if you pitch, and you get that, even if it’s small, if it’s 100 or 200 people, raise your hand because you’ll do the work because there’s a timeline and a deadline.
I would never classify myself as a speaker, I speak because I have something to teach, but right now I wouldn’t say I’m on a speaking circuit because I have a lot of work to do but I don’t necessarily have a message or a story to teach. If you have something to teach that’s when you can really start.
I remember when I got invited to the 10th coffee meeting, where somebody’s like, “Stef I heard that you built CTA conference, I really want to know about the marketing behind it, can you meet me for coffee?” I was like, wow this is the 10th coffee, I think that I have something to teach, because I would go to these coffees and then afterwards I would get presents or I would get emails and be like, “oh my god, thank you so much, you were so, everything you told me was so valuable,” so I was like, okay clearly at this stage, I have something to share so that was what I wanted to get into in the last question.
To answer your question right now when it comes to how you secure large scale, speaking gigs. One, I would say start small, even go to a meet up, start on a panel, especially if it terrifies you, do a couple of those, even a smaller conference of 200, 300, 400 people. Start pitching organizers there.
I’m just going to back up and say, I was a conference organizer, and I put lots up and coming speakers on stage, that hadn’t spoken before and people that have pitched me to speak. So, one, play the long game, you might have a conference in mind that you want to speak at, you might not speak there the first year but attend that conference, put some skin in the game.
Go there, look at the type of speakers, the type of content, sit and be an attendee. Talk to other attendees about which speakers did really well and which ones didn’t. Get a sense and a feel for that conference and go meet the conference organizer in real life. They’re probably running around with their head cut off. Say the last day if there’s an after party or there’s a networking event and they happened to be there, go and introduce yourself.
Tweet about the conference, so they know that you’re being active and then after that email them like, “hey, I’ve noticed that this is the type of content that resonated with your audience, I talked to a lot of attendees, I’m thinking that I could be a really great speaker at the next year, here’s something I think your audience would find valuable.”
As a conference organizer and you can ask many others, there are so many blank template pitches, and it’s usually from a PR person on behalf of a CEO. Hello name, could we speak at your conference, here’s this person’s bio, copy pasted, no effort put in whatsoever. I know for me I was like delete, delete, delete, delete.
When I have a pitch that comes through that was like, “hey I was an attendee at your conference, here’s a couple of things that I noticed, here’s what your audience loves, here’s the session that I loved,” it’s so much more authentic, and you put some skin in the game.
So would say A, play the long game, two, go to some of the conferences you want to speak at, I know that you’re like, “whoa this is a lot of time and effort, but it’s like, yeah, like any marketing channel, it’s going to be a lot of time and effort. Once you secure that big speaking gig, maybe the dream conference, or a conference that you’re like, “yeah, this is what I’ve been working toward,” work your ass off to make sure that your talk is good and that you don’t pitch.
Louis: So, a lot of interesting stuff, let me break it down. It sounds like the first thing you’re saying, is to actually first identify worth talking about right? As you said if you notice that a lot of members ask you the same thing over and over again, or that you receive emails from people asking you the same thing over and over again, and you know that it’s valuable, it’s worth doing it, and extracting that as a topic right?
You need to get a sense of whether what you want to talk about is valuable or not. It seems like that before identifying what conferences to attend and talk to organizers, it sounds like you probably need to first have a good idea of what you want to talk about in the first place yeah?
Stefanie: Yeah for sure.
Louis: On that front, on the story front, do you have any other recommendations for people to pick a topic that is specific, actionable, tailored to a specific audience, what are your tips here?
Stefanie: Yeah, so I would, well if you have an idea that you want to speak, maybe in a year, you feel like you’re gaining expertise, you feel like I have something to teach. Start writing things down, examples, screenshotting examples in your work, or writing down a process, kind of like you’re writing a blog post. Now you don’t have to publish it, but I know that I have a medium draft folder, and I also have a folder on my Google Drive where I write down my process, the lessons learned, because writing clears your mind and makes you write things in a way that you would have to teach somebody else.
