4 speaking tips at events

I’ve always found waiting for flights is a good way to blog and kill some time. Right now, I’ve parked myself in a cafe in Heathrow airport sipping on a carrot & apple juice. No better time to blog!

I’m going to be speaking at an event on the topic of “The Future of Product Management” on Wednesday, 1 February 2016. You can RSVP to the event here. The event is run by AcademyXi who’s vision is to change the world by educating the next wave of digital change-makers. They are running a series of events in 2017 on the future of UX (user experience), service design, augmented reality and my favourite topic product management.

I’d like to see more people speak at events so thought I’d share some tips in the lead up to the event. I don’t consider myself an amazing oratory speaker. Its simply something I started doing a few years back. There are a few things I learned along the way and would like to share with you. I’ve used some recent examples leading up to The Future of Product Management event.


Speaking with LL


1. If you work in the industry you are an expert

One of the biggest reasons that people shy away from speaking is because they believe they are not good enough or do not know enough. Even for me, initially I thought what do I know about the future of product management? What qualifies me as an expert in this area?

Its my first formal year as a product manager in a large company (Atlassian). However, when I thought about it some more, I’ve been working on products for the past 8 years or so ever since I started on my digital journey. The first “product”, I worked on was Mailout, an email marketing platform back in 2008 as a campaign producer/customer success/sales/do everything role.

The way I look at it is that if you work in the industry or have a business in the industry by virtue you are an expert! People are paying you to work in that area. That alone, justifies your opinion and presence. I’ve also been writing a lot about product and have a podcast about product management.

2. Commit to speaking early

When Alexis Wood, community manager at AcademyXi reached out to me, I was heading off on holiday overseas. So I wasn’t giving it my full attention when I saw the message as I was in transit to the airport. I responded immediately saying I was interested but wanted some more info and that I might respond a bit slower since I’m on holidays. She then pinged me back a week later with more info. I actually thought I had already said “yes”. So I responded straight away committing to speaking at the event.

Why? Because I liked the topic, thought it would help the product management community and I know there some good folks behind AcademyXi. I like to make fast decisions. This also helps event organisers if you commit earlier so they can lock in the speakers. Then they can get the marketing promotional wheel cranking and helps them find other speakers. I know if I commit, it will help them line up other things and start a domino effect.

3. Offer to help by finding speakers + promoting

Beyond speaking as a panellist, I offered to help them find other speakers and to help promote the event on social media. That’s part of the value-add I like to provide and may help differentiate me from other speakers. Above all, I also want the event to be a success. I really want to see an awesome panel and a full house.

I figured since I had committed early, there might not have secured other speakers yet. It turned out that they were looking for an additional panellist. So I thought about who might be suitable. Then messaged a contact to see if they were available, had a chat with them and then forwarded that contact to the organiser.

I have a following on social media (twitter, linkedin, facebook) and my blog. So I’ve started promoting it through there and tagging AcademyXi. I’m also working on an email newsletter for January and will push it through there. This blog post whilst not specifically about the topic, will also incidentally help.

I’m not saying that you should do the marketing for the event or totally go out of your way to source speakers. But if there’s little things you can do to help or there’s some unique value you can add, the organisers will appreciate it and you will develop a good working reputation as a speaker which will spread via word of mouth.

4. Speak from your experiences

A lot of times people are afraid to speak to the media or public because they don’t feel qualified (see above) or may not say the right thing. My belief is that if you speak about your experience and what you did, you will always be 100% right 🙂 Since you are talking about exactly what you did. Its factual. This is my approach, this is what I did, these were the outcomes, and this is what I learned. I prefer writing from my experiences as I can provide more intimate details.

Furthermore, if you work in the industry and are working on something, then you do have relevant experience AND are qualified to speak. No one wants to hear some high level talk, some waffle-y opinion or for you to quote “the lean startup”. They came to hear from the horses mouth. They want to know what you did and prefer to know the ins & outs.

I hope these 4 tips help you with presenting & speaking at events!

I’m out like speaking in public,
Matt Ho

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