Why You Should Speak at Conferences & How to Overcome the Barriers

March 31, 2017

Sofia Troutman

Sofia Troutman is the Senior Digital Marketing and Product Innovation Manager for Skyline Exhibits. Sofia heads up Skyline’s marketing efforts in new product development and management, lead generation, exhibitor education, industry relations and market research.

Companies spend a lot of money and time creating a unique and compelling exhibit or event presence that will make them stand out and connect with potential and existing clients. There is another way to stand out and to garner attention for your company and for your brand, and that is to have someone in the company speak at the event. 

Speaking at an event can seem daunting and, depending on the size and quality of the audience, some question if it is worthwhile. While you may have reasons not to speak, I would argue that there are also many benefits to your company and to you. As with exhibiting or participating in any live event, it is important that you compare the demographics of your clients with those of the attendees for the event to determine if this is the right audience for you.

Here are some of the benefits you should consider when deciding whether to speak:

Conference Attendees Are More Likely to Visit Your Exhibit If You Aare a Speaker

When you take the time to present at an event, you are signaling to attendees that you know your topic and that you are willing to share it with them. Attendees are more likely to recognize your company and want to talk to your staffers when they walk the trade show floor or attend an event you are sponsoring. You will be developing what is called “Brand Affinity” bias. Clients will recognize you or your brand and therefore are more likely to want to get to know you.

Free Advertising From the Show Organizer

Event organizers will promote your presentation, and by doing so, will promote you and indirectly your company.  Your information will be featured on their website, printed materials and social media.  Also, you will have the opportunity to share this information on your own social media channels, which will improve your clout with potential clients.

Learn As a Result of Participating

Anytime I have given a talk at a conference or event, I have learned from the experience. Getting up in front of a larger group of people is an incredible motivator for me to review and research material. Also, since I make my sessions interactive, I always learn new tips and tricks from people attending the class. I also learn what my client base cares about and often get an idea of new trends that may be surfacing in the marketplace.

Meeting Influencers

Often, event organizers will have a speaker reception or networking opportunity to help speakers get to know one another. This type of event will host press or other key event organizers. This is a great opportunity to meet the people who are well known in your industry or who are likely to be more knowledgeable about new technologies, concepts or trends in your field.

Interact and Learn from Potential Clients

Beyond the learning that happens when preparing for a talk or a class, you will also learn by observing who attends your talk. This is a good opportunity to see if your customer personas (the types of people you have identified as representing your customers based on demographic and psychographic characteristics) are reflected in this audience or not. Some of this demographic information you may be able to get from the show organizer ahead of time to help you prepare for your talk as well. 

In some settings, you may get the opportunity to have lunch or dinner with some of your audience. Again, this is a great opportunity to find out what they struggle with, who they are and how you can help people in this demographic with your products or services in the future. Additionally, you can send, or get from the event organizer, surveys about your session that will help inform you about who they are and what they care about.

Share Your Message

A great reason to speak at a business conference is that you will get a platform to share things you have learned or believe in. Have you ever attended a session at a conference and thought that you would like to share your own perspective on the topic? Kristen Sgroi shares this in her article, The Only 5 Reasons to Attend a Conference. By speaking at a business conference, you get an opportunity to share your perspective regarding your experience on a particular topic, how you think things should be and, hopefully, help others learn from your experience. This in and of itself can be very rewarding.

So Now That I Have Convinced You of the Benefits, How Do You Overcome Your Objections or Fears?

Here are some common objections to speaking at a conference and suggestions of how you can overcome them:

Lack of Time

First of all, you should plan to speak about a topic that is familiar to you and that is related somewhat to your current job so preparing is not as cumbersome and any needed preparation will benefit your current job. Also, it is helpful to plan ahead. Work backward from the date of the presentation and set regular deadlines for yourself so you are forced to complete different portions of your preparation on a periodic basis and therefore lessen the burden.

Get help in preparing. Either assign part of the research to a subordinate or ask a college to help you review your presentation or sit in on your practice preview. It will help them learn about what you are presenting and help you in the preparation process.

Public Speaking Fear

Not every speaking opportunity is one where you speak to a group of over 100 people. In fact, many breakout sessions are set up to be interactive and only require you to present to 40 people or less. This is much more manageable. Also, there may be opportunities for you to co-present. This can be a much less intimidating opportunity as not all the attention is placed on you and you can divide up the preparation tasks as well.

A good way to get over this fear is to start slowly. Initially, present to smaller groups or co-present to a larger or more familiar group. Once you are able to do that successfully you will be more comfortable going up alone in front of a larger crowd. Also, Simon Sinek gives great advice he learned from Olympic Athletes in an Entrepreneur Magazine article. Channel your nervous energy to generate excitement for your topic and audience.

Lack of Company Support

You would be surprised at the number of companies that, if given a chance, will recognize the value of having their employees speak on their behalf. Make sure you make a business case of why it benefits the company, what you will be speaking about and prove to them that you will do a good job. A good way of making your case is to present what you will be presenting to your boss ahead of time and to share the reviews you get afterward.

Protecting Confidential Information

You don’t have to give away your company secrets to have a meaningful presentation. In fact, you should be sure not to. However, there are probably a number of skills or experiences that you have gained in the course of your work that can be helpful to your potential client base, vendors or other business people that have nothing to do with your proprietary information. What do you do well that others in your industry or job function can learn from? Are you great at organizing, public speaking, promotions, something else?

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.