By Mike Pina
Speaking at conferences and events may spark a real boost to your agency’s mission. Public speaking offers a unique gateway to reach key stakeholders, audiences, and industry peers. It also provides a path to connect with others, share your message, and help motivate change or support. When your agency’s subject matter experts participate in various public engagements as guest speakers, it may help to position your staff as thought leaders.
Speaking engagements also increase brand recognition for your agency as well as increase access to new target audiences. The ability to engage and interact with an audience provides a unique opportunity to both share an agency’s message and gather thoughts, perceptions, and insights. You can also test out sharing organizational messaging when delivering a speech because you will receive instant feedback from a live audience. Moreover, some speaking opportunities also have the added benefit of boosting the careers of the speakers.
As your agency’s communications strategist, you can play a significant role in identifying, booking, and promoting speaking opportunities for your team. The key is to identify the goals for delivering a speech. This process starts with:
- Researching topics
- Drafting effective messaging
- Identify the appropriate speaking opportunities
- Prepare a solid speaker proposal that excites show organizers
- Track organizational public speaking engagements
- Get the most mileage out of promoting executive speeches
So how do you get started?
|Step One: Identify the Goal
First, consider the purpose of your agency’s speaker’s program and what your team aims to accomplish with their presentations: what are the objectives? Ideally, effective and well-planned presentations may increase awareness about your organization. However, there may be other, more specific motives behind the messages you plan to share. You may want to reach a specific stakeholder group, get your organization’s name and message in the news, or challenge viewpoints opposed to those promoted by your organization. Agency speakers may also want to further their careers or build confidence as a speaker. Whatever the motive, focus on this goal
|Step Two: Determine Your Message
The simplest way to find the right message is to focus on the ways your agency is addressing problems in our society. For example, car crashes are a leading cause of death in America. If your agency is working on technology that mitigates crashes and saves lives, this includes a high-priority public health and safety messages geared towards to the target audiences. Work with your subject matter experts to develop communications products that showcase some of your key research findings and results. It also helps to generate an editorial calendar with pre-packaged presentations in advance so that they can be tailored to specific events is the best way to ensure your agency speakers are prepared and establish your agency as a subject matter expert in the field.
|Step Three: Identify Target Events
You may have developed concise and thought-provoking messaging and a captivating presentation, but if there’s no audience or outlet for it, then it goes unheard. You now need to identify some of the leading conferences and events related to your topic areas. Google is your best friend here. A quick search for relevant events, (e.g., “largest health conferences”) may result in a list of industry-focused events and leading conferences. You can also look up the trade associations in your field and find out the dates and locations of their annual conferences.
|Step Four: Make Your Pitch
In general, conferences want to have government officials speak at their events. High-profile government officials usually add significant weight and credence to a roster of speakers—without the price tag (government officials can’t accept pay when speaking about their work and cover their own travel expenses).
|Step Five: Keep Track
As your program develops and gains traction on the speaker’s circuit, create a spreadsheet to track your agency’s engagements. Some of the items to keep track of include the events at which you’re interested in presenting, events that have approached your agency to speak, events where your proposals were not accepted, and speaker invites that you declined. If your agency has several staff speaking at the same or multiple events, such a tracker will be beneficial to stay organized and on schedule.
|Step Six: Promote Your Speaking Engagement
If your agency staff is speaking at an event, your role is to manage on-site promotion. Contact the public relations staff at the show to get their press list, and then send selected media outlets a pitch about staff presentations. Offering interviews with speakers is also a way to generate more interest, engage the audience, and ask for feedback. If the conference offers booths for participating agencies, this is a great opportunity to hold such interviews and showcase your agency.
Mike Pina currently serves as Program Manager with the U.S. Department of Transportation where he provides communications and outreach support for Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office. Previously he was Director of Public Relations at AAA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org