BrightonSEO September 2019 - A Speaker’s Journey
My blog post today is about how I fulfilled my long-time dream of speaking at our industry's most important conference: BrightonSEO - that I kept postponing over the last few years due to my fear of public speaking (and that I believe everybody suffers from, especially at the beginning.)
Finally, back in Early-May this year I filled out the speaker’s form, pitching 2 ideas I had in mind that I would love to talk about. Little did I know that this dream would very soon become a reality.
I was very surprised to already receive a response just 2 weeks after I submitted it. And from that point on everything went really fast. I was really impressed by the professionalism of the organization team of the BrightonSEO. They replied to emails very quickly, organized a speakers-training, a speaker field guide with all important info summarized short and snappy. They sent along presos, blogs, videos on how to prepare and so on. We even had a WhatsApp group to create a community with all speakers where we would be able to support each other. All in all; a 10 out of 10 for making everybody feel special and taken care of.
Please keep in mind that if you want to pitch as a speaker at a conference, plan a minimum of 6 months for the process, preparation of the deck, and practicing for your speech. It really is no walk in the park. Delivering a great speech is tough work.
Actually, the more time you plan for it the better, so if you are a first-timer, remember: it’s most of the time NOT how experienced you are, it’s how interesting your topic could be for the audience, and also on how you present it & yourself in the application form you fill out.
Of course, there are some conferences, like for example the SMX ones that ask for previous speaker footage and references, or there are others that won’t accept pitches as they handpick speakers themselves e.g. MozCon, just to name one.
I would like to share some good general advice before pitching a talk idea that the team of BrightonSEO shared on how your pitch should be:
- Actionable: The BrightonSEO audience always asks for "practical how-to information our attendees can learn from". The perfect outcome from a talk is a list of tasks for an attendee to add to their to-do list, tools to investigate and books to read.
- Specific: They are far more likely to program-specific talks. If you pitch an idea like 'social media marketing' or even 'link building' it's very hard for them to know exactly what you plan to talk about. The more detailed the title and description, the greater the chance they will like the idea.
- Avoid the basics: While there are some beginners who attend BrightonSEO, it is best to avoid general theorizing on abstract subjects and basic, obvious tips. "Our audience is not new to the digital marketing field".
- Don't pitch overly self-promotional talk ideas: 'How to use our tool' or 'here's our great client results' won't appeal to BrightonSEO’s audience.
- Use relevant & timely research data: If you're able to include the results of a study or some research, you should. This will help the likelihood of them programming your talk.
- Be authoritative: The speaker must "know" their subject and it should be obvious in the delivery. If you don't know the topic from the inside out, it might be better to pitch on a different topic.
- Tight topic: BrightonSEO talks last twenty minutes, which means you need to have a very tight and specific idea of what you'd like to cover. If in doubt, the narrower the topic the better. You can then be detailed in that small area rather than being too general.
So, once my pitch was accepted with my topic “Growing E-commerce Revenue with Google Ads in a Declining Economy” I pretty early started drafting my slides. Tip: before you start, I highly recommend you to take a look at this 'design slide tips' by Kelvin Newman (aka. the man behind BrightonSEO):
A good insight I want to share from the speaker field guide from BrightonSEO is that “the best talks have been rehearsed thoroughly and have beautiful slide decks to match. The three winning elements of a BrightonSEO talk are: excellent, actionable information; exceptional delivery; and a beautiful slide deck.”
Ok so here is the naked truth: Once you have your slide deck, you’ve got to practice it … in front of the mirror, your team, your dog, or whoever you want to practice it with.
I chatted with one speaker at the speaker’s tour who said that she recorded herself speaking and listened to it several times on her 2,5 hours drive to Brighton. Well, that would have been too much for me as I don’t like listening to myself, let alone watching video recordings of me presenting (I know I should) - but hey, everybody has their own way of doing it.
At BrightonSEO, the highest-rated and best-received presentations get attendees excited about what they're doing, teach them something, and give them plenty of actionable tips they can take home to implement. The audience also has extremely high standards, and sometimes it can be that even very experienced speakers get low scores.
A couple more tips I personally have:
- Always be yourself! Don’t try to put on a show pretending you are some authoritative-know-it-all. People will get that it's fake and it won’t come across honest.
- Don’t use too many jokes. It’s not a stand up comedy show, a couple of them will do it.
- Don’t say in the beginning “Can you hear me?". If you do, the stage manager in the back will pump up the volume.
- Don’t also say “Fuck, I’m hungover” as your first intro sentence. This will not serve the purpose, honestly.
So after all the preparations were done, travel arrangements made, the big day has come.
I arrived one day before the actual event. If you plan to come to the BrightonSEO I can highly recommend this as you DEFINITELY shouldn’t miss the Deepcrawl Pre-Party to get in the mood before the event.