There’s often times so many things that are going on in our head and once we sit down and we write, it becomes clear. What makes sense? What’s the flow? Even if it’s pretty messy, even if you’re never going to publish it. I know I have a folder full of stuff, where it’s like, step 1, step 2, step 3 or here’s some of the lessons I learned from doing this marketing campaign.
Right now, the company for which I work, Sphere, we just went through beta and I wrote an entire lessons learned from our beta about building a marketplace or marketing a marketplace because it’s so hard to market a marketplace. You have 2 audiences and I’ve learned so much that I’ve started writing down what I learnt, so that maybe in 2 years, I mean I’m still learning, but maybe in 2 years I have a folder of things, I have this folder of things that I can teach and I have screenshots of specific… Maybe it’s even customer feedback that you can all of sudden drag into your presentation. You have all these little things in one folder.
I actually have a really good analogy. The other day I went to a conference and I listened to a lady speak who wrote a cookbook. Actually how she started her cookbook is she got all these different recipes over 5 years and she just put them in a folder, put them in folder, put them in a folder, and then she basically she had her cookbook over 5 years, she just had them in a folder and then she was ready to publish them.
Louis: So you need to take a lot of notes, you need to be curious, you need to take notes based on what you’re doing, based on the retrospectives you’re team is running, there’s lot of things you can do to take notes, to make sure that you keep a record of what you’re doing right?
Louis: And that’s another good way to build things without having to… You raise your hand and you say I’m going to speak there and you’re like, “shit, what I am going to speak about?” Right?
Stefanie: Can you repeat that?
Louis: You collect a lot of stuff, you get a lot of notes, you keep records of everything you do and it prevents you from you raise your hands, you go and pitch at a conference, and then you have nothing to write about or to talk about, you don’t know where to start right?
Stefanie: Yeah exactly. Even just journaling. There was one person at our boot camp last year, who was like, “I’m not sure what I should write about, but I have a couple of ideas,” and I told her to write an outline. Essentially she had a journal, and I said, “okay, you have these two ideas, here are the things that you can teach, why don’t you write an outline for each of them and try and pick examples for each point you want to make, and see which one resonates with you more.” I would do that.
Louis: Another thing you would say about this topic of outline and how to write a proper outline is to keep things super specific and actionable right? That’s actually the lesson I learned through this podcast. It’s easy for me, and you to talk about so many different topics on marketing, you can talk about marketplace, we can talk about to speak, how to pitch, we can talk about so many things but we pick one core topic that is how to secure a large scale speaking gig, and we’re just going to go and dive into that.
People like specificity. It’s easier to be specific when you pick a very narrow audience as well. Anyways, those things we talked about in the podcast many times over and this applies to speaking.
Let’s say you have an outline or two, core ideas that are super specific, that you know people find useful because you talked to them before, you talked to your colleagues, you talked to friends, you talked to people who wanted your advice, you it’s valuable so that’s step 1, we have a story to tell, right?
Now, I think you touched on it before, but what is step 2 when it comes to okay you have an outline, you started, you said attend conferences or events, so it sounds like you need to pick a few events you’d like to speak to and attend them or at least get in touch with organizers and get to know what is going on at those events.
Stefanie: Mm-hmm (affirmative), so sorry, what was your question?
Louis: I know I’m speaking to myself a bit here. How do you select the conferences or events that you should go after? Which should you pick if you’ve never spoke at a big conference before?
Stefanie: How should you pick the conferences you should go speak at? If we’re talking about marketing, or speaking as a marketing channel, you should speak at some of the conferences that your audience loves. I know that when I was building out the event program at Unbounce, even at the Sphere, what I’m doing now, is just asking people where do you go to learn? What blogs do you read, what people do you follow, what conferences do you go to, to learn?
If you ask your audience or your customers, even asking your customers, that’s one of the biggest marketing mistakes there is, is not asking your customers, what they do? How they do it? Why they do it? And your message completely misses the mark, because you’re not marketing the right place, or you don’t understand them. Talk to your best customers, ask them, “what conferences do you go to?” That’s a really good indication.
