A silver lining to tech events going virtual in 2021 is that speakers can now participate in events around the world that they wouldn’t have previously considered. If you’re responsible for managing the speaker program at your organization (or for your client), there’s an opportunity to expand your usual list of opportunities to include major industry events, smaller local events and chapter meetings of professional associations. Let’s look at these virtual speaking opportunities in detail.
Virtual Appearances at Major Industry Events
No travel budget this year? No problem. Most major tech events including Cisco Live, Microsoft Ignite, RSA and Interop have gone virtual or partially virtual for 2021 (here is a list of other virtual events). Panels and speaking options at these events are all online and can be done anywhere with a reliable internet connection. While these events don’t offer the same networking opportunities now that they’re virtual, they are now much easier and less expensive to attend or present at. You may find that your speakers are open to more of these events than they otherwise would be if they had to travel to attend them, so broaden your target list.
Some events like RSA are also offering programs like RSA 365 that offer virtual panels, webinars and seminars throughout the year. This expands the potential pool of topics and experts who can participate and may open up new opportunities. Even better, these programs often evaluate submissions on a rolling deadline, so there are fewer logistical issues to present at one and more opportunities to sync up speaking engagements with major announcements or messaging campaigns.
Go on Tour with Regional Events
Another option to consider in 2021 are regional events like DevOps Days or SecureWorld. Now that these events have become virtual, subject matter experts (SMEs) can speak at multiple events in different regions rather than just the one closest to their headquarters or remote office. You may even be able to set up a SME to give the same presentation at multiple events, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. A successful presentation at one event might actually make other events more likely to book the SME, since it demonstrates interest in the topic amongst their audience. You may also be able to target specific regions that are relevant for your business, such as Seattle for Microsoft developers or Boston for biotechnology.
I’d strongly consider looking at any regional events on your current speaker list and checking what other regions you might be able to pitch your client to in 2021.
Don’t Overlook Chapter Meetings and Professional Organizations
The professional organizations within your industry are an untapped resource for speaking opportunities now that meetings are all virtual. These are usually made up of a parent organization with many local chapters (i.e., a Bay Area chapter, a Midwest chapter, a Puget Sound chapter, etc.) that have monthly meetings. Like regional events, you’re no longer limited to only speaking at their local chapter. Many of these organizations require continuing education credits for members so they are actively looking for presenters for their monthly meetings and events. Pitching these (provided you have a qualified speaker with a presentation on a relevant topic) can often be easier that getting speaking slots at industry events.
Voxus had great success with this approach in late 2020 with one client. We booked seven presentations over three months at virtually no cost to the client save an hour of the presentation time per meeting. The virtual tour significantly raised the visibility of the client amongst their target audience and produced hundreds of marketing qualified leads (this organization shared their attendee lists for each meeting). It also allowed the client to capture useful research data with poll questions included in their presentation.
Three Tips for Virtual Speaking Events Success
• Consider asking the SME who will be presenting to send your pitch emails. These organizations typically don’t want to deal with PR or marketing titles – they’d rather get straight to the expert. Your pitch will have a better chance of being read if it doesn’t come from you.
• Having a technical and well-qualified speaker will be even more important when pitching chapter meetings. If your SME can’t speak to fellow experts on a technical level, you may need to consider a different strategy.
• Think about lesser-known hotspots for your industry. If you work at a Seattle company, you’re probably all over Seattle, the Bay Area and LA, but what about the Research Triangle in North Carolina, Denver, Salt Lake City, Houston, Chicago, Boston or Virginia/Maryland/DC? Depending on your industry, you may get just as much if not more value by targeting these other regions.
All of these virtual speaking opportunities can provide real value through exposure, thought leadership and lead gen opportunities – so consider expanding your event focus in 2021. You just might find that virtual events are a blessing in disguise.