Make this the year that you step out from behind your computer and get in front of a crowd. Speaking at conferences, hosting workshop, appearing on local television or live social media casts or teaching classes can have great benefits for food bloggers. It's worth getting over your nerves for!

5 Reasons Bloggers Should Do Speaking Engagements and Events | Food Bloggers of Canada

Having to get up in front of an audience and speak is a terrifying prospect for a lot of people.  Maybe you remember that Jerry Seinfeld quote...

According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.

But, for bloggers, speaking at events, appearing on tv or teaching an in person class can have so many benefits - some obvious, some not so much.

When you sit down to plot your blogging goals for the next month, quarter or year, consider adding in some kind of speaking engagement as a goal or a stretch goal (a stretch goal is a goal that you set, knowing it could be out of your reach and comfort zone but that you could, possibly, achieve if you really push yourself).

1. Speaking Establishes You As An Authority

5 Reasons Bloggers Should Do Speaking Engagements and Events | Food Bloggers of Canada
Image courtesy of Sean Neild

One of the fastest ways to establish yourself as an authority in something is to speak, publicly, about it.  When you get up in front of a room or a class, people are there to listen to you.  They assume you're up there because you know your stuff and they want to learn from you!

Make no mistake, you need to know what you're talking about to get up in front of a room full of people. It's often been said that one of the best ways to really learn something is to teach it to somebody else.

When you speak at a live event people are going to ask you questions and you want to be able to give them good answers.  But once you solve somebody's problem or answer a long burning question for them, you're in their memory forever (and they'll talk about you to friends who are having similar problems!).

It also becomes something you can add to your CV, your blog bio, or your Linked In profile all of which raise your public profile and your authority level.

2.  You Get To Meet Other Experts

5 Reasons Bloggers Should Do Speaking Engagements and Events | Food Bloggers of Canada
Images courtesy of Beth Dunham

One of the best parts about speaking at larger events with multiple presenters is that you get to meet the other experts.  I've spoken at many events where I've been way, way, waaaaay down on the speaker list behind some pretty high profile individuals (including some who I've admired since childhood!).  Under normal circumstances, these are people I would never have an opportunity to meet, let alone have a meaningful conversation with.  But because I was a speaker too, I did!

One of the best parts of many large conferences or events is that there's often a pre-event meet and greet just for the speakers to meet each other.  And in some really large events, there may even be a private speaker's lounge where presenters can hang out, practice their speeches, do some deep breathing, get a drink or a bite to eat and... talk to each other.  So who knows, you could wind up having Yann Martel bump into you and apologize while showing you were you can get a cocktail, eavesdrop on a conversation David Suzuki is having, or getting a good luck hug from Bif Naked while you wait for your turn (those have all happened to me and I guarantee none of them would have happened if I'd said no to getting on a stage!).

Even at events where there may not be a meet and greet, speakers often tend to gravitate towards each other because they immediately have some common ground - they all have to get up and speak in front of the same audience, they're all likely feeling a bit nervous and they're sharing a common experience.

This is just one more way to get yourself out there and to expand your network to include people that previously, you may have thought you'd never have the opportunity to be on speaking terms with!

3. Networking, Networking, Networking

5 Reasons Bloggers Should Do Speaking Engagements and Events | Food Bloggers of Canada
Images courtesy of Beth Dunham

If you're an introvert and find it hard to walk up to people and introduce yourself at events, then speaking at an event, or teaching a class or appearing on tv can change all that because... now people will come up to you and introduce themselves!  They'll want to chat, they'll invite you for coffee, they'll give you their business cards... I guarantee you you'll meet so many new people that your biggest challenge will be to remember them all!

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4. Build Your Audience & Sell Your Products & Services

Selling or promoting your book, product or service while you're on stage is almost always not cool.  Nobody comes to listen to a sales pitch or to feel like they're part of your sales funnel. They want to learn or be inspired. Hard selling your product or service is a pretty good way to ensure you're not invited back a second time!

