5 Things I’ve Learned After 3 Years of Speaking at Digital Marketing Conferences

ppckirk speaking utah dmc

Speaking at a digital marketing conference can be an intimidating thing. Depending on the conference, you are often talking to peers who know as much or more than you as you attempt to persuade them into thinking differently, or trying a new technical strategy you’ve employed in an account successfully. That being said, it’s also a blast! Not only for getting you out of your comfort zone, but in allowing you to network with other speakers and attendees to grow your business and personal brand.

I began speaking 3 years ago in October (Hero Conf London, thanks for taking a chance on a newb!) and have picked up a few things along the way that I wanted to share. Admittedly, there are people who speak *far* more than me and I’m still trying to grow in my speaking skills regularly, however I think these observations I share will at least get you thinking and if you aren’t careful, you may even learn something. 😉

Per usual, transcript below if you’re like me and would rather read than watch a video…

Video Transcript

Hey, my name is Kirk. I am the owner of ZATO, we’re a paid search micro-agency focusing primarily on Google Shop and eCommerce clients, based in Billings, Montana; and what I want to talk to you today about is speaking at conferences.

So I realized thanks to LinkedIn, that this is the third year anniversary in October, of when I started speaking at paid search conferences, at digital marketing conferences. And I think I’ve spoken at roughly 25 or 30. I don’t know exactly how much. But primarily in the U.S. one in Dublin, couple in London as well. And I thought that I would share with you something that I’ve learned after three years. And I’m not saying that in terms of like a, “Hey, I’m this super expert, ’cause I’ve been doing this for three years.” Right? ‘Cause three years is nothing… It’s almost more of a, “This is what I’ve learned in three years.”

And so if you’ve been interested in getting into conference speaking, you might find some benefit from this. And who knows, maybe in another three years I’ll come back with a couple of other thoughts, or I’ll completely, I’ll be like, “Hey, I was totally off base there.”

So here are a few things that I’ve learned.

First thing that I’d like to communicate is it really is worth it.

And the reason I say that is because you get a lot of people who ask you and say, “Hey, what’s your ROI on conference speaking?” So basically, “How many clients do you get from conference speaking?” And for me, I think it’s more complicated than just, “Hey, I can track these specific clients to conference speaking.” Because it’s not really that easy. And it’s marketing, it’s not supposed to be. And that’s fine.

What I see is the primary benefit of speaking at conferences is not just getting clients, it’s two-fold:

(1) It is a networking, and

(2) it is kind of building this authoritative brand that you can utilize in your other marketing efforts as speaking at conferences, as a trusted trainer and that kind of thing.

But the networking thing is actually in my opinion, some times overlooked. But it’s hugely valuable. I’ve built friendships. I’ve established relationships, friendships, not even really knowing that I would, I guess, with a lot of other PPC’ers. And over the years, that has resulted in referrals with clients, that’s resulted in me being able to say, “I need help with this YouTube campaign here. Hey, you’re a YouTube expert. Would you come in and help me?”

And so I think that there are many ways that between networking, between building a brand, and maybe even landing some clients. I think there are many benefits. And it definitely to meet goals beyond just like, “Can you track these clients back to last click ROI conferences? If not, then don’t speak.” I don’t think it’s that easy. I think it’s worth it.

Second thing. Be aware of the different conferences, the conference type.

So I’m thinking digital marketing. If you’re a digital marketer, you’ll find that you’re either speaking to your peers, or you’re speaking to business owners, or potential clients. And there really is a difference. I think that is worth being aware of as you’re deciding, “Which conferences should I speak at? Which should I pitch at?” There’s gonna be benefit to speaking to your peers, to learning from your peers. And you might wanna go to a HeroConf. And hey, you can get clients from those as well.

But then there might be other times where you might not really want to do this introduction to PPC, or maybe you do SEO. And in some ways for you, you this boring beginner level … This beginner level session. And what you might realize is, “Hey, the conference that you’re at, it’s a lot of business owners.” And your beginner level session is actually what will convince them that, “Hey, you know what you’re talking about. And maybe they should contact you to do the business.” So there are kind of two different types of conferences. Be aware of that as you’re pitching them.

A third thing is that you need to pitch well from the beginning.

Put thought and energy, and time into your pitch. It takes work.  I usually have my conference talk pretty much figured out by the time I pitch. So when I pitch, it really is this well-presented, “This is what I’ll be speaking on.” And it’s not just, “Well, here are some thoughts that I have.” I have pitched that way, by the way. And I don’t know if I’ve ever landed a pitch where I said, “Here are some thoughts I have. What do you think?” So just be aware of the fact that if you have a good idea, present it well, think it well, package it well, and then pitch it well. And I think you’re gonna have a better shot of getting accepted that way.

