How to Decide Whether You'll Speak at a Virtual Summit

summit speakers Aug 31, 2021

Consider this before you decide to speak at a virtual summit:⁠⁠ the host, availability, fit, likelihood that you'll benefit, and your desire to participate.

How many virtual summit speaking opportunities have you said "yes" to and regretted later? ...I'm counting on two hands.

This happens because many speakers feel obligated to say "yes" to opportunities. When those opportunities aren't truly a good fit, they turn into annoying obligations that you wish you'd have turned down.

From a summit host's perspective, it's ⁠⁠actually a good thing when a speaker turns down the opportunity to participate in your event. If you’re using solid strategies and sending good pitches, almost any “no” you get from a speaker will have a reason behind it that improves your event overall. It's so much more beneficial to have a lineup of speakers who are excited to participate and have plenty of space in their calendars to do so.

But let's focus on the speaker standpoint today and dive into what to consider when you're invited to speak at a virtual summit.

And next time you're presented with a speaking opportunity, take our quiz to find out if it's a good fit for you!

How to Decide Whether to Speak at a Virtual Summit

Until earlier this year, I went with a gut feeling when deciding whether or not I was going to speak at a summit. But with that "strategy" there were plenty of times where I ended up wishing that I'd have said no.

On the flip side, when I hosted my 6th summit in March there were a few speakers that I wished would have turned down my pitch. One had a big launch going on around the presentation due date and turned in his presentation weeks late. Then, there were a couple of others who said they were too busy to promote or give much attention to the event.

I ended up wishing that they'd have just turned me down, which is what made me take a closer look at the pitches I was saying "yes" to. If I was going to agree to be a part of an event, I wanted to be sure to show up for the host and attendees without ending up annoyed at what was required of me.

From that, came a list of questions that I now use to guide my decisions. And while it's a long process to explain, it only takes a minute or two to go through.

So let’s break down the 5 areas to look at when deciding to speak at a virtual summit.

The Host

Let’s start with the summit host. Everything else can be perfect, but if you don’t jive with the host, it’s not going to work.

On the other hand, even if the event isn't a totally perfect fit, but you love the heck out of the host, you might choose to say yes to nurture a relationship and support them.

There are few questions I recommend asking yourself when thinking about the host:

  • Does the host align with my values? These can be values across every spectrum of what the word could mean.
  • Does the host value their speakers or is it just a list grab? You can usually tell this through the pitch and the requirements. Make sure they care about you getting results and don’t just care about your email list.
  • Do they seem to know what they’re doing? I place this judgment fully on their pitch. For example, if I’m not given enough information upfront - I’m going to say no. 
  • Are expectations clear and reasonable? As a speaker, you should know exactly what’s expected of you and when. With that information, decide if it’s reasonable based on the potential results you'll see from participating and what you have time for.

Based on these questions, you can decide if the host is a person you want to collaborate with. If you’re not sold on the host, don’t bother reviewing the rest and it's an automatic "no".

Your Availability

If everything with the host checks out, it’s time to see if you have the availability to say yes to the opportunity.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I have time to create a presentation?⁠⁠ You don’t want a presentation that feels forced or like an obligation.
  • Will my content calendar allow for promotion?⁠⁠ It's important to say yes to events where you can support the host and show up for them.
  • Does my team have time to schedule promotion?⁠⁠ If you don't want to have to do all the scheduling, make sure your team will have the capacity to do it for you.
  • Will I have time to engage with attendees at the event?⁠⁠ The more you can show up and engage with attendees, the more you're going to get out of the time you put into the event.

If more than one of these's a “no”, it’s probably not a great fit.

If I know I won’t have room to promote or won’t want to put this specific event in front of my audience but absolutely everything else checks out, I let the host know that I wouldn’t be able to promote and let them make the decision.

The Fit

If you align with the host and you have the availability to do more than create the bare minimum presentation, look at whether the event is a good fit for you.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Is the audience one that I want to get in front of?⁠⁠ If it's not an audience that's going to be interested in your offers, the event likely isn't a great fit.
  • Do I value the topic and transformation of this event?⁠⁠ You should feel lit up by the transformation the attendees will get from this summit so you can show your excitement while creating your presentation and promoting.
  • Can I provide a transformation for this audience?⁠⁠ Look at whether the topic you like to teach on one that will provide a transformation that this audience needs.
  • Is the topic I'm being pitched one I love to talk about?⁠⁠ 

If the event isn't a good fit for the audience you want to get in front of or the content you teach, it's likely not one that's worth your time. 

The Likelihood that You’ll Benefit

No matter how perfect everything is that we already covered, if there’s no way for you to benefit outside of “exposure”, it’s not worth your time unless the host is someone you really want to connect with.

To see how you'll benefit, ask yourself questions like:

  • Can I connect with attendees outside of a prerecorded presentation? Are there live panels or live sessions you can be a part of? Chatting in the Facebook group and going live in there are other ways to connect with the audience.
  • Are you able to make money and/or collect leads? You should be able to either make money through being paid upfront or collect leads by pitching a freebie at the end of your presentation.
  • Could this audience turn into clients or customers? If you're not being paid, but can collect leads, are they leads that will later translate to clients or customers?

If you’re happy with the opportunities the host has set up to make sure that you benefit, let’s move on to the last and maybe most important section.

Your Desire to Participate

Honestly, I shouldn't be preaching about this because I’m terrible at saying "no" to things, but can we stop saying yes to things that we don’t want to do?

How silly is it that we started our businesses to do something we enjoyed, but then we feel obligated to agree to things we're not excited about?

I challenge you to only say yes to something if you go through all these questions, they check out, and then you truly want to participate.  

You can ask yourself questions like:

  • Is this something I’ll truly enjoy? 
  • Will I want to promote this? 
  • Do I have a connection with the host that I want to support? It’s a lot harder to get “into” an even when you have no previous connection with the host.
  • Am I okay saying yes to this if it means saying no to something else? 

Those right there will give you your real answer if you weren’t sure up to this point. Go with what that gut feeling is telling you, even though saying no stinks sometimes.

Save These Questions

This might be more thought than you've ever put into whether you'd speak at an event before, but I want to see more speakers who show the heck up for the events they agreed to - both for the speaker's benefit and for the host's.

None of us hosts want you to feel like you're obligated to participate. We want it to be fun for you. 

Before you say yes, look closely at the host, your availability, the likelihood that you'll benefit, and how much you truly want to participate.

Save this list of questions for yourself or take our quiz each time you are presented with a speaking opportunity!


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