(An exception to this rule is if you're brought to an event to specifically talk about your book or product  - like a book tour or a shopping channel type of gig.  The audience usually appreciates that you're there strictly for a marketing purpose)

But you can make residual sales by speaking at an event. When people see you live and in person and have the opportunity to meet you and talk to you, they form a connection to you.  It's like when you go see a band you sort of like in concert and after seeing them live, you LOVE them and become a devoted fan.  The same thing can happen by speaking.  Make sure your speaker's bio mentions your book/product/services so people know they exist and can support you by making a purchase or hiring you. They'll want to!

Some events may also have a marketplace component where you can sell your book or product so it's always worth asking the event organizers if that's a possibility.

5. A New Revenue Stream

setting up food vignettes

Most of us won't get rich by speaking at conferences unless we become a highly sought after keynote speaker.  In fact, many conferences and events don't offer any financial compensation (but that can be negotiable - you can always ask if it's possible for a small honorarium or for them to cover off your travel expenses or a hotel room).

In the last point we mentioned selling your products or services but, even if you don't have a product or service to sell yet, give the audience all the information they need to follow you on-line or join your mailing list so that you can continue to build a community of fans around your work. Then, when you're ready to put something out for purchase, they're ready to buy!

Many people will speak at conferences for free or at a greatly reduced rate if the audience is their potential target market for other things.  And you never know who is in the audience.  A lot of people can trace back the roots of a great gig, a book deal, or one of a kind opportunity directly to a speaking engagement where they caught somebody's eye!

Teaching classes, however, can bring in a completely new and steady source of revenue, whether they're cooking classes, social media or blogging classes, or food photography or styling classes.  What's your biggest strength? Can you teach it to others in person?  Can you teach it regularly in different locations?  And if you do well with it in person, can you turn it into a an on-line class that reaches even more people?

Speaking at events can open so many doors and connect you with new people you would never have the opportunity to meet if you'd stayed at home in your kitchen.

Start small and spread your wings.  If you're nervous consider assisting somebody else with a class they teach or partner with another blogger to present at a conference so the spotlight is shared.  Or you can take an improv class in your city or try a media training course.  FBC member Abbey Sharp has a whole suite of on-line classes for food bloggers and dieticians specifically aimed at media training and public speaking.

Once you've got a few smaller gigs under your belt, your confidence will grow, your presentation skills will get better and you'll be excited for the next gig!

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5 Comments

Nicoletta @Sugarlovespices
Reply

I am shy and therefore terrified to speak in public. I have to say i learned so much at the Improv class with Mairlyn Smith, which was way out of my comfort zone. With Loreto we’d love to do cooking classes, though. Thanks for all the tips, those 5 reasons convinced me it’s time for us to take the next level.

Marlene Cornelis
Reply

I’ve been fortunate to have had numerous opportunities to do public speaking as a result of my blog. And luckily for me, I actually really enjoy doing it even though, like most people, I have the common pre-talk nerves. I’ve taught two cooking classes for a local community agency, and through that was invited to speak to an association of home economics students about food blogging. I did a presentation on “Taking Your Food Photography from Drab to Fab” for that same agency, which led to an invitation to present it at a local Creative Aging group. That group invited me in November to speak about starting a blog, and have said they’ll invite me back later this year on another topic. So, as you can see, one opportunity often leads to others.

Through doing all this, I’ve met some great people and gained some dedicated followers of my blog and social media accounts (and I’ve discovered and follow theirs). Each presentation is an opportunity to delve deeper in to the topic at hand, and provides a shot of self-confidence as an added bonus. I highly endorse adding public speaking to your repertoire of activities!

Evelyne CulturEatz
Reply

Realy great post, Melissa. I will be part of a panel in May in a travel-related conference. really looking forward to it and maybe it will be the beginning of more presentations!

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