Speaking in public is one of the most rewarding experiences anyone can have.
To start, you get the chance of becoming known in your industry, which boosts your perceived authority and influence. You also give back to your community, meet interesting people (who could become potential mentors, clients, or friends), and promote your company.
But unless you are already an expert who has been approached a few times to speak, it’s not easy to get invited to speak at one.
To find out how to speak at a PPC conference, and ahead of the PPC conferences season, I reached out to 13 PPC experts and asked:
What’s your single best tip you can give to someone who’d want to speak at a (paid advertising) conference?
Here’s what they had to say:
AJ Wilcox: ‘Start Small’
When just barely starting to speak, you likely won’t be invited to the big shows that you’ve got your eye on. Instead, start small and speak for meetup groups, and other organizations that are constantly looking for people to share their expertise. As you speak at smaller events, it will be easy to parlay those into pitching at larger and larger conferences.
Make sure to record one of your early presentations as it will serve two purposes:
Larger conferences will want to see you in action since they don’t want to put someone who is unproven on stage.
You can review the recording to determine how you can improve your speaking. It’s the fastest way to improve and get rid of the quirks and odd mannerisms you might exhibit on stage.
Action Steps: Start small, record your first few presentations, and focus on improving each one you give.
Jonathan Dane: ‘Give Lots of Value’
It’s easy to get trapped in the ins and outs of a call: having great-looking slides, proper tech, what to say, etc. But the key, as always, is to give as much value as possible.
I have a step-by-step tip:
- Drop as many tactics as possible during your talk (people value takeaways they can use right away, stop speaking theory bullshit)
- Try to get a speaking slot before a break/lunch
- Be available and approachable to chat with attendees during that break
It has been the quickest way to chat about opportunities and get new clients for us.
Action Steps: Focus on giving out as many tactics as possible, speak at the right times, and chat with the people that attended your talk.
JD Prater: ‘Practice Makes the Master’
JD Prater, Director of Growth Marketing at AdStage, highlights the importance of practicing before your talk:
Practice, practice, practice. I’ve seen too many speakers get nervous, read the slides, or not have a good flow due to lack of preparation. I try to rehearse all my conference presentations at least 10 times leading up to the event. The goal is to never be surprised by what’s on the next slide.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, famously said: “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”
In other words, preparation is essential to succeed in anything you do. Before you give a talk, you need to prepare by practicing it over and over until you master it.
The goal should be to be able to give your presentation without having to look at your slides or stop to think what you want to say next.
Action Steps: Practice your talk before you step on the stage.
Jason Fairchild: ‘Be Clear’
One of the attributes most inexperienced speakers have in common is their tendency to fumble around.
For your message to be delivered correctly, you need to be clear when you speak. Know what you have to say, and then say it. Even if that makes your presentation shorter, people will appreciate it.
Have a clear point of view, and clearly articulate it. Sorry if it seems simplistic, but fundamentals matter. In order to clearly articulate your POV, you have to keep it simple and, the more technical the subject matter, the more helpful simple analogies can be.
Action Steps: Focus on the key elements of your talk, and deliver them as clear as possible.
Ada Pally: ‘Tell Your Personal Story’
People go to PPC conferences to learn about new ways of doing paid advertising. The more value you give in your presentation, the better.
Nonetheless, people not only like to learn what to do, but why they should do it. After all, storytelling is a key element in every human’s life. If you tell a story in every talk you give, people will remember and enjoy them more.
Link your topic to a personal story. It helps the audience personalize, empathize, and engage with you, and makes it a lot easier to speak passionately.
Action Steps: Tie your presentation’s main message with your personal story. Don’t talk only about how to implement a tactic, but why it matters and how you learned about it.
Maddie Cary: ‘Act Like a Pro’
Giving a talk that people like takes a lot of practice and experience. Even if you have never given a talk before, you need to step up your game and be prepared as if it was your job.
Don’t tell the audience to expect less from you.
One of the best tips I got was from a friend in the industry pointing out that I did this once when presenting at a conference: don’t start presentations with apologies about jet lag or being tired or even being sick. Don’t make jokes about being long-winded, unprepared, or about putting together a presentation the night before.
The audience came (and likely paid a fair amount of money!) to see experts speak at a conference. They are looking for quality, confidence, and thoughtfulness. Saying anything that suggests they won’t be getting that tells them to be disappointed before you’ve even began.
You’re a speaker for a reason – you have something interesting to say! So step up, be bold, and say it.
Action Steps: Step up your game and give the best from your talks.
Leandra Parks: ‘Test and Have Data’
The paid advertising industry is in a state of constant change. Almost every week, all the major advertising networks publish new features, changing the way paid marketers do their job.
