A friend of mine who used to work for a big tech multinational tells a story about a former colleague of hers. This guy, a senior software developer - let’s call him Frank - was asked to give a talk to one of the Marketing teams about the current release of the company’s software.
If you speak at conferences, chances are you’ve had a proposal rejected (See below summary of reasons why). Rejection stings, whatever game you’re in. Author and screenwriter Ray Bradbury is reputed to have advised writers to paper a wall in their house with their rejection letters.
Once you’ve spoken at few conferences and proven yourself to be a safe pair of hands, you’ll very quickly get called on to participate in a panel discussion. Panel discussions are used by conference organizers to break up a series of talks, bring in experts who may not have time to prepare a talk, and fill in for missing speakers. If you want to raise your profile, it’s always a good idea to let the organizer know that you’re up for participating in, and leading, panel discussions.
No matter how much we prepare, problems happen. Often, the situation is out of our control. We’ve all been there, watching a speaker flap about when the A/V fails. That awkward silence grows to heavy whispers—I know, I’ve been that soldier.
The unexpected can shake the most experienced speakers amongst us. While these mishaps are unavoidable, by building a connection with your audience, you will have them on your side when something goes wrong.
At voxgig, one of our core missions is to drive diversity in speaking and diversity at events. We have a diverse team—60% female, 40% male—hailing from six counties across four continents. I am a signatory to the Diversity Charter. I want to inspire you, too, as a speaker to embrace diversity and all the positive change that comes with it.
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande is one of my all-time favorite business books. It’s that rare breed of business book that is both useful and short. Quick to read, and quick to implement, and yet one of those step changes in your ability to perform. Checklists rock!
Here’s the hard truth: you don’t get invited to speak at the bigger conferences until you’ve done something interesting and noteworthy. Unless you’ve founded a colony on Mars, or got a billion people to sign up to your website, you’re not going to find it easy to land the big gigs.
So my advice here is inverted: to get speaking slots at big conferences, don’t try to get speaking slots at big conferences.
If you’ve ever done any theater work, you’ll know there’s a thing called “blocking”. Blocking is the arrangement and movement of the actors on the stage. It gets pretty complex. It’s also a big thing in film. (One of this week’s contributors, Olivia Mitchell, mentions blocking in her piece ‘Nine ways to use space during your presentation’ - see below).