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11 challenges for social media / technology conference speakers

So…. you want to be a social media conference speaker? Last year when @OurHashtag planned the social media business forum we started receiving tons of submissions via our speaker request form from people all over the USA wanting to speak at our conference. Also as someone who’s been lucky enough to speak at various national and local conferences I often get asked about finding speakers for other conferences. Over the past two years, I’ve seen/experienced both the good and bad sides of speakers at conferences. I’ve seen people get upset and bash others just because they where not chosen or asked to speak.

The question I have for some is why do you want to speak at social media or tech conferences? To show everyone how smart you are? To help build your speaking resume? To get paid for sharing your knowledge? Regardless of what reason you may want to speak at a social media or technology conference, it’s not as easy as some may think. Here’s a list of 12 challenges for social media / technology conference speakers

1. New unique content
The last thing someone wants to hear after paying to hear you speak is a bunch of case studies that you have read from your favorite social media guide that the rest of the world is reading. When speaking at conference be prepared to come with new unique content or at least be entertaining enough so attendees can say they enjoyed your presentation.

2. Peer pressure / expectations
Don’t let the conference organizers over hype you or your presentation. When your times to give your talk the expectations may be to high and the audience is expecting you to wow them with social media case studies and shiny tools that most have heard before.

3. Adding value
This should be goal for every speaker or panelist who would like to speak at a social media conference or any event. Ask yourself how are you adding value to the conference.

4. Real-time critics and feedback
When speaking at social media conferences 9 out 10 times you can guarantee there’s a hashtag or twitter steam flowing somewhere in the background. If you’re sucking or crashing, expect a few angry/mean tweets to show-up in real-time. If you have the opportunity to see the stream during your talk, my advice is get through your presentation as fast as you can, jump to Q&A and write a blog post about what happen afterwards. Also you can try to either send a direct message or public reply to your critics. Most are fine with just a one way bashing but if you approach them some will go as far as deleting tweets or just apologizing.

5. Being always on
It doesn’t matter if you’re sick or had a recent death in the family. iIf you’re speaker at conferences and built a brand for yourself people will approach you and expect you to be same bubble of social media joy you are online. For example, I’m still upset about how I treated a Sony exec who approached me at SXSW 2010 while I was tired as heck. Not from drinking because I don’t drink but just tired. I was headed to the bloggers lounge and she walked over to me and said hello. I wasn’t mean or anything but was a little down. I don’t think she was too happy with my reactions and since then I have yet to hear from here even after reaching out a few times. If you’re reading this… I’m sorry.

6. Your quotes last forever
Be careful what you tweet is a motto of mine but when speaking at conferences be careful what you say. Audience attendees are trigger happy with their laptops and smart-phones ready to tweet a quote from your session. If you say the wrong thing it could be game over and stored in Google and quoted in recap blog post for life.

7. Getting paid for your knowledge
With so many people talking about social media today you’ll think everyone is an expert. The truth is there are no real experts, some just have more experience than others. Regardless you’ll find tons of people who are willing to speak for free at social media conference therefore set your price but be willing to negotiate.

8. Budgeting
You’re now getting paid to speak at a social media conference, your travel and hotel stay is covered. But don’t forget about food, taxi, parties and other miscellaneous charges. Especially if you travel to Las Vegas where everything cost almost as twice as much than any other location.

9. Preparation for the target audience
Make sure you ask the right questions to the conference organizer such as, who is the target audience for the event / session. Most will tell you marketers and agencies but that’s like saying everyone who’s trying to make money using twitter and facebook. If you have the opportunity, reach out to the local community for more information about the attendees if your speaking at an conference in a new city or ask the organizers for a list of companies represented from the registration list so you can be prepare your presentation for the right audience.

10. Winging it
Winging it is a term used by speakers when they wait to the last minute to prep for a talk or they’re speaking off the top of their heads. It’s something I think a few are proud to say afterwards, especially if they did nailed their talk. I’ve seen both professional speakers and newbies attempt to “wing it” but it’s not recommended. You audience deserves better if they come to hear you speak.

11. Dress code
You can almost guarantee that if you’re speaking at a social media conference someone is going to take your picture. With that being said the last thing you want is a ton of flickr photos tagged of you at various events with the same outfit on. Pull out the credit card and start shopping for your social media conference wardrobe.

So, do you still want to be a social media conference speaker?

If you’re currently a speaker what are some of the challenges that you have faced over the years?

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