Subject: Becoming A Black Enterprise Event Speaker
My name is Nila Wilson and I am the President and Founder of More Than A Conqueror Institute. I would love to be a Black Enterprise event speaker. In fact, I would be perfect for your upcoming Women of Power Summit. I’m a life coach for early-stage entrepreneurs, an author of seven books, and a facilitator of an online community called Born to Conquer based in Indianapolis. Who would I need to speak with to be added to your program?
The Black Enterprise events planning team (which is comprised of both event producers and editors/content producers) get dozens of speaker pitches like this daily, including outreach to us via our respective social media accounts, as well as when people meet us at conferences and live events.
More people are pursuing public speaking opportunities than ever before. This includes professional speakers who earn fees via traditional bookings (including me), as well as a veritable army of speakers who speak for little or no financial compensation, as a way to sell books, identify leads for their businesses, raise their professional profiles, or otherwise monetize their expertise.
For Black Enterprise, as for most national media companies, events have become a primary revenue driver. (By contrast, the once-monthly magazine we are best known for is now a quarterly, with a growing proportion of issues distributed digitally, not via the mail or on newsstands.) In addition to the sponsorship dollars generated via each event, many media companies have learned that event sponsors are far more likely to recognize the value of investing advertising dollars across other content platforms of our brands. In our case, for example, that means a company like Nationwide, the host sponsor of our FWD conference, is also predisposed to, for example, sponsor a podcast or other content on our website, or place an ad in our magazine.
As a result, we produce more events than ever before, as advertisers and sponsors look for more ways to engage directly with our audiences in order to establish relationships and communicate the value of their offerings. This is part of an overall boom in the events industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meeting, convention, and event planning jobs are expected to expand by 11% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average projected growth of all occupations.
So yes, we need speakers—but not just any speakers. If you want to stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of becoming a Black Enterprise event speaker, here’s what we—and most conference and event planners—will want to know.
How to Become a Black Enterprise Event Speaker
Will your presence on the agenda drive paid event/conference registration or help secure sponsorship dollars?
How excited would a potential event sponsor be to know that you will be a Black Enterprise event speaker? Do you have a relationship with a potential sponsor that you could leverage to create a win-win for both you (a speaking gig) and the event (sponsorship revenue)? Even better: Do you have a relationship with a company so strong that it would cover your speaking fee and other expenses as part of its sponsorship of the event?
For multi-day, national, or international events, how many people will give up a couple of days at their business or job; buy a plane ticket, and book hotel rooms to attend because you are on the agenda as a Black Enterprise event speaker? Even for local events, you might be asking people to get home late and miss time with their kids in order to attend. How likely is it that someone will make that choice because they see your name and face on the program?
Now, if you’re Daymond John (or any of the stars of Shark Tank), Oprah Winfrey, or the Obamas (either or both), none of this is even necessary to consider—which is why they and other such celebrities are often paid handsomely just for showing up at certain events, forget about actually delivering a speech.
But let’s be clear: Whether you are an Obama-class superstar or a speaker/author who happens to be an expert or celebrity in his or her space, the No. 1 thing your value as a potential Black Enterprise event speaker will be measured by is your ability to sell tickets and put butts in seats. It’s not the only thing, to be sure, but it’s the first thing we—and most event producers—are going to consider.
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What can you teach attendees that they don’t already know?
The above said, let’s be honest: For the vast majority of conference speakers, presenters and panelists, in most cases, people are not giving up their time, money, and airline miles just to be in your presence in another city. However, people may do so if they believe they can learn something from you that will tangibly help them to achieve a desperately desired goal or benefit—generating a seven-figure income via mastering online sales, for example.
This is where you have to come much stronger than “I’m an inspirational/motivational speaker/author,” unless you can show and prove that you are within shouting distance of Lisa Nichols, Tony Robbins, or your average OWN Network Super Soul Sunday guest. While there is still a place for purely inspirational/motivational speakers, the market is flooded with them, most of them virtual unknowns.
And the fact that you’re an author is not, on its own, all that impressive. There were literally a million books, including e-books and independently published efforts, published in 2017 alone, added to the millions of books already out there. (Many of them are currently stacked in my office, with more arriving daily.) Who’s not an author?
In this scenario, the most attractive speakers are those who can literally teach attendees something they don’t already know, but desperately want to. A speaker who can deliver a workshop or instructional (but entertaining) presentation that will empower the audience to get the real results they want, is of far more value than the person who will generally inspire them to believe in themselves and conquer their fears. Of course, if you do all of the above, you’re probably exactly what we’re looking for in a Black Enterprise event speaker.
Are you the right fit for our event attendees?
Have you ever even attended the Black Enterprise event for which you are pitching yourself (or your client) as a speaker? While it is not a deal-breaker, answering “No.” to this question significantly reduces your attractiveness to us as a potential Black Enterprise event speaker. (Again, if you’re truly an A-list speaker or celebrity whose mere addition to a conference program would immediately inspire sponsors to write checks and attendees to register and book flights, this wouldn’t apply to you.)
It’s important that you know enough about why people choose to attend a particular event to align your knowledge and subject matter accordingly. For example, attendees of our Women of Power Summit are comprised mostly of executives striving to advance up the senior-level ranks in major corporations. They may not be the right audience for your presentation on how to start an online business from home so they can “be their own boss.”
Pitching yourself as a speaker for an event is just like pitching for media coverage in a magazine—you need to understand the audience specific to each outlet. Pitching yourself for Women of Power as if it is just like the last five women’s conferences you’ve spoken at is a major fail. The best way not to make that mistake is to have experienced the event for yourself as an attendee.
How large is your social media footprint/mailing list/fan base? More important: How engaged are they?
How much influence do you have, and how aggressive and effective will you likely be in promoting your participation in our event?
This goes back to your capacity to drive ticket sales/registrations as a Black Enterprise event speaker. For example, event organizers will look at your social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, to see if you really have influence and know how to effectively use those platforms to showcase your expertise and deliver tangible results. (The same is true for those who book guests for television, radio, and podcasts.) Are you the industry leader/expert/difference maker you say you are? Who says so (besides you)?
It’s not just about how many friends or followers you have, but how engaged with and responsive they are to you. How likely are they to attend and/or influence others to attend an event, if they know that you’re one of the speakers? Will any of them show up because of you? Do you give “good audience?”
(By the way, if you are chosen to be a Black Enterprise event speaker, you’ll likely be given a personalized code you can share with your network that will allow them to register at a discounted rate. Whether that code is used or not is just one of the ways we measure your influence on your audience. Getting a lot of people to register using your code increases the likelihood that you’ll be invited back as a speaker or panelist for future events.)
The bottom line: We have hotel rooms and conference rooms to fill. We need enthusiastic, engaged audiences—that’s what event sponsors are paying for. Your value as a potential Black Enterprise event speaker is directly proportionate to your capacity to help fill those rooms and give both our attendees and our sponsors what they paid for (at least) and leave them feeling that the time and money invested was absolutely worth it.