As a PPC marketer, you need to be constantly learning new ways of doing your job, testing out a lot of new tactics. The results you get from these tests represent good material for your presentations.
Test new things and opportunities so you have enough data to speak.
Action Steps: Have data to back your talk and share it.
Dana Di Tomaso: ‘Meet the Organizers’
Speaking at a conference is hard, but organizing one is even harder! Unless you are a professional speaker who lives off her gigs, you are given a great chance whenever you participate in a conference.
You can widen your network, acquire more customers, and attract more talent to your company thanks to your speaking engagements.
For that reason, you need to get to know the organizers and thank them for their work. Even a simple “thank you” can mean a lot to them and help you get more opportunities in the future.
Get to know the organizers!
I got my first industry speaking engagement because I found the website of the panel organizer, read his tips on getting picked for a panel, and did exactly that. Even if you don’t get picked this time, keep in touch with the organizers and don’t burn any bridges.
Organizers do talk to each other and treating someone poorly will impact future speaking engagement opportunities. Add everyone you meet on Twitter and LinkedIn and read what they have to say.
Keeping in touch keeps you top of mind when people are thinking about speakers they’d like to invite to their event.
Action Steps: Be kind to the organizers of the event where you give a talk. Always show them your appreciation for their work and the opportunity they have given you.
Joe Martinez: ‘Don’t Get Caught Up in the Details’
Practice matters, but don’t overdo it.
When I got my first national speaking gig, I wanted it to be perfect. I practiced the deck so much I feel it actually hurt my overall presentation. When I didn’t stick to the script, I lost track a few times or stuttered because I was trying to be perfect.
I ditched that practice immediately. I told myself I’m speaking on topics I deal with every day. I know the content like the back of my hand. I shouldn’t have to rehearse a topic I can explain to PPC marketers of any level.
Now I just practice a few times to know I can honor the time allotted. I feel my presentation style is much more relaxed and more conversational instead of a boring lecture on stage.
Action Steps: Don’t get too caught up in the details of your speech. Make sure you remember the main structure of the talk, and the rest will take care of itself.
Susan Wenograd: ‘Have a Strong Pitch’
If you want your talk to have a big impact in the conference you are participating in, it needs to have a strong pitch.
You can’t be taken seriously if you speak by asking for permission. You need to stand strong and give value. What’s more, you need to know how to communicate properly.
You need to know what you will talk about, how to explain it, and how to make sure people get something of value from it.
Susan Wenograd, former Partner of Paid Social and Paid Search Advertising at Five Mill, recommends:
Start with a strong pitch.
Your pitch is not only for the conference organizers, but also for you. A strong pitch isn’t just about making something sound exciting, but also about the speaker knowing its specific value to the audience. Be specific about what you want to cover, what attendees will learn, and what they will know more about/how to do after your talk. I always pitch a topic with an outline in my head, and case studies that I know will help.
It also helps the organizers to know exactly what to expect, and also where they can steer you in a better direction. For example, if I was just going to vaguely pitch Facebook Ads, that doesn’t help anyone. If I say Facebook Ads for lead gen, that’s slightly better. The organizers can tell me if their audience is mostly e-commerce instead, for example. If I go a step further and pitch Facebook Advertising tips for quality lead gen and remarketing tactics to reduce spend waste, now we’re really getting somewhere.
Vagueness leads to talks that wander and aren’t sure of the takeaways. They also create problems with overlap – you don’t really want to cover stuff another speaker did, right? The audience will tune out quickly, and now you’ve done all that work for nothing!
Bottom line: Your pitch helps the conference committees know exactly how you fit into the line-up, and makes their job easier. It also makes your job easier, because you head into your PowerPoint creation knowing your path, and the things you need to check off to make it effective.
Action Steps: Be clear with your message and with the organizers. Know what you will share with the audience and let the organizers know.
Lewis Brannon: ‘Hustle Your Way Up’
If you are an experienced PPC expert who has achieved great results for your clients (or your own company), it can be easy to get speaking opportunities at any PPC conference. But if you aren’t known within the industry yet, you shouldn’t despair.
If you feel that you have a PPC strategy that is truly innovative, effective and drives results, then begin an outreach campaign to contact the organizers of various conferences and pitch yourself as a speaker. Of course, it helps if you work for an agency or a recognizable company that allows you to utilize a PR/ Marketing team to pitch for you, but even if you are alone, you can do it.
Attendees at conference want to learn tips and strategies on how to improve their performance and get better at their jobs, so make sure your pitch and content is something that is fresh and smart and not something remedial or boring.
Action Steps: If you have something unique to say, reach out to conference organizers. They and their audience will appreciate your knowledge.
Daniel Gilbert: ‘Check the Setup’
Before you get started with your talk, you need to make sure you don’t have any technical problems while you speak makes it even more complicated.