Then I would say after you have a short list of conferences, is go research them, go into the depths of researching them. I like calling it the depths of… My boyfriend is like, “oh, you research, but you really went hard on internet creeping,” because you can really find out a lot, just researching not only Google, but Twitter and Instagram who’s in charge of that conference and the history and when it started and really getting a very solid understanding of even the history of that conference because maybe the conference started out targeting this person, but they switched.
Just knowing, knowledge is power, just know a lot and then know about, research the speakers, do they have speaker videos, watch them. Sometimes you don’t even have to go to the conference if they have really great speaker videos, and you can watch all the videos, and you can understand the content that’s there, who they’re trying to target, and stuff like that. I would say know your customer, pick a conference and then go deep and research. Then you can kind of start from there.
Being a new speaker and trying to get a large scale speaking gig, or a paid speaking gig even is tough when you haven’t been a speaker before. It’s like a catch 22, you can’t become a speaker because you aren’t one but how do you become one if nobody’s giving you a shot. People love seeing videos, so even if you haven’t spoken before, maybe it’s going on a couple of podcasts, going on some webinars, showing that you have clout, showing that you have something to say, that you can teach something, that you can be articulate in the way that you present your message, your story. Start doing that to give you a little bit of credibility.
Even if you didn’t have a speaker video, maybe you have a couple links to a podcast or to a webinar, so people can understand. Even then, I mean with Shine, one of the biggest things that we… It costs a lot of money for us to produce videos, but having a video of you speaking even if it’s a small meetup is a game changer because conference organizers, maybe they have a couple slots for some really big time speakers that are professionals, that have been doing this for 10 years, maybe they’re even paid speakers but maybe there are a couple of slots that are saved for some up and comers.
I know I always did because as a conference organizer you don’t want to see the same old people speaking again and again that typically happens. You see a conference list, or you see a conference lineup, and you’re like, wow, these are typically the people that speak, but I would say being able to show that conference organizer that you have a video, they can see a video of you speaking to understand what you’re all about is a great asset to have.
I know people complain because they’ll go speak at a conference and there is no video, the conference organizer doesn’t give them a video. Videos are really really tough. I know at Call To Action conference we videoed everybody and everybody got a high res video of them speaking on stage but that’s an exception, lots of conferences don’t do that so have your friend be in the front and video you, it’s as simple as that.
Louis: So let me break down what you said before, which is great. The first way to identify the conferences you need to speak to or the events that you need to speak to is to ask your customers which is pretty obvious but many many people don’t do that. What are the conferences people attend? What are the conferences that people you want to attract attend? You just ask them and then you make a list and you prioritize right?
Then you talked about doing some proper internet creeping research to understand, just like you would understand your audience, you understand the conference history, you understand who’s spoke there, who tends to speak there, what is the vibe there, what is the vision, what are the values, is it for you, is it not for you? Then you try to look and watch some speaker videos.
If they don’t provide speaker videos, probably you’re going to need to attend right? Or at least ask other people who attended, what is it like? Or maybe get in touch with a speaker and say what did you speak about?
Once you have that then, we started to talk more about the next step, which is now you’ve never spoken at a big conference before and as you said it’s a catch 22, because you’ve never spoken to one, you can’t speak to one, and therefore, how are you supposed to get that?
What you mention here is kind of the “foot in the door” principle or at least showing small commitments so you get invited to a few podcast episodes, you do a few webinars. Could you also do and it’s genuine question here, could you also do video yourself? Speaking through something. I don’t know a YouTube video? Where you go through and explain concepts?
Stefanie: 100%, any kind of channel, a YouTube channel, I picked podcasts and webinars, but if you wanted to create a YouTube channel explaining something, yes. Even writing, so if you’re writing blog posts about your area of subject matter expertise, that also shows a lot.
I remember Joanna Wiebe, she’s original, convergent copywriter, she writes a ton, she gives so much value to her audience, she’d never spoken before, on a large stage before I asked her. The thing is we knew she would be good because she teaches YouTube video editorials, webinars, she writes a lot, you just knew that she loves teaching, that’s what she does with Copy Hackers, you just knew she would be good on stage and she got the number 1 rating of everybody.