A fourth thing is absolutely a 100%, unequivocally stick to what you know.

Stick what you really are an expert at. I don’t think I’ve ever had a time when I started to get off a little as like, “This is what I do.” And then I started to delve a little bit more into “something” where I didn’t quite know, but I was like, “Oh, no. I can speak to that briefly.” I don’t know if there’s ever been a time where I haven’t regretted that.  If people are gonna paying to hear us speak, we need to know our stuff, right? And so stick to what we know.

And also, it’s okay to stick to what you know. So I think sometimes, especially as you start speaking a lot you think you need to switch it up and do something different just for the sake of doing something different.

I’ve spoken on shopping ads, Google Shopping, Bing Shopping. I’ve spoken on those a lot, more than any other topic. I like shopping ads. I’m good at shopping ads. With some of my PPC friends, and other people, I’ve actually kind of become known as, “Oh, you’re the Google Shopping guy, right?” I pushed back at that in the beginning. Like, “Well, yeah. But I do other things too. That’s not just me. That’s not my identity!!”

And over time I started to come to realize the fact that like, “Hey, you know the leads that I’m getting? You know why people are sending me things? You know why people are saying, hey this isn’t a good fit for us. But you’re the Google Shopping guy. And here’s a Google Shopping client.” You know why that’s working? Because I’m known as the Google Shopping guy, right?!

And so I started to realize, I was trying to get all clever, and try to figure out, “What else should I try to speak on?” And I realized that it’s okay, and it’s actually probably better for my personal brand to stay in my lane and focus on speaking about what I’m great at. Because that’s just gonna kinda continue to perpetuate itself. So I think that we actually … At least, this has been a temptation for me to almost like get bored of that, or almost kinda be like, “Well, I don’t just wanna be known as that.” And I think I reached a point where I realized, “Hey, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

And then finally the last thing I want to communicate is, repurpose your content.

I do not think there’s anything wrong with giving the same talk twice if it’s different audiences.

But… it’s always different audiences. You just rarely have the same people who are not speakers to go to the same sessions that you’ll be at, the same conferences. And in that way, it’s allowing you to get a lot better at how you present. I gave a talk at one place that I thought had some really great points. And then there were some points on it that were critiqued. There were aspects of those critiques that were unfair, but also fair. And so what I did is I took those, and I rebuilt the talk to present again in Dallas here in the next week. And I’ve adjusted some things in my talk based upon giving that talk before. I think it’s going to be a better talk because of that.

So repurpose it in terms of, don’t be afraid to give it more than once, and get better at that.

But here’s I think the gold mine of speaking actually, take your speaking stuff. Likely you did a lot of work and research to build this content. Great. Speak it a few times, present it three or four times. And then turn that into eight blog posts. So let’s say I have three or four main points in my content, in my Slide Deck.

I’ll take each one of those points and turn them into one or two blog posts.

Because I already did the work, I can even use my images and stuff that I used in my presentation, use those for my blog image. I’m not sure if anyone’s ever noticed that. Maybe someone who heard a talk that I gave, and then saw a blog post I did. But a lot of times it’s the same content. But again, you’d be surprised, it’s a big flipping world out there! A lot of people, the majority of people will not have heard you speak. But now all of a sudden, they’re seeing all this blog content. You’re getting credit with Google for that, and all that for your website.

So repurpose the snot out of that content. You did lots of work for it. Use it. Repurpose it. Use it again. Write on it. Speak on it some more. So by the time you retire that talk, you have squeezed every ounce of value out of it that you can.

So things that I’ve learned in three years of speaking, I’m sure there are lots of others. And if you have some that you’ve learned, or questions, or whatever, go ahead and hit me up on Twitter.

But yeah. I appreciate it. If you ever listen to one of my talks, thanks for coming. And I hope that I presented it well. I promise, I work really hard on those. I remember especially in the beginning, I was putting in like 40 or 50 hours per talk into practicing and building them all that. I’ve been able to squeeze that down a little bit better, in some ways just growing in skill. But definitely put a lot of time into that. Because I see, and I appreciate the fact that people are spending money to do that. And I wanna treat them well as well.

So thank you. Hope this has been informative.

And if you’ve wanted personally to get into speaking, do it. Jump in and give it a try. It’s awesome.