You may think having the right setup is something the organizers need to do on their own, but you’d be wrong. It’s your responsibility to double-check everything so you don’t commit any blunders while you speak.
The last thing you want is to be in the middle of your speech, having everyone engaged, when your pointer stops working. That would ruin the whole experience, which as we said before, is bad for everyone.
Check the AV setup and do a dry run the day before if the team can accommodate. You need to get familiar with the room and the space… plus, the last thing you want to worry about is your presentation breaking. Trust me, I’ve been there!
Action Steps: Before you start your talk, double-check the technical settings.
Samantha Noble: ‘Build It and They Will Come’
If you build your network, your expertise, and your portfolio, you’ll increase your chances of getting invited to speak at a conference.
If you want to start speaking at conferences you need to prepare yourself that it doesn’t happen overnight. You need to build up your portfolio of talks in order to get asked to do others so it can feel like you are pitching and getting knocked back a lot. You have to remain focused and think of ways to get the attention of conference organizers:
- Attend the events you want to speak at
- Network at the event BUT stick around for the after parties (this is where you will make the best connections)
- Blog about your thoughts on the event or top takeaways
- Think about what you would want to focus on when doing conference talks and immerse yourself in that discipline
- Blog about it
- Tweet about it
- Strive to be a go-to person for it
- Approach the organizers and give them a choice of ideas of what you would want to talk about and include the takeaways that the audience would get
Whatever you do, don’t give up. If you get turned down when you pitch, keep that conference on the list for next year and try again but just keep the networking going and keep getting your name out there across all the different channels available to you.
Action Steps: Attend events in which you’d like to talk, network, and share your knowledge online. Then, contact the organizers.
There are many things you need to learn before you get started talking at a PPC conference. With the 13 tips you’ve seen today, it will become much easier for you to get invited and prepare to speak.
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What makes an effective paid marketer? This question is a focus of our work here at AdStage as we build technology to help paid marketers be more productive and successful. Looking for answers, I asked some of the industry’s most prominent paid marketers about the top skills to develop in 2018 to become a PPC expert.
Here’re the top 7 paid marketing skills — according to Dan Gilbert, Mark Irvine, Samantha Noble, Susan Wenograd, Natalie Barreda, and JD Prater.
1. Be Adaptable
“My main attribute is adaptability,” says Dan Gilbert, CEO of Brainlabs., a U.K.-based digital marketing agency. “There are hundreds of changes to the PPC landscape every year,” says Dan. “What you knew last year is no good this year!”
An ex-Googler recommends to “choose 3 or 4 superheroes of PPC and follow them,” because it’s easy to get lost by trying to follow everything. “They are your curators of everything you need to know.”
2. Know How to Explain PPC to Non-PPC People
“A lot of people say, ‘Hey, you have to be really analytical. You have to be very good at paid search,” says Mark Irvine, senior data scientist at Wordstream. “But I think you have to be able to maintain that client relationship. I know math very well. I know numbers very well. I know data very well. At the end of the day, I have to relate that back to people who don’t,” says Mark, who, as Wordstream’s data chief, also trains and supports the company’s team of 180+ employees.
3. Be Dedicated
“In an industry that is forever changing, a good PPC person needs to be on top of all the latest updates, and this needs not only to be done during work time,” says Samantha Noble, the founder of Biddable Moments and former Director of Strategy at Koozai, a digital marketing agency. “To be good at PPC, I really believe that you need to live and breathe it (day and night).”
How do you gauge a person’s level of dedication if you don’t know a person well? Here’re some of the questions Samantha asks whenever she’s recruiting for a senior PPC role:
- Which blogs and publications do you read to ensure you keep up to date with the industry?
- What is your number 1 go to blog for learning PPC?
- What was the last conference you attended?
- Who is an inspiration to you within the paid media community?
- If you could ask AdWords for one feature to be added to the platform, what would it be?
- Tell me about a blog post that you have written about PPC that you were most proud of.
“I also look them up on Twitter to see what sort of conversations they have and what content they share,” Samantha says.
4. Think Outside of Your Niche
“PPC operates in less of a silo than it did in past years,” says Susan Wenograd, who recently took the leap into the freelance world after years of agency life at Five Mill and Clix Marketing. A Marketing Land and Search Engine Journal contributor, Susan also manages a closed Facebook community for paid social advertisers.
“It used to be that just knowing paid search was enough – clients dumped a lot of money into it, and it was one of the best channels to drive sales and leads,” Susan says. “I run into a lot of people or agencies who sneer at anything that isn’t their main avenue, whether that’s paid search, Facebook Ads, or anything else. Specialization is great – ignorance is not. Even if you have one particular platform you work with most, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of others to understand the strengths of all the others. Clients need strategic guidance based on their goals, and a lot of times those aren’t something solved with one solution.”