Anything you can do to show that your subject matter expertise and that you have a story and something awesome to share will get you a foot in the door.
Louis: So don’t be afraid to share stuff earnestly, as you said and it’s going to take years sometimes, not sometimes, it is going to take years to provide value to your audience, to be known as someone who knows their stuff in the specific area, speaking on podcasts, webinars, YouTube videos, writing blog posts.
It sounds like it’s not really evidence of your ability to speak, it’s more your ability to think properly, to explain complex things in simple terms, structure your stuff, et cetera, et cetera, right? So it sounds pretty good for people who’ve never spoken before to actually do it.
Stefanie: 100% yes. It’s so funny I was asked this the other day, they’re like, “oh, what is your best coping mechanism to get over the nerves?” You’re never not nervous, you’re just prepared but the nerves never go away.
Even professional speakers, Brene Brown, even when I talked to Oli Gardner from Unbounce, he still gets nervous. It’s not about that, it’s about being prepared and about having something interesting and unique to share and giving value back to the audience. It’s really not that unapproachable. People think it is. Yes, you have to put a lot of time and effort into it but it’s not impossible whatsoever.
Louis: Yeah you can do it and especially if you’re not used to raising your hands as you said at the start. If you’re not used to take opportunities this way or show up in front of people and teach. If you feel like it’s the right thing for you to do, do it. If you’re listening to this episode right now and not to sure about whether you need to do it or not then you should do it. Especially again if you’re from a minority and you’re not used to seeing people like you on stage, just fucking do it.
So now we are at the stage where we’ve done things, we’ve taught people, we’ve shown, we have proof that we’ve taught people. You have webinars, podcast episodes, YouTube videos, anything else that shows, that you can teach, and you spread value.
Now it’s sounds like it’s time to pitch, it sounds like you need to get in touch with people. You started to talk on that and you have a very unique perspective since you were on the other end of receiving the pitches and you already said a few things which are already do not send blanket, fucking, email like everyone else does and you may already stand out. What other things would you say people to do or not to do when it comes to pitching at events, for events.
Stefanie: Sometimes conferences have open pitch slots, they’ll have spots for inbound, they have an open call out for speakers. Make sure that you know the deadlines, write it in your calendar, they’re asking people to pitch so that’s some of the easiest ones. They have a form, write out what your topic is going to be. Basically when it comes to that make sure that you have a really good outline, you have a really good topic title, and you have the takeaways the audience will learn.
Spend a lot of time on your basically, what I guess, what it’s called, is your speaker abstract or your topic title and description. Just make sure it’s solid that there are no typos. When you pitch you’re writing so you need good writing skills and you need communicate what value you’re going to provide to their audience. Also, for inbound, look at some of the top sessions that performed well on YouTube, I think a lot of their sessions get put on YouTube or even what’s top of mind for Hubspot, for that conference I’m guessing everyone who’s listening knows what Hubspot is since they’re marketers.
There’s often times open call outs for conferences so go pitch those if they don’t have open call outs find out that process. There are some conferences that really are selective and they basically hand pick their speaker lineup and that’s when a really nicely tailored email will go a long way, where you’ve researched a lot, where you include a video, where you include some links and you know the conference organizers name and maybe you even have met them before or you can get an introduction through someone else.
So I would say those are a couple of things, I would say also just because there’s often times when speakers pull out of conferences last minute and they need somebody ASAP. I remember pitching to one conference where their speaker lineup was already set, and I said, “Hey, I know your speaker lineup is already set, but I know that sometimes speakers might pull out, if there is, here’s what I’m all about, I would really love to be considered for the next one.” Start that relationship early. Those are a couple things.
Two things, if they have an open call out for speakers, apply, pitch, or find your speaker abstract, if they don’t, do what I just said, research the conference, send a really tailored email, work on that email, make sure again that it doesn’t have any typos, that it’s coming from a human and it isn’t robotic sounding, yeah.
