Can you guess how many conferences I have spoken at during my career? A whopping 239.
That’s a lot considering I’m only 30 years old.
So, I thought it would be interesting to go over whether it’s worth speaking at conferences from a business, marketing, and financial point of view. Here’s what I learned by speaking at 239 conferences:
Most conferences won’t be worth your time
If you haven’t spoken at a conference before, you’ll have to start somewhere. That means you’ll have to accept whatever speaking gigs you can get. But once you’ve spoken at a handful of conferences, you can start being a bit more picky about which ones you accept.
Over the years, I’ve learned one simple thing: blogging gives you a much better ROI than speaking at conferences. Why? Because you can reach thousands of people by writing one blog post, which will keep bringing in new readers and potential customers.
When you speak at a conference, only the people who come to your presentation will hear your speech, unless your video goes online too. Even if it does, the chances of it going viral on YouTube are slim to none.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak at conferences. Instead, you should just be a bit picky about which events you choose. Ideally, you should only be speaking at single track events. That way, all of the attendees only have one option…to attend your event.
If you are speaking at multiple track events, make sure the event is large enough for you to have at least 500 people attending your session. When you deal with smaller rooms, your odds of generating business go down.
What’s the benefit of speaking at conferences?
The biggest benefit of speaking is that you can get people to buy your services or products. In general, you’ll make these sales by giving a good speech and showing that you and the company you represent are smart.
Now, you can’t just pitch your product from the stage as that will come across as salesy. But if you give great information that is also related to your business, a portion of the room will be interested in your offerings.
Other than the potential sales, the other huge benefit is personal branding. Just like blogging can be great for your brand, so can conferences. Why? Because people get to see and interact with you.
For example, I’m writing this blog post while flying back from an event in Romania. Not only did I increase my personal brand with the local entrepreneurs and marketers in Romania, but I got to meet many of them. We took pictures together; we had some drinks; and we even partied.
If you want to build a strong personal brand from speaking at conferences, you have to network with attendees. You can’t just show up for your speaking slot and leave. You have to be there for a large portion of the time and go to events that are both during the conference and after the conference (such as scheduled conference parties).
By going to all of the conference functions, I found myself literally taking over 50 pictures with attendees. Many of these attendees posted pictures online, which, of course, helps grow my brand.
What kind of events should you attend?
Through experience, I’ve learned what kind of events you should attend to generate income and which ones to avoid.
If you are in a new sector, industry-based conferences will convert well. You’ll generate sales from them, but with time, they will get saturated as you’ll see a lot of your competitors showing up there.
In the long run, you’ll find that they drive little to no revenue.
Does this mean you should stop attending or speaking at them? Of course not! They are still great to attend or speak at as it helps you keep your pulse on the industry.
Over time, what you’ll find is that there are other conferences in different sectors that you can potentially speak at. These events will have fewer competitors, and they’ll typically generate the most income for you.
For example, I am a marketer. Speaking at a marketing conference won’t generate as much income as if I spoke at a health conference about marketing.
If I look at all the events I’ve spoken at, the one I made most of my money from is CAP Euro. While there, I spoke about marketing at a gambling event. One of the online casinos then hired me at a rate of $100,000 a month.
Are conferences financially rewarding?
As you can see from the above example, they are. Plus, I wouldn’t have spoken at over 200 events if I couldn’t justify it.
In addition to generating income from selling your products or services, you can also generate income from speaking fees.
Once you speak at over 50 events, you’ll find that people will start inviting you to speak. And they’ll actually give you money to do that.
I’m not the highest paid speaker, but I charge $20,000 an hour for speaking plus business class airfare, hotel accommodations, and food. That’s not too bad considering that I also generate income from these events by selling my products and services.
Generally, you’ll make a lot more money from selling products and services, but if you can also get paid to speak, why not take it?
If you want to make money from conferences, keep in mind that it’s a hit-or-miss when it comes to getting business from events. But like most things, it is a numbers game, and if you do it in sufficient enough quantities, it will work out.
Speaking at events is well worth it in my mind. Sure, it isn’t as effective as blogging, but if you combine both efforts, you’ll find that it will help grow your company and personal brand at a faster pace.
You just have to be patient when it comes to generating income. When you first start out, the events you speak at won’t be the most ideal, and you probably won’t be the best speaker.
Over time, you’ll see a transformation in your speaking abilities, and as you improve, you’ll obtain much better speaking slots.
P.S.: If you are interested in having me speak at a conference or to your company, feel free to reach out to me.