This isn't a new debate, but has recently resurfaced with a Top Ten Social Media Speakers list that didn't include any women. Plenty of smart people have chimed in on this, so we thought we'd take the opportunity to ask why there aren't more awesome speakers at conferences, not ask why there aren't more women speakers at conferences. To that end, here's a short checklist anyone to go through before trying to break into the speaker circuit:
Do you have something new to share?
A new pitch does not count. If you are doing groundbreaking stuff, people will be interested in what you have to say. This is true whether you are a good public speaker or not. This is not true if you are a terrible public speaker, but with a little practice you'll be up to not-bad in no time. Regardless, you still need to be talking about something epic.
Give yourself the TED test.
Are you really, really good at telling a story? Can you convey your passion for the topic without selling to the audience? Are you able to present without reading anything? If you answer no to any of these, go practise your skills until you say yes to all three. Don't think you can coast just because others do. That's why people end up hanging out in the lobby at conferences.
Consider the format.
Is presenting at a conference the best way to achieve what you want? If you're looking to establish yourself as a thought leader, what about publishing some white papers? Or organizing some roundtable discussions? If you are looking to promote your brand, do you really need to speak? What about hosting a party where people will have a good time and you can chat one on one?
Still want it? You should probably ask for it.
If you are the best but haven't been asked to speak, chances are good that you haven't been slighted you've just been overlooked. Ask to speak at conferences where you are relevant. Then provide evidence that you're a better speaker than others in your field. Conference organizers really just want good content, so if you hand it to them, they'll appreciate it.
If you ask for it, then you should probably be prepared to pay for it.
You know when you're at a conference and you think to yourself that the person speaking is less qualified to speak than you are? They probably paid. Don't recoil in horror. It is pretty common practise. Sponsors are often given speaker slots, so if you are looking to get a few under your belt, open up your wallet. The other option? Go build something epic.