5. Learn How to Sell
“While yes, we are search marketers and our main goals are to drive results for our accounts, there is absolutely still a sales aspect to it,” says Natalie Barreda, Senior Search Strategist at Point It, a digital marketing agency in Seattle.
“If you want to work with clients, you need to be able to sell the work that you’re doing to them and their company stakeholders. If you want to work in-house, you need to sell the work you’re doing to your leadership team. Additionally, having a sales-mindset helps when you’re identifying growth opportunities in your accounts. We might not be selling a physical product, but we are absolutely selling solutions to problems.”
6. Be Creative
“The perception is there because we [search marketers] tend to be data nerds,” says Natalie Barreda. “Search is a pretty mature medium, and most advertisers have been advertising in the space for a while now. Being able to come up with creative ideas that get clients/stakeholders excited are going to cause you to stand out amongst the crowd as an innovative thinker. A couple of years ago, one of the leaders at my company at the time told me ‘Make mistakes. Try things out. Learn. Don’t be afraid’ and that piece of advice has stuck with me for years.”
7. See the Larger Picture
“While quality score and leads are important metrics, CMOs are laser-focused on the ROI of marketing spend in 2018, according to Gartner. This will force paid marketers to go deeper in the funnel to show the business impact of their ad spend,” says JD Prater, Director of Growth Marketing at AdStage.
“So to be a badass PPCer, learn how to import and map offline conversions back into AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook. Then understand what campaign optimizations will drive more ROI rather than focusing on metrics that aren’t necessarily growing the business.”
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I go to a fair amount of product meetups here in the San Francisco tech scene. While awkwardly mingling over a bucket of Lagunitas, I often hear the same standard questions: “Where do you work? What do you do?”
If you ever go to product meetups, you’ll quickly learn that people there fall into two groups.
In group one, you have product people. They are the ones currently trying to figure out how to better prioritize their roadmap, spec out features, explain their product, deal with cranky customers, know when to hire, make better use of metrics, etc. Or they’re there for the free beer and to find a sympathetic soul who can relate to their product struggles.
The second group is comprised of those who want to be in product. Once they realize I’m in group one, a current “product person,” I almost always hear the following question, “How can I get into product?”
First, let me give you my credentials. I live in SF. I work in tech. I’m VP of Product at AdStage. I have glasses and a beard. I eat kale. I wear Allbirds. This means I’m highly qualified to give advice on becoming a product manager.
So, very often my first question is “Why? What do you imagine you’ll like about being in a product role?” People incorrectly assume product has all the power, and they WANT THE POWER. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you don’t.
The truth is, you often have limited formal power and must be constantly brokering a peace deal between conflicting groups. So first, I get that misconception out of the way. If they actually like the work that is done by a product person, then I give them some version of the advice I will share with you here. In fact, here’s a snapshot from an email conversation I recently had with someone I mentor, Jacob:
I started off in quality assurance and then moved into customer success doing both onboarding and account management. However, I have always been pulled towards the product side. I’m curious to hear how you transitioned to product as I would like that to be the next step in my career for this coming year.
Congrats on setting a concrete goal towards a product management career! I started in product before it was a popular discipline. At the time we didn’t have names for the multiple product roles. I just did what was needed to make the product successful. Looking back, I’d say I moved from sales to sales training to product training to product marketing — and eventually into product management.
My advice to folks who don’t yet have product experience is to learn and apply the skills you’ll need for product management while in your current role. Since the product role is so broad, you have many tasks to choose from. Ideally, you can go to someone on the product team and ask, “What are some of the things you never have time to get to? Would you mind if I helped out?”
If your product person doesn’t have any ideas just pick something that sounds interesting and helpful. You can do competitive research, mock a feature improvement, or have a customer session where you gather product feedback. If you’re at a small company, you can usually just do these things and share your results. Ask for honest feedback and see if your work is any good. If it sucks, watch some YouTube videos on the topic and try again.
In rare cases, you may run into some office politics… “Why is Agnes from accounting talking to customers!” If that happens, stay humble, be honest, and ask them what they think would make for a better project.
Here’s an important caveat. If your role is currently in customer success (or engineering, or QA, or marketing), you have to make sure you’re still working hard to excel in that role. When I was a product trainer I taught salespeople about our digital products every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Then for the next two hours, when I was done with the commitments of my job, I made one-sheeters, training slides, and other product marketing materials.
I’d pass along feedback from the sales team, point out features that competitors had just released, and ask questions to understand the architecture and inner workings of the product. After a few months, the product manager asked me, “Do you want to move over to the product team full-time?” I never looked back.
So Jacob, pick one product task to do in the next week. Let me know what you chose, how it turned out, and what you learned.