As you climb the career ladder and master your profession, the more you’ll be asked to speak at events, but how do you know a good opportunity from a waste of time?


What is the conference history?

Is the conference well known or brand new? Have you attended before? Who has spoken there in the past, and do you admire and respect those previous speakers? Does the conference organiser have experience hosting? Will you feel good attaching your name to the conference?


What is the location and talk format?

Ask about details before you accept

Is the location and venue reputable? Would you feel comfortable speaking there? If there is no location secured yet, you may want to flag that as an issue and hold off until you know the exact venue.

How long is the talk expected to be, and what format? When is the conference (will you have enough time to prepare?)


How relevant is it?

What is your level of interest in the conference? Is the conference you’ve been invited to compelling to you? As a speaker, you’re not expected to attend each session, so no need to evaluate content panel by panel.


Assess your audience

How big is the audience? Who will you be speaking to? Does it sound like the right audience? Are you confident you can help or educate that crowd in some way? If the audience doesn’t resonate with you, your message may not resonate with them, either.


Plan to be prompt

Ask your questions upfront, and ask when the conference organizer will need you to confirm your participation by. Remember that conference organizers are busy people with complicated lives just like you, so gather details, but respond promptly. If you decline and know someone who might be a better fit, pass their name along and keep the good karma going.


Ask the hard questions

Regardless of whether or not you’re ready to take that speaking slot for free, always ask if there is a speaker’s budget. This is not insulting or greedy: it simply means that you value your time, and any conference organiser looking for speakers knows and expects this. Forget discomfort and find out if there’s a speaker’s fee to offset the time you’ll spend preparing and presenting your talk. Ditto for inquiring about airfare and accommodation support.


Evaluate your match

Focus on “fit”

Is it obvious why the conference organiser picked you—not someone else—to speak at their conference? How will your presence and knowledge contribute to the conference? Is the topic spot-on for your expertise, or a stretch? If it feels like a stretch, it probably is: if it’s not clear to you why you should be there, it won’t be clear to your audience, either. If you’re not sure why you’re being invited, ask. If you still don’t get a convincing response, move on.


Align your goals

Are you being asked to repeat a previous performance and reshare pre-existing content, or create entirely new content for your speech? Which would you prefer? Are you and your conference organiser looking for the same thing?


Check your chemistry

Given the audience makeup, will you be excited to share your story? Flattery aside, will you look forward to putting in the work and preparing your presentation on this topic? If you’re lukewarm on it now, best not to sign up: It will only get more intense after accepting.

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