Merritt Group Blog

6 Ways to Own the Stage at Your Next Industry Event

Industry events are one of the most efficient ways to get in front of important audiences in a condensed time frame. The benefits are many, from face-time with customers and prospective partners, media and analysts, as well as potential employees. But more specifically, your presence at well-attended industry events and trade shows can have a real impact on your marketing and lead-generation efforts.

But how do you rise above the noise? If the event is impactful enough, all of your competitors and partners will likely be vying for the coveted keynote slots. Does the best product win? The most visionary abstract title? We’ve got you covered with these six helpful tips to land the speaking opportunity of the year:

  • Vendor-Neutral is the Name of the Game — Keynotes and speaking opportunities are not the time to flaunt your product. In fact, that is a guaranteed way to get your abstract denied without much consideration. Thought leadership is the ticket to success. You need to have a point of view that is unique to you, your company and your brand, but — more importantly — one that has relevance and grave importance to the audience attending the event. Flaunt your product at your booth until the cows come home (or the cows buy your product!), but don’t include it in your speaking submission.
  • Be Controversial or Have a Strong POV — One surefire way to stand out in a stack of speaking applications for B2B tech events is to add in some controversy. Can you say something unique about a hot trend? What about a common debate in your industry? Can you take a stand or introduce a new perspective for your audience? Argue that the sky isn’t blue: it’s aqua. Or tell them 10 reasons why vegetables are actually bad for you. Or, if software (and by extension developers) and the cloud will rule the world, then are we seeing the beginning of the end of IT ops? 
  • Avoid Recycled Abstracts — It’s tempting to identify a few topics for the year and generate one to two abstracts for all the speaking engagements you’re interested in. Don’t do it! Conference organizers see through generic abstracts quickly, especially if they don’t directly correlate to the conference’s theme, audience and style. Generate unique and insightful abstracts for each conference that attendees will be interested in hearing.
  • Add Third Parties When Possible — Add other voices to your speaking submission when possible. Can you suggest a panel that includes an analyst, your customer, a partner and you? Conference organizers love this approach, because you are offering them a packaged session and experience rather than one voice among many. Although this one may take some planning and coordination with your PR and agency teams to attract the best panelists or coordinate travel logistics, it’s well worth the effort.
  • Less is Actually More — Identify a focused approach for your annual marketing and PR conference and trade show strategy. Don’t attend and apply to every trade show under the sun. Instead, critically research which three to five events are the best attended by your target audiences. Then focus on building relationships with those conference organizers and engage with them personally on how you can add an impactful presence at their show.
  • Consider Targeted Marketing Spend — One way to secure a keynote slot is to become a sponsor of the event. While this can often quickly become costly, apply the philosophy behind point No. 5 to this approach, and target one to two events per year where you want your brand to stand out among your competitors. Make a big splash at the right shows where you know you will get ROI.

While securing speaking opportunities in today’s industry trade shows are getting more competitive, these tips will help you cut through the noise. A good next step is taking our self-evaluation quiz, which will take you a minute and will give you even more detailed, personalized recommendations for marketing your business and product.

Topics: startup start ups trade shows media relations start-up