A Speaking Event Might Be One of The Best Things You Can Do For Your Company and Your Career

by Bobbie Carlton

Financial Frequency. myCareer

March 26, 2019 .3 min read

Whether it is cyber-security or real estate, finance and accounting, or marketing, there’s always a speaking event and/or opportunity available to you.

Conferences and events are definitely the types of events you want to hop on as they allow professionals to not only network but learn from each other. It’s also a place where you can go to promote your business as well as yourself.

With that in mind, today, we’re going to an event together.

Imagine a conference or trade show, or maybe even a local chamber of commerce breakfast. No matter the event you choose to visualize, picture a panel of leading experts in your field who are ready to talk about some of the most important issues of the day.

Now, picture the stage. Four panelists are ascending the stage, taking their seats behind microphones. Remember, these are the foremost experts in your field.

What do those experts look like?

If you’re like most people, the minute we called the speakers the “leading experts" you probably imagined a panel of older white men. Many people have been effectively “brainwashed" into seeing these people as “the experts" and/or “the leaders" because they are so often portrayed in the media as such. And, sadly, this is the reality of many events.

Getting back to our imaginary panel of men, or, as we say in the events business – a “manel." Last year, events software company Bizzabo published a study on the events industry, saying that approximately 70 percent of all-conference and events speakers were men. From our own experience, a too large percentage of panels tend to be “all male; all pale and all stale." The same speakers rise to the stage again and again.

Why? Because:

Fewer Than Five Percent of the CEOs for Fortune 500 Companies are Women

Events often draw speakers from the ranks of senior management, where men outnumber women, sometimes by outrageous percentages. The higher you go in many organizations, the more men you see.

Event managers see a speaker at another event and they invite them to speak on their stage – perpetuating the same speakers over and over again. The same high percentage of men.

Women are more likely to turn down speaking opportunities – one event manager estimates 50 percent of invitations to female speakers are turned down whereas 90 percent of male speakers say “yes".

Meanwhile, there are more events and speaking opportunities than ever before and they are an important route to business and career success. For example, TedX, Meetup.com, Eventbrite are some of the many events that offer up hundreds of thousands of speaking opportunities.

A great note to make is that many of these are considered ongoing programs, meaning, they look for new panels of speakers for every event. There have been more than 50,000 individual TedX talks given. More than half a million Meetups happen every month, and last year, more than 2 million events sold tickets on Eventbrite. This doesn’t include the 92,000 professional and business organizations. Don’t forget universities, colleges, and other educational institutions.

But why are we here to make a case for speaking by women? And, in particular, you?

In general, we always encourage speaking engagements as a marketing strategy to everyone because every time you find yourself on onstage, you create the opportunity to connect to a community – a community that includes potential customers, partners, media, investors, as well as other important community members such as board members.

Public speaking events also allow you to build credibility and authenticate yourself, becoming an expert and thought-leader in your industry. And while the common assumption is that you have been vetted and know more than people in the audience, that’s not necessarily true. Your job is simply to speak your truth, your knowledge and from your experience.

Again, these events are known to create tremendous networking and overall reach opportunities like none other. While any specific room may contain a finite number of people, the ripples of your presentation or speech can reach a seemingly infinite audience through social media and still powerful word-of-mouth. This visibility drives business opportunity.

But quickly circling back to why we’re making the case for women to speak more at these types of events. With enormous gender inequities still the norm in many industries, a focus on public speaking for women is one way we can start to turn this enormous ship in the right direction.

If all event managers committed to gender balance on stage at all conferences and events, maybe more women-founded companies would be funded, more women would see career growth and more women would be viewed as the leaders in their respective fields.

But at a personal level, public speaking is one of your best paths to business and professional success.

P.S. Take special note of the example we used. A panel. Not every public speaking opportunity has to be the lone speaker giving a presentation. Panels, fireside chats, roundtables – there are opportunities for visibility for everyone.