Episode 33: 7 Steps for Pitching Your Ideas for Workshops, Presentations, and Panel Sessions to Conferences and Events

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7 steps for pitching your ideas to conferences and events on Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show

This Week’s Episode

Today’s topic was suggested by last week’s guest, Sedie Maruska. I’m going to share a 7 step process for pitching your ideas to conferences and events. This process is what I use both for yarn-related events, like regional fiber festivals, and for other types of venues, like blogging or social media conferences.

The 7 steps are:

  1. Define your goals
  2. Identify potential venues
  3. Find the speaker or workshop guidelines and understand the compensation practices
  4. Choose your pitch
  5. Refine your pitch
  6. Submit and wait
  7. Follow up (maybe)

Some Background

As a teenager, I was part of a pilot program to train youth as HIV prevention peer educators. As a result, I received a lot of training in public speaking. This was very helpful because I’m a very introverted person (and was even more so as a teenager). I ended up entering into a career path which involved a lot of public speaking as a result. Pitching workshop ideas to professional conferences has been part of my career since way before I entered the yarn industry, and I wanted to continue that practice for my yarn-related business.

I’ve presented workshops at several local and regional fiber festivals, including the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival, the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival, and the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival. This year, I began presenting at blogging and social media conferences, including the We All Grow Summit by Latina Bloggers Connect, Social Media Week New York, and the upcoming BlogHer15.

1) Define your goals

There are many different reasons you might want to speak at an event. Some common goals are…

  • To build your platform. You may want to grow your reputation in a certain niche, or more firmly establish the association between your brand and certain topic areas. If this is your primary goal, you may want to narrow the topic ideas you pitch and the events you approach. You may also be soliciting potential clients or students for existing courses, books, and other products and services.
  • To share the love. Perhaps you want to spread your love of knitting or crochet or meet new friends. Your reasons for speaking are more altruistic.
  • To travel. Some speakers want to find a reason or a pathway to attending far flung events so that they can expand their travel opportunities.
  • To gain free admission. You may have a specific event you’d like to attend, but the admission to the event is outside of your budget. Most venues provide free admission to their presenters, so this might be one way of making a specific conference affordable to you.
  • To make money. Spoiler alert: Most conference speakers don’t make money speaking, at least not initially. In many cases, your time and/or travel will be only minimally compensated. Typically, a speaker must have a large existing platform to command high speaking fees. However, we all have to start somewhere, so if this is your eventual goal, you may want to begin by building your speaking portfolio.

2) Identify potential venues

Once you have a clear idea of your immediate goals, you can start to identify potential venues. You can then narrow your focus to the events and conferences where you could most easily and quickly meet your goals by being selected as a speaker.

My favorite resource for finding fiber related events is the Knitter’s Review list of events. Larger, more established events may be looking for speakers as far as one year in advance, while smaller, local events may be refining the speakers list just a month or two in advance.

If you’re more interested in presenting on topics related to blogging or small business issues, She Owns It has a regularly updated list of Retreats for Women, Entrepreneurs, and Bloggers that I’ve found very helpful.

You can find out about other local or regional events through your crochet or knitting guild chapter, your local yarn shop, the local U.S. Small Business Administration field office, your area’s chamber of commerce, or any face-to-face business or professional associations you belong to. You might also hear about events from LinkedIn groups, podcasts you listen to, or blogs you read. Don’t forget about local themed events like Social Media Week or heritage events in your area!

New events are often more open to accepting speakers without an established background. Keep your eyes open on Twitter and other social media networks for announcement of new conferences and events.

Colleges and universities often host events and conferences. Students often organize these events and are looking for outside speakers. You can find more information through the college’s events calendar.

3) Find the speaker or workshop guidelines and understand the compensation practices

Review the event website looking for sections for teachers or speakers or information on workshops or the agenda.

Sometimes you will find a call for speakers, an email list sign up for prospective speakers, or forms to fill out with a clearly stated deadline and compensation. More often, you will need to reach out to the organizers via email and ask for more details.

If it isn’t explicitly stated, don’t forget to ask about compensation practices. I share some tips for pricing for events where you are asked to determine your own course fee.

4) Choose your pitch

Once you’ve narrowed down the list of potential venues, consider your goals as you decide what to pitch. You may want to consider different formats (e.g., a hands on workshop, a multi-speaker panel, a presentation/lecture). You will also have to decide whether to pitch one idea or multiple ideas. Some of this is decided for you by the venue as fiber events in particular often prefer to have each teacher offer multiple workshops, thereby requiring multiple pitches.

It’s important to follow directions for submitting your proposal. This is not the time to shine for your individual creativity :).

5) Refine your pitch

Conferences and events usually use a juried process to choose speakers, teachers, and presenters. For that reason, I often ask a colleague to look over my pitch before submitting it. (If that’s not possible, spend some time self-editing.) Consider whether the tone and content is appropriate to the venue as well as if you’ve clearly “sold” yourself as a great presenter.

6) Submit and wait

Submit your proposal following the event’s guidelines and wait to hear back. Some events have a clear timeline for responding to speaker proposals.

7) Follow up (maybe)

In some cases, gentle follow up may be helpful to your submission. Rather than contacting the organizers to ask about the status of your application, you may want to share targeted updates that serve to highlight your expertise or skills as a teacher/speaker.

Other Tips

  • Be aware of any non-compete clauses for speakers. Some events require speakers to sign non-compete clauses agreeing not to present on the same topic and/or in the same geographical area for a certain number of days before or after the event.
  • Consider “add on events” when traveling. If it doesn’t violate your speaker clause, consider setting up additional workshops, trunk shows, book signings, or other events in the local area at local yarn shops or related venues when traveling.
  • If you don’t have a background in public speaking or lack confidence in public speaking, I recommend you check out your local Toastmasters chapter. Although I have never personally worked with them, I have heard good things from many members. Toastmasters is an affordable alternative to public speaking coaching.


I will be presenting at the BlogHer ’15 Conference in New York City along with my friend and fellow solopreneur, Carlota Zimmerman from the Creativity Yenta (who was a guest on Episode 16 and Episode 22). We will be part of a workshop on Friday, July 17, 2015 called Social Media Bootcamp: Lightning Lessons in the Latest: LinkedIn, Google+ Hangouts On Air, and Twitter. If your blog is a major part of your business income (or, you’d like it to be), I hope to see you there! If you haven’t already registered, you can take advantage of our friends and family discount for 30% off the Blogger Rate by registering through this link.

If you are listening as this episode is released, I’d love it if you could join my live Google+ Hangout with Carlota as No Frills Small Business on Monday, April 27, 2015. You can check out the teaser and RSVP to get a  reminder before the show starts here. We’ll be talking about getting the most value out of your next business conference or networking event.

What are your goals for your pitching events and conferences? Leave a comment below, Tweet me at @cyeshowadd me to your G+ circle and send me a note, or leave a message at 646-713-8973. (You can call me for free through the Contact page.)

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