At a recent conference, I was asked by several people “How do I start speaking at conferences?”
There are several ways to do this, but to be frank, I don’t know that I ever approached the activity in a deliberate manner. I have spent some time (a short time) thinking about it and have arrived at some methods- and in no way do I mean to sound cynical at the suggestions, they truly are legitimate ones.
How to start speaking at events:
1) Be employed in a key position at a major company.
It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a good speaker or have something profound to say, if you hold a key position and your company is making headlines (good or bad), people will likely want to hear you speak. Anyone who speaks from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Target (breach-related), etc. are all draws for audiences.
2) Be a major contributor or sponsor.
Throw a little money at the issue and opportunities open up.
3) Speak after you write.
Write something significant or write a lot on topics of interest to people or the field. One of my favorite privacy professionals, Dan Solove, writes the books on privacy. I have had his books/papers on privacy in my library for years.
4) Develop a niche area.
Either through passion or expertise, develop a niche area. You’ll still probably need to write about it to establish that you have some expertise, but niche areas are attractive as long as they are relevant.
5) Become an expert.
Whether in a niche area or a broad area, if you become an expert, people will want to hear you speak. Several people come to mind on this one: Chris Hoofnagle, Paul Schwartz, Dan Solove (listed above), Christopher Wolf, and many many more.
6) Get involved.
Join industry groups, task forces, action groups, committees. National, international, state, local, tribal. And when you join, be active and involved.
7) Be passionate.
Get passionate about something. Speak to individuals. Write. Speak to groups. Help solve or illuminate a problem. I just heard a keynote from a lady along these lines: Danielle Citron, speaking on Revenge Porn. Another recent example was Oren Yakobovich with the NGO Videre est credere, which helps people in oppressed areas expose the oppression.
There are other ways to get involved in speaking, but these are the ones that stand out to me. I also recommend becoming a good speaker and I will write another entry on my perspectives on how to become a good speaker – or even a great one.