Louis: I know it’s a podcast and you’re only listening to this audio right now, Stef just did the robot dance to describe robot sounding. Can you tell me more about… and hopefully you remember, what applications that you received made you feel like, “wow, this is amazing, this is great.”
Stefanie: Lianna Patch, she pitched me because she had researched the conference, she got an introduction, actually at that point in time I wasn’t really in the day to day of running Call To Action conference, there was two people on the events team, Dustin and Rachel, and she had found Dustin, and Dustin introduced Leanna to myself and then she kind of just talked about the conference itself and what value she could bring. She was like, “oh, you know, I’d love to be considered for maybe not this year, you might already have your lineup already set, but the next year.” Turns out we had somebody had drop out or we had a shuffle in our agenda and we got her in. Then she showed up and she did really well.
She knew our audience and she just had a really tailored pitch. I think that she kind of zoomed in our conference then because she knew if she kind of secured that, that we’ll also be a gateway to other conferences. So also take a look at that. So if there’s one conference or two or three that are, “ooh, this is going to be a really good conference for me to go at because it will be good on my speaker resume,” and then I’ll get a speaker video and yes you might not get paid. Some conferences you have to pay your way there. Take that speaking slot and use that as a gateway for other conferences
I remember when Oli Gardner first started speaking, we had to get ourselves to Hero Conference. It was his first speaking gig, it was Hero Conference, it was in a room of 200 people, not even 150. We paid our way there but then he did so well, that he got recognized, and then it was a gateway for other conferences. It’s kind of like gateway drugs. Gateway conferences, one conference will end up leading to you being accepted to speak at other conferences and think about it that way.
Louis: Yeah that’s a great way to put it, you need to put a strategy together, in terms of, from how hard or how easy it is to get into this conference, Can you pay? Can you not pay? Do you know someone there? Do you not? Is it a direct fit with your audience? Who you want to attract? Prioritize this way. Start slow, yes you want to be the next Rand Fishkin or Oli Gardner but it’s going to take time and as you just mentioned, it just always starts with small events, could be meetups, you should just move on from there.
I just want to summarize briefly what we said so far because we said a lot of stuff, I mean you in particular. So you need to come up with a story, something that you can teach people. You need to ask your people what conferences they hang out on.
You need to research the fuck out of the conferences, you need to understand the topics, you need to understand the spirit of it, the culture. You need to attend it if you can and then you need to show that you can’t teach, and then you need to show value to your audience.
You need to do podcast episodes, webinars, YouTube videos and meetups and whatever. Then you can start pitching, and you need to pitch like we’re teaching in this podcast, how to do marketing in a non sleazy way, treat people like they’re humans, especially conference organizers. Just ask for intros, take it easy, take it slow. Maybe, pay for the first one or two and do a fantastic job at it.
That’s probably something we can touch on in the next few minutes. In Shine’s bootcamp this is one of the things you teach people, you teach people how to have stage presence, how to create a good presentation.
What are your advices there when it comes to nailing a presentation, you mentioned Joanna Wiebe for example, go the highest rating, in the Call To Action conference. What are the things you see over and over that are good components of a great presentation?
Stefanie: Good components of a great presentation. Not overwhelming the audience with too much information. We talked about this before, making it actionable, giving away resources. I’ve seen a number of speakers do this where it’s like, “Here’s my resource, go to this webpage and you’ll get a downloadable PDF and you can use it for your own,” or really breaking out how they’ve done it, like step 1, step 2, step 3, step 4. It is some of the things we’ve already talked about in terms a great presentation.
What I would say is that again and I said this, working in isolation, I’m 90% sure that working in isolation, especially if it’s your first couple attempts at a speaking engagement, will not bode well. The more people you show it to, or the more feedback you get, even from somebody that’s not in your industry, even your partner, or your friends. Getting feedback is so critical to you nailing it. I would definitely emphasize like that, because it will make your talk so much stronger.