Also, I attended the Search Advertising Show. A fringe event that took place for the first time and it was also full house. Also our very own Halide (aka. Atom Ant) delivered an amazing presentation on ‘Machine Learning in Google Ads’. You can find her slides here:
My plan, of course, was not to stay till the end of the Pre-Party, but I just couldn’t leave as I kept saying to myself “You are ready, you are ready, and your slot is not before 2.30 pm”. Still, I was in bed by midnight and woke up excited and in a good mood. After a fantastic breakfast at the Harbour Hotel, we went to the conference at 9 am, where there were already lots of people arriving. (Actually, you better come early as later on there were huge queues to get it).
I was able to catch a couple of sessions in the morning. Greg Gifford was my personal favorite, a bit scary, but good scary (he had a horror theme to go along with the slides). All the other sessions I attended were great, and I was able to learn something from them; either from their content, their presentation styles, or their slide decks.
When it was my time to present I arrived early in my room.
I got buckled up and waited patiently for the room to fill. There were close to 300 people - if I estimated that correctly. I was the first up after the lunch break, so I knew I had to hit the stage energetically. All the adrenaline kicked in and I think I made a good entry by saying that there will be a prize at the end of my presentation for the winner of my quiz. So I got everybody’s attention.
I presented the audience 15 useful tips that they can use right away in their own accounts to grow e-commerce revenue, and that no one has to wait for their economy to decline before using them.
The first 15 minutes went by really fast. My slide on optimizing shopping feed before running a smart shopping campaign got a lot of attention, so I want to share it here with you:
Here are some best practices that can help you go beyond the basic requirements to optimize your product data for performance.
- Use all 150 characters. Your title will be used to match your product to a user’s search. Include the important details that define your product.
- Put the most important details first. Users will usually see only the first 70 or fewer characters of your title, depending on your screen size.
- Use keywords. Keywords will help connect your product with a user's search and help the user recognize what you’re selling.
Also, I saw people taking notes on the Responsive Search Ads slide.
The strength of Responsive Search Ads is that they allow for more variants and testing than traditional search ads. You can test up to 15 headlines and up to 4 descriptions at once – so use them! Aim to get at least 10 different headlines and 3 descriptions in your Responsive Search Ads. Avoid repetitive and boring variants of the same headline. Google actually won’t even show your Responsive Search Ad if your headlines or descriptions are too similar!
- Use your creativity and highlight different value props, offers, and call to actions with each element of your responsive search ad.
- Be sure to include a top keyword in at least 2 of your headlines. Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion to insert your Keywords into Responsive Search Ads.
- Be sure to have at least 3 headlines that do NOT include your keywords. This will prevent your ads from becoming overly repetitive and allow you to highlight more value to searchers.
- Have headlines & descriptions of different lengths. This will increase the likelihood of you serving a 3rd headline or 2nd description. Don’t try to maximize the character count in each element every time.
- A good Responsive Search Ad has a lot of unique messages that can be combined. Avoid repetitive language or the same call to action!
Also, I was so happy to see that BrightonSEO has lined up a huge number of great speakers that happen to be female.
Just to be precise: out of the 86 speakers, 41 were women.
This is why I used this amazing stat as my quiz question at the end where the winner got their personal Wonder Woman “Girls will save the world” T-shirt.
From my last years researching and talking about diversity and women in our digital marketing industry, I instantly knew that the BrightonSEO people are not out searching for speakers within under-represented groups just to tick boxes; like they do at other conferences where they actively communicating “we need more women speakers”. Ever thought of 'go look yourself and find them'? There are tons of great speakers out there if you only have male speakers pitching.
Now, if you feel all excited about BrightonSEO and can’t wait to attend, apply, exhibit, sponsor or speak, here are a couple more footnotes:
You will be able to find all speakers’ recordings here: https://brightonseo.libsyn.com/
(The newest ones are not there yet, but check back later and listen to your favorite speakers).
The best address for accessing the slides of this September's BrightonSEO is the one from SiteVisibility:
(Some slide decks are missing, but the BrightonSEO Orga team has sent out an email asking for them to be sent to SiteVisibility. So, most of them will be there soon).
If you just want to check out the Tech SEO Presentations you can find them here:
Last but not least (I’m saving the best for last). Definitely read Halide’s Personal BrightonSEO recap: https://kubix.digital/blog/my-personal-brightonseo-september-2019-recap/
I want to encourage other first-time public speakers to also ‘just do it’ and make it happen. Like I said to my team when I came back from my first big speaking gig now: “If I can do it, you can do it!”
Ups, I almost forgot. Here are my slides :
I also had a couple of slides on the underrepresentation of women in other conferences, but I've taken these slides out. I will collect them for a new speaker's gig only about this topic and what YOU can do to change it!
Until then, keep smilin' & rockin' it!
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