How Not to Pitch Yourself as a Speaker

Before I started Yellow Co., I had no idea how many people were aspiring to be speakers. By far, the number one request I receive in my inbox is from women, or their PR companies, reaching out to ask about speaking opportunities and how one can go about getting a spot as a speaker on the Yellow Co. stage.

There’s obviously a strong desire that women have to use their voice on a stage and offer up advice in front of a captivated audience.

It’s a privilege to speak in front of a crowd. To have so many voices who are willing and ready to listen to what you’re about to say is truly nothing to take lightly. I’m very picky about the speakers I choose to put on our main Yellow Conference stage - and it’s going to take a darn good cold email to catch my attention.

Because I’ve had so much experience in accepting and unfortunately, rejecting so many requests for speaking, the team and I thought it would be appropriate for me to offer some advice for those aspiring speakers out there - hopefully bringing you more opportunity to use your voice on a stage, and get noticed by the event or conference you’d like to speak at.

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If you don’t already have a connection or relationship with the person you’re emailing, you’ve got to cold email. The first thing you need to do is make sure you’re emailing the decision maker. And if you’re emailing the basic contact email, ask for the right person to contact about speaking to guarantee you reach out to the right person. Once you have your contact email, you’ve got to captivate and get the attention of the person you’re emailing with a crazy good, cold email.

Conferences and events literally get hundreds of emails about speaking every week - so you’ve got to make sure you stand out from the crowd!

I’m a big fan of bullet points, so I’ve narrowed it down to six bullet points with what to do and what not to do when it comes to initially pitching yourself as a speaker. My hope is that it helps you to use your authentic voice, and lands you on the stage of the conference of your dreams!

What to do:
DO show, not tell me about who you are.

You don’t get to know someone by reading about them, you get to know someone by hanging out with them. So how can you make it feel like we’re hanging out? Do you have a speaking reel? Can you get creative and send a video of your pitch? Can you design something fun that gives a taste of who you are? Always make sure to link to your website, Instagram, and other social media platforms, as well as any speaker reels you have. This gives less of the “credentials on paper” information, and more of the feel for who you are as a person - which matters to us a TON here at Yellow.

DO follow up.

People are busy, they might look at your email and like your vibe, and then completely forget to follow up with you. Not that that’s ever happened to me before… ;). But one thing I always appreciate is a follow up email. It bumps you to the top of my inbox and reminds me to get back to you. It also shows that you care, that you really want it, and you’re excited to speak.

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DO include something that’s easy to say yes to.

Be really clear about how you can offer value, even apart from the speaking slot. Offer to spread the word about the event on social media, send out an email to your newsletter subscribers, or even send a sample of the product that you make to the person you’re reaching out to.

This will almost guarantee a response to your email.

When you’re able to give a taste of who you are, show you really care, and are willing to go the extra mile, you’ll stand out from the hundreds of others.

What not to do:
DON’T write a novel.

Don’t copy and paste a five paragraph email that lists everything you’ve done from childhood to now. This obviously is an exaggeration - but especially in the initial email, shorter is better. People are busy, and you have about 1-2 sentences to capture and captivate the person reading your email. People can tell if it’s a copy-and-pasted email; they can tell when you’re emailing 100 people and they just happened to be one in the crowd.

Captivate and intrigue people in the first sentence - and keep it short. One paragraph at most. Then say something like, “If this peaks your interest, I’d love to hop on a phone call or send over more details”. This allows you to have a second touch point with the person on the other end, and if your email is short and captivating, why wouldn’t they want to hear more?

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DON’T make it all about you.

We at Yellow run a very niche conference and we’re looking for a very specific type of speaker. We want our speakers to be excited about who we are and what we’re doing, not just about what they’re doing. I’m always going to read more when someone cold emails me and shows me that they care about our brand, who we are, and what we care about - then listing why they fit well into our mission.

DON’T be a robot.

(Or have your intern or publicist be a robot.) This may not be the same for every single conference, but at Yellow, we value genuine, authentic people who are going to be real with our audience. Not talk about their credentials, or how Instagram famous they are, or about that one time they were featured on that one reality TV show.

I want to know about what keeps you up at night, what causes you care about, and how you’re using your work to make the world a better place.

Not about how rich and famous you are. So instead of listing out your accomplishments, tell me about yourself. Use contractions and slang. It makes me feel like we’re hanging out as humans, instead of you talking to me as if I’m an object to be attained. I appreciate a real human on the other end of the inbox, so make sure you show your humanity!

You’ll receive a ton of no’s… but if you really want to be a speaker, you won’t let that stop you. You’ll keep going, will learn, and get creative. Believe in yourself, keep developing your voice and be authentically YOU. Embrace what makes you different and you’ll go far. Good luck!

Photos by Cacá Santoro

Want to hear from a group of authentic, inspiring speakers who are making an impact for good on the world? Join us in LA at our 2018 Yellow Conference!

Joanna Waterfall

Founder at Yellow Co.

Joanna is the founder of the Yellow Conference, a gathering for creative, entrepreneurial minded women to be equipped, inspired, and connected for the greater good. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her hubs and cat, loves coffee, and sometimes goes days without washing her hair.