Louis: It sounds like you’ve done the job of making sure the presentation is great from the very start when you have a good outline, something strong, specific, actionable, with a good structure and as I said feedback, super important. Show it to a few people, present it in front of them, just rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, and you should be fine right?
Stefanie: Yeah and get people that will give you detailed feedback as well like, “Oh I really didn’t get this part, but how would you restructure it and tell it to me in a different way?” Or even with slide deck presentation and design is a whole other thing and there’s great speakers without great slide designs or decks.
There’s also the category of motivational speakers, where all they do is basically riff and motivate you but I guess we’re kind of narrowing it on conferences that aren’t really the motivational, high level, we’re really talking about actionable, specific, types of content for those types of conferences. Again, there is a whole category of motivational speakers that don’t necessarily do all of this, but I would say, slide design and slide deck kind of stuff is really important too because even you knowing what’s coming next kind of flows into how you’re talking about.
Another tip is don’t go into your slide design software before you have your outline of what you’re going to say, because then you’ll just box yourself in, and all of a sudden you’re designing the slides and not designing the content or what you’re saying.
It is important, all these little things kind of add up to your presentation. Even something as simple as breaking out your slide into 3 different slides. Maybe it was 1 slide with 5 points, and there was 5 bullet points, sometimes that can trip you up because you’re staying on 1 slide, then you’re kind of like, “wait, did I say the first one or the second one?” There’s all these things that come into play. There’s all these little tips, but I think the biggest thing that I can say on this podcast is just getting really great feedback along the way.
Louis: Yeah, I’m going to add to what you said about the structure. I read this book a few years ago at this stage and I’m not going to remember its title about doing great presentation. I’m not going to remember the name, I’ll put it in the show notes for sure though. There were really making the point of do not use your computer when you making slides until the last stage. Just use paper and story balling and just fucking write it down, structure, structure, structure.
Since then, I’ve used that and it just changed everything because you forget about your computer, you forget about Powerpoint, or Goodslide, you stop taking your image, you just focus on the story and that just makes a massive difference to the flow. I know you’re saying it but I need to mention it, do not put slides with bullet points and read them out loud like you’re reading fucking slides, I can’t deal with this, no one can. So do not.
It’s much better to have an image that is in tune to what you want to say, rather than just the fucking text because what happens is people read the text faster than you’re going to say and they’re already bored.
As you said we can’t really touch on that many things, I’ll definitely find the name of this book and put it in the show notes, because it’s super important as well. I think we’ve done our job, I think we’ve taught people to secure large scale speaking gigs, it’s going to take time, but folks should be able to do it right?
Stefanie: Totally, 100%.
Louis: So a few questions before I let you go and thanks so much for going through this step by step I know it’s difficult but that’s what it takes, it’s specific and actionable.
Stefanie: Love it.
Louis: What’s been the biggest marketing fuck up in your career so far?
Stefanie: Oh wow, my biggest marketing fuck up. Here’s one, I think it’s when you, and this is one of the things that I tell people is to slow down. So it’s not shady, sleazy, aggressive marketing tactics like I’ve made, like I haven’t consciously made those type of mistakes. It’s just marketing is tough and there’s just so much riding on your performance, it’s so easy to cut corners, it’s so easy to act impulsively and ultimately, so easy to make mistakes.
My best advice is to slow down because my biggest fuck up is because I work too fast and then there are mistakes in my work. Double check your work. This kind of goes with the theme of getting people to give you feedback, but double check your work, get somebody else to double check it.
I tweeted this the other day, copywriting is a team sport, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best copywriter ever, it’s really great to just get somebody else’s eyes on it, check your automations, double check your campaigns before you press send, before you launch. The devil is in the details.
For me my biggest mistake was a website that I had put together, I had failed to put the metadata, we had redesigned the website, right, that’s awesome, and I had failed to put some important metadata descriptions in it and I got called out for it hard in front of a lot of people, I was super embarrassed, but it was simply because I didn’t double check my work. I didn’t get somebody else to double check my work. I know that’s really, really, tough for people that are consultants or freelancers, all I have to say is slow down.
