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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  July 01, 2010

How to Use Social Media to Generate Speaking Opportunities

Originally published for RainToday.com

Want to speak more at industry conferences? Associations are using social media to become the voice of their industry. Read on to learn the top three ways they are participating in Web 2.0 activities and, more important, how you can use their efforts to get the inside track on speaker selection.

YouTube

Last year, Omnipress surveyed 325 association executives and consultants about using social media for conferences and learned this blinding flash of the obvious: the associations’ top objectives are to increase buzz and attendance for their meetings. Enter YouTube.

Many associations already produce videos for education and member outreach. They also look to their speakers to help promote their events. A great way to show that you are ready for your close-up is to create videos and give them to the associations to distribute.

But be warned: don’t even think of using a talking head format. That format and one-on-one interviews don’t cut it anymore. Instead provide a “humorous-with-insights” take on industry concerns. It will be a hit and will put you on the inside track with decision makers.

These videos demonstrate that you have a unique perspective, and they help you become known among attendees even before the conference starts. That prominence creates a high buzz factor and makes you a conduit for more attendance.

Sponsored Online Communities

Another “duh” finding from the Omnipress study: 80% use some type of free social network such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. This kind of easy entry is good news. Only staff time is needed to maintain the group interaction. The challenge: getting heard above all the noise.

You do that by being strategic. My best clients use the “learn, lurk, and link” strategy. Here’s how it works:

  • Learn: don’t do a think until you go to the publication section of the association’s website. This will give you the latest challenges of the industry, as well as the latest thinking. Then ask yourself: what can I add to this conversation that hasn’t been said before?
  • Lurk: go to the community and just listen in. Don’t respond at first. Look for past comments and check out the authors. Are they board members? Opinion leaders? Create a targeted list of the top guns. These are the folks you want to follow. Respond to others as time permits.
  • Link: now is the time to strike. Add your comments and include material you have not presented before. Lead with your best strength, such as original research findings, lessons you learned from prominent clients (especially if they are well-known to the group), killer sound bites — whatever makes you stand out. Also reach out to your targeted list by asking questions and inviting them to join in the conversation. If they like what you have to say, these buyers will check out your website, ask to publish your special reports, etc. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Whatever you do, don’t promote your services, events, speaking engagements, or anything else in association communities. Why not? Two reasons: first, many association leaders are already sensitive to promotion by service providers. The bar is set unfairly high, and the hit to your brand is not worth it. And second, there are already too many spam-like posts, and they are ignored, too. That’s one group you don’t want to be linked with.

Instead, hook the powers-that-be first with content, then privately suggest that this could be a good speaking topic. Or privately offer a sneak peek of your newest video about the latest challenge (see above) and offer to do something similar with the association.

Hosted Online Communities

Why do associations spend substantial staff time and budget to create their own networks? It’s because when you own the structure of social interactions, you own the community. And that’s what 35% of associations have done, according to the Omnipress survey.

Hosted communities can be tied to a trade show, conference, or the association in general. Either way, they are a target-rich environment for experts looking for speaking leads within a particular industry.

The biggest challenge is getting access to these communities, as most are closed. If you have access as an exhibitor, the “learn, lurk, and link” idea works well here. Remember, anything remotely promotional can be fatal. The bar here is higher than on the free forums.

If you don’t have access to an association’s community, do an end-run by joining forces with your favorite clients. Their access and third-party endorsement can go a long way. Your clients can quote you, tell stories about what they learned from your work, or pass along that funny new video.

And don’t forget that targeted list. If you’ve hit it off with anyone in the community, ask if you can participate. Most will make exceptions if they trust you won’t over promote.

Prove Yourself

Association buyers choose speakers who are proven to their members. When you showcase your perspective to the opinion leaders through videos and conversations, you generate interest. And interest generates the next step, usually a visit to your website. If your topics fit the theme, and your demo video shows compelling footage, a speaking invitation isn’t far behind.


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.