Chris McCann's Personal Blog

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How to get a demo/speaking gig at a startup event

with one comment

TLDR: The best things in life don’t come to you. Tweet this.

Here is my personal perspective on how to get a speaking gig or demo opportunity for you or your startup at an event. As for qualifications I’ve personally had the privilege of speaking at Stanford University, the United Nations, for Global Entrepreneurship Week in Dubai, NYU, University de National in Colombia, many other places.

This post is purposely mis-titled for a reason. There is a general perception that conference or event organizers will go out and find you and find what you are working on and ask you to come speak or pitch at their event.

The honest truth is most likely this will never happen to you unless you are Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg, or another famous entrepreneur. If you’re just starting off and haven’t had a lot of speaking exposure before its going to take a lot of personal work.

Here is a better approach:

  1. Find a few events you are personally excited about using StartupDigest, Meetup, Eventbrite, or other event calendars.
  2. Reach out to the organizer directly, preferably a quarter, before the event is going to take place.
  3. Personally explain why you are excited about their event from all the rest and ask if they have any speaking/demo opportunities that are still available.
  4. Don’t be afraid to say you haven’t had a lot of speaking experience before.
  5. If all the speaking spots have already been booked still go to the event itself, meet the organizer in person, and try to get a spot for the event event.
  6. Rinse and repeat, that’s it.
Realize event organizers are always looking for new “content” themselves and they are in the position to bring in new

Here are some shortcuts to short circuit the above process, but use them wisely.

  • Friend Recommendation – If a previous speaker recommends you to speak, you have an easier chance of getting a speaking spot.
  • Reciprocity – If you significantly help out the organization behind the event (in a genuine way), you have an easier chance of getting a speaking spot.
  • Chain Reaction – If you’ve previously spoken at other quality events, you have an easier chance of getting a speaking spot.
  • Authority – If you’re running a “hot startup” or one that reaches a large audience base, you have an easier chance of getting a speaking spot.

If you have any other tips on getting a speaking engagement feel free to leave them in the comments below.


Written by Chris McCann

May 7, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. As an event producer (, I can say this is all great, but the MOST IMPORTANT to me:

    1) What is your experience? Experienced speakers who can show video of their speaking is #1. But if you are new:

    2) Attend my event. Put your money where your mouth is and show you are willing to support what I am working on; I’m then much more willing to support your message.

    3) Help with the event. Promote it to your network, even if you aren’t speaking. Show me you really care about this message – not just feeling good about yourself on stage – and I’m more likely to take your request seriously.

    Cass Phillipps

    May 7, 2012 at 9:08 pm

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