If you are writing an email, if you’re doing automations, if you’re doing a website redesign, put it away, then come back to it a day later. I would say carve out time for QA, just a like a good developer does, they carve out 2 days before a product launch, even more for really great QA testing, marketers need to do the same thing.
Make sure you slow down, make sure you QA your work, make sure that if you’re on a team, even if you’re the only marketer. So right now I work for a startup, I’m the only marketer on the team, I get my founder to check my emails, I don’t care if it’s an important email going to a big list I get her to check over it or I get her to check over a website copy because it’s important, and I’m alone so often times I can make mistakes in isolation. So my biggest advice is slow, QA, get somebody to check your work.
Louis: It definitely comes the heart, thanks for this advice. What are the top 3 resources you’d recommend to our listeners today?
Stefanie: Top 3 resources. So I put together some resources because I saw this question and was like, “oh, interesting,” but there’s resources now that I’ve thought of throughout this episode that are more to do with speaking so should I? You know what, I’ll answer my own question. I’m going to say a couple of resources when it comes to speaking.
One of them is Nancy Duarte’s book, actually she has 2 books, Nancy Duarte, she’s the queen of presentations, and she has one called Resonate, and she another one called which I didn’t read but its apparently really good as well. I would say check out Nancy Duarte, she is awesome at breaking down speaking into frameworks, so you can contextualize things. Even when it comes to your story and the flow of your story and how that works it really puts speaking into frameworks which is often tough to do, so I would definitely recommend that.
When it comes to marketing, it’s really funny, I don’t follow company blogs anymore. There’s maybe a few, but I can’t really recall, I really don’t. I follow smart marketers that tweet interesting articles and write interesting stuff, so I would say follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Instagram is becoming more of a source of… it used to be personal for me now it’s much more professional, and I follow people and what they’re up to.
I think there’s a reason why influencer marketing is becoming more and more of a thing and I hate saying “influencer marketing”, but it’s because people trust brands less and real humans more and I’ve even fallen into that category. I follow a bunch of awesome, smart, business people and marketers. I could list off a couple right now but there’s even more in the depths, so I would say start following people that you see doing interesting things, that are saying interesting things, and just start following them and what they have to say. If they start sharing things that aren’t really up your alley, and you’re not learning, unfollow them.
I would say people, and then I would be remiss if I didn’t say conferences can be a great source of resources that gets you away from the office. It allows you to pause and get out of your daily grind and just listen and learn. So a couple of conferences for marketers, obviously the Call To Action conference, Conversion XL Live is really great, Searchlab, MarsCon, because they are the conferences that really focus on speakers, great speakers with something to teach, versus a giant sales pitch. Those are a couple of resources that I would recommend.
Right now I’m also reading… it’s interesting this podcast is all about marketing, but I think business books are so so so good as well, so I’m reading “Messy In The Middle” by Behanced, because I think you can get a lot of value out of people that are building a business, like a founder, or even just product. There’s a whole chapter in “Messy In The Middle” that is about how to get a product out of there, it’s following the AJA methodology, but you can take all that and implement it into your marketing campaigns, so it doesn’t have to be marketing specific. Those are some of the things that I would recommend.
Louis: Thanks Stef, thanks so much for all of that, a lot of resources there. I’m glad you mentioned the speaking books because I completely forgot the name but that wasn’t it and I still need to find this fucking book I was thinking about earlier on. Anyway, thanks so much once again for your time, for going through this methodology, for sharing all of those resources. Where can listeners connect with you and learn more from you.
Stefanie: The best thing is on Twitter, Instagram, my handle is the same, S, M, Grieser.
Louis: How do you spell Grieser?
Stefanie: G, R, I, E, S, E, R. So @Smgrieser. You can go to Shinebootcamp.com if you want to know more about Shine and the programs we have for women and other underrepresented minorities when it comes to speaking and you can also go to my website, Stefaniegrieser.com, Stefanie with an “F” and Grieser just how I spelt it.
Louis: Fabulous, thank so much.
Stefanie: You’re welcome.