Ever wanted to see the words “Industry Expert” in front of your name? In the quest for thought leadership, the speaker circuit can, if executed strategically, drive both brand awareness and lead generation.

Speaking on timely, industry-relevant topics will help establish you as an industry expert, and your company as an industry leader. The key is to make sure you get behind the right podium, and generate results from the appearance. Here are some tips to help you do both.

Know Your Targets 
On the speaker circuit, similar to any public relations or marketing activity, you should identify primary target audiences – the event attendees – and ensure they correspond to your company’s target prospects. Having identified the audience, typically by title, company or industry, you can determine the right speaking opportunities with media outlets, analyst firms and/or trade associations.

When researching speaking opportunities, don’t write off virtual tradeshows and webinars. Virtual events are becoming increasingly important, whether the event is online-only or a supplement to a real-world event, both in light of the economy and the need to provide better metrics on attendee engagement.

Building a successful speakers bureau

Timing Is Key
Start pitching your speaker to the event director as much as 6 or even 12 months before the conference date. This may seem extremely proactive, but event planners need to secure their agenda well in advance, to allow them enough time to promote the educational sessions and drive attendees to the event. When pitching, persistence is everything. Depending on the conference size, an event director may receive hundreds – even thousands – of speaking proposals, and may have only ten or twenty speaking slots to fill.

Make Your Speaker Pitch Sing
“The Sexiest Jeans for Your Body” or “Nine Ways to Never Feel Tired” – although these headlines have little to do with business-to-business, when writing a speaking proposal headline, it pays to think of the Cosmopolitan front cover. Even the smartest, most solid BtoB content can benefit from an attention-grabbing, drama-driven headline!

Captivating content is key for companies looking to gain market share and accelerate growth. Here are a few surefire ways to write a speaking proposal that sings:

  • Refer to larger trends and analyst research
  • Add a relevant case study
  • Outline key takeaways from the presentation
  • Identify your target audiences, or “who will benefit”
  • Suggest a co-presenter and/or moderator – if you’re a vendor, suggest one of your customers as co-presenter

Preparation Is Never Overrated 
Congratulations! You’ve secured a spot behind the right podium… now what? First, work with the event director to confirm the presentation format, such as a panel discussion, co-presentation or webinar. If multiple presenters are involved, schedule a planning call to discuss logistics and who does what. For example, how long does each presenter have, are slides needed and how many minutes should be left for a Q&A session?

Once the agenda is ironed out, if a PowerPoint is needed to complement your presentation, make it short and visual. Remember, less is more – high-level stats and facts, case studies and real-life examples, and anecdotes all capture attention. And don’t forget to include contact options on the last slide, such as your website, email, phone and Twitter handle.

Leave Them Wanting More
In an in-person event, a “leave-behind” document is always useful. Case studies, white papers, fast facts or at least your business card can be encourage a post-event dialogue. In an online event, a leave-behind can be provided virtually as a web page.

But don’t stop there. Follow up with attendees afterward by email, and add them to your lead nurturing program and newsletter mailing list. If someone selected to attend an event you spoke at, treat them as a high-quality lead until you know otherwise. Continuing the conversation and moving it forward is equally important to generating true results from your speakers bureau effort.