5 Steps to Getting Invited to Speak at Conferences

Many lawyers seem to believe there is something magical about getting invited to speak at a conference.

As though somehow their brilliance is divined by the conference organizers or chairs, and the invitations to speak don’t come until that happens by means of some mystical process that they haven’t quite worked out. It is really much simpler than that and it is entirely within each lawyer’s control to make it happen, if they want it to.

Once you decide to take the plunge into getting speaking gigs for yourself, it happens fast. You just have to approach it the same way you approach dealing with your clients: figure out the actual need that the people running conferences have, and fill that need. Do that, and you’ll become indispensable to the people that run the conferences and you will get more invitations than you can handle.

Follow these 5 steps:

1. Meet the organizers.

Identify the people who run the conferences for each organization you’re interested in aligning with. Invite them to meet you in person.

2. Come up with topic ideas.

Go to that meeting with a willingness to brainstorm conference topic ideas with the organizer. It will help if you arrive with ideas in mind about issues that you know people in your practice area are facing. Also be prepared to give the organizer feedback on any ideas they might be working on.

3. Assume an active role in the process.

Don’t tell them, “I can talk about anything you want me to talk about”. That is unhelpful to people who need to come up with ideas themselves. Put yourself in their shoes; they aren’t in practice and their job requires that they come up with topic ideas that practicing lawyers or industry people will want to hear about. That is hard to do! What you do, day to day, in your practice area gives you special insight into what is topical and current in those fields. That kind of information is indispensable to conference organizers. So help them. Some of the topics you discuss will be used, some won’t, but when a topic comes up that you have discussed with them, you can bet that they will remember you and you have a good chance of being invited to speak about it.

4. Keep checking in.

Stay in touch with them. Make a date to see them every year or every few months, and in between those meetings, when an interesting issue comes up in your practice area, drop them a quick email about it. It takes you no time at all, but may fit into or form the basis of a future program. Once again, if you contributed to the idea you will become an invaluable resource to them and they will not be able to help but think of you.

5. Put in real effort.

Do a good job. If you can’t meet the expectations of the organization, no amount of ideas will inspire them to invite you back. If you commit to doing something like this, you have to put in the work and do it well and in accordance with what they are looking for. If you aren’t prepared to do a reference paper, don’t solicit speaking engagements from conference organizers who sell themselves as providing lots of reference material to their attendees. Instead, find the opportunities that are practical, short and not reliant on resource material.

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