How to Obtain a Speaking Spot

speaking spot

You already know that speaking at conferences is great for branding, but how do you really get those great speaker spots? If you are famous or know someone who can just hand you a speaker spot, you probably don’t need to read this. However, if you have never spoken at a conference and want to, here is what you should do:

  1. Read the requirements – Each conference has different requirements for pitches. Before you try to convince someone to invite you as a speaker, you need to know what they want. Make sure you read, understand, and follow all the directions for speaker slots. If you have a strong brand, they won’t care what you put in there, but if you are new, it can make the difference between speaking or not.
  2. Pick a niche – It doesn’t matter if you are a jack of all trades or not, you need to pick a single topic that you want to pitch. Conference chairs choose experts, and the easiest way for you to position yourself as an expert is to pick a niche.
  3. Create a biography – When you apply for a speaking spot, you usually have to include a bio. If you already have a bio, do yourself a favor by not submitting it. Instead, create a new one that relates to the session you are planning to speak at and beef it up to match the topic. If you can’t create a sexy bio, lie to make it sound attractive. When I first applied to speak, I lied, and it worked. Just make sure you don’t get caught. (I hope you’ll have the real expertise to back up your claims)
  4. Create a pitch – Make sure you outline what you are going to talk about and why you would be a good fit for the session. Three things to note here:
    • Other people are probably pitching to present at the same session, so you’ll have to present something unique if you want to be picked.
    • The person reading your pitch will be reading hundreds of other pitches, so do them a favor by keeping it short and to the point.
    • The most important part about pitching is the fact that it isn’t about you. It is about the audience and how you can help them.
  5. Double-check everything – This doesn’t mean you should only proofread your pitch. Get a second viewpoint. Ask other people for advice to see if there is anything you can do to make your pitch sexy.
  6. Submit your pitch – The last thing you need to do is submit your pitch. Hopefully, you’ll hear back from someone, saying that you got a speaking spot, but if you don’t hear anything back, don’t pester the organizers. Just move on, and try to get a speaking spot at other conferences.

Good luck!

P.S. If you want getting more speaking engagements go here.


  1. Glenn Gutmacher :

    This strategy generally works, but I would argue slightly with #6 and add another point: There’s nothing wrong with getting to know some past speakers at the target conference whose subject matter is non-competitive with yours, and asking them to recommend you to the conference organizers. This is analogous to the employee referral edge when applying for jobs.

    The other point is you need to pay attention to deadlines. Make sure to submit your proposal WAY BEFORE the submission deadline. If it’s an annual conference, one month after the previous one (when things have settled down) is not crazy. The reason is that you get an edge in consideration if other proposals similar to yours come in later – you can effectively “lock” a niche and the conference organizer won’t bother to solicit proposals in your category if they’re satisfied with yours.

    • In my industry people are very friendly and even if they are your competition they usually will be happy to help you. But this could just be my industry.

      Good point about the deadlines because in many cases they choose speakers before the deadline is over.

  2. Rebecca Kelley :

    7. Be Neil Patel. I like how you and Rand are both on the “Social Media Marketing Essentials” panel next week, but only Rand was required to have a presentation (so you’ll just sit on your ass and wait for the Q&A). 😛

  3. Starting out by offering to present to local business groups for free is a great way to test the waters and assess the effectiveness of your presentation.

    BTW Great webinar with ElasticPath this week!

  4. Megan Vaillancourt :

    Great Webinar. Key to success is getting more presentations.

    • More presentations are always good, but instead it is more important to give presentations in front of the right people.

  5. Getting a spot is all about personal branding. What makes you unique and stand out will get you a spot.

    • How will that work if no one knows about you? You can be unique and be very good at something, but if you don’t actually work and “fight” for that spot, all of your skills are useless.

  6. Erica Forrette :

    Great advice, and also from mhairi – presentations to local groups are highly effective in not only polishing your presentation, but adding to your resume and increasing the likelihood that you may get selected for a more “national” or “high profile” event.

  7. Maria Elena Duron :

    Really great advice! I would only add one more piece, a #7, and that is to be consistent in submitting. It helps keep you from counting on a handful submissions to get there, it creates TOMA (top of mind awareness) and it, over the course of time, will garner visibility and memorability. The rest, developing credibility and profitability, is up to you!

    Great post!

  8. Everyone loves a memorable speech. I think the trick is to stand out, be entertaining (if the circumstances permit), and adjust to your audience. i.e. a eulogy as opposed to a comedy festival.

  9. Great post Neil. I recommend that people build a “conference or speaking hit list” before doing anything. This will help you target your niche and industry. As S. Covey says from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, first, start with the end.

    Fake it until you make it is bogus. Lying, in whatever context, should not be done. Instead, use (and manufacture) as much credibility and points of interest as possible. The guru at this is Tim Ferris and the 4HWW.

    People think they like experts but what they really love is a dynamic speaker who moves the crowd and makes everyone want to come back to the conference. And more…speakers like this get invited back again and again and again. So be dynamic and inspiring and you’re in the clear. If that’s not you, become an uber expert and you’ll get away with a sub-par speaking performance. Good luck out there everyone!

    QuickSpr-edit: add an “r” on “your” for #6.

  10. Just found your blog earlier this week and keep finding great posts, so thanks up front!

    I can’t agree more with the last part of #4, it’s not about you, it’s about the attendees and the value you can provide them. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about yourself when deep down you ARE doing this to build you/your-company’s brand but as in almost everything, focus on the customer and you will win.

    • Yep, even when you speak it is all about creating a presentation that benefits your customer or potential customer.

  11. Frank L. DeFazio :

    Where do you find the list of potential speaking engagements? I’m in the real estate industry so it should be fairly easy but I’m curious if there is anywhere specific you’d recommend starting.

  12. Hi Neil,

    I am in the web design business. What conferences would you recommend to get web design clients?

    • I don’t know, I have never been to a design conference.

      Maybe South By South West?

      Hopefully this search query helps you:

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