How to Pitch Your Talk For Speaking Engagements

Presented live on Tuesday, October 13, 2020

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Most networking events and business events are online now. And event organizers feel a ton of pressure to turn boring Zoom calls into exciting digital events that people actually want to attend. The focus now is alllllll on the speaker lineup. That means that you’ve gotta get those event organizers to accept your pitch. Stefanie Grieser, co-creator of speaker accelerator Shine Bootcamp and former organizer of Call to Action Conference is running a tutorial today on how to pitch event organizers. Here’s what’s inside today’s tutorial…

How to Pitch Your Talk for Speaking Engagements:

  1. Narrow down where you want to speak
  2. Research the event and the people behind it
  3. Follow people, engage with them and be helpful
  4. Find the event organizer’s personal email
  5. Check for mutual contacts
  6. Be curious and ask questions
  7. Prove you’re an expert
  8. Play the long game

Speaking turns you into an authority on your subject, and authorities attract business. Whether you’re a digital marketer at a startup trying to build the brand. Or a freelancer hungry for new clients.

Get the best takeaways and the full replay of this tutorial in one sharable link


Introduction [00:00]

Joanna Wiebe: Stef, and I go way back. How many years ago was the first CTA conf?

Stefanie Grieser: Seven years

Joanna Wiebe: Seven years ago, alright. Well, today you’re going to share with us how to pitch your talk to event organizers. Let’s dive in.

What to Expect in This Tutorial [00:24]

Stefanie Grieser: I’m gonna teach you how to pitch, like a pro and get more speaking gigs. And so as Joanna said, I started my “career” as a conference organizer, so I was very behind the scenes. Then I turned into a sometimes speaker, aka what I’m doing right now just teaching people things that I know and I think being a speaker is being a teacher, really.

They’re very, very similar. And now I’m a speaker developer that’s kind of my journey and why I’m speaking to you today about this topic is because I definitely know what it’s like to be a speaker. I really know what it’s like to be a conference organizer. And I’m kind of marrying those two in the work I’m doing at Shine. 

It’s so funny because on Twitter. I think it happened on Thursday, there’s this trend going around. And it’s the “how it started versus how it’s going” trend and so many people are kind of reposting and then I reposted mine and thought it was very fitting to just plop it in this slide deck.

Because how shine started was the written word. It’s what a lot of you do, which is writing, writing, and I wrote with my now co founder, a blog post that hit home with a lot of people. It was about diversifying our speaker lineup with more women, you know this was back in 2017, as you can see.

But a lot of that blog post talked about my journey which was behind the scenes as a conference organizer. Then going to speak on stage in front of my entire company. And then also 1,100 people.

You know, that was a really, really big step. And I kind of signed myself up for it and then was like oh shit oh shit, what am I doing, what have I done. I’m going to fall flat on my face. And what I ended up doing was reaching out to a bunch of people that were speakers who spoke at our events before and running my deck and getting a lot of coaching and mentorship so that I felt really, really confident and my material and in my delivery. So not only my material but also my delivery. So that blog post kind of goes through that journey which then kind of created what is now Shine Bootcamp, which is a speaker accelerator.

And it not only goes over topics like this. The one I’m going to talk to you about today, which is pitching specifically. There’s so much that goes into a really good talk, you know, it’s even things like, how to write a really good talk title and description. Or how to have a really great intro and outro. Or how to structure your talk, or how to make it beautiful and how to design a great deck. So those are all kind of things that go into being a really great speaker.

And this is like one of the topics that we talked about in our accelerator, but I wanted to talk to you guys about it. So yeah, what is this speaking accelerator, really? It’s not Toastmasters, it’s a lot more. It’s coaching, mentorship, education, culminating a speaker showcase and giving you helpful materials like video recordings of your talk. So, that’s Shine. 

What Does a Good Email Pitch Look Like? [04:04]

But I want to jump right into things and kind of get you talking. So, as a conference organizer, you get a lot of emails from people pitching you to speak. You get a lot. So, I actually screenshot two emails that recently came through my inbox and I wanted to show it to you. I want you to jump in the chat and tell me, which one you think is better, A or B? So, this is it. Take a couple of seconds or minutes to read it.

Email A:

Hi Shine! 

I recently came across your brand and I’m BLOWN AWAY! I am also thrilled to be at your conference this week. 

I wanted to reach out as I’d love to apply to be a speaker at your future conferences. I’m a conscious business coach supporting women in their transformation from employee to entrepreneur. Here is my website if you’d like to take a look: LINK

Is there a form / registration process you can direct me to?

Thank you so much!

Email B:


I hope this email find you well.

I am reaching out to you as a long-time follower of Shine Bootcamp and as a young Muslim woman who is constantly inspired by the community you have created.

As the administrative assistant at ______, I would like to connect you with _____, our Founder and managing director who has an extensive background in building leadership capacity among young Black, Indigenous, and racialized women in civic leadership.

I think that _______ will be an amazing addition to the lineup of speakers at your upcoming conference. _______ is a sought-after speaker with more than 5 years of experience in consulting and advocacy around meaningful inclusion of marginalized young women in the public sphere. You can learn more about her here: LINK

As one of your young followers, I think it’s definitely important that your speaker lineup reflects Gen Z and the leadership, as well as the expertise, we have to offer.

I am so excited to see what comes of this connection.


Stefanie Grieser: So, can I see the chat? Let’s see.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, we have one person who’s dared to vote yet. Okay. A or B, guys? Now is the time. This is hard for me. I don’t know which I would choose because of the different strengths and different parts of it. But by and large, we’re getting a ton of Bs coming in, a couple As. A couple option Cs as in I don’t know, neither?

But mostly Bs a few As, a few As and most people are chatting just to us, by the way, so if you want to share with everybody, click that drop down. Kelly said, Is this a trick?

So is it A or is it B?

Stefanie Grieser: So I would say there are elements of both. I would actually say A was a little bit stronger, but it was a trick question. And neither were the best. And this is I want to kind of jump into things and dissect the emails and go into it. 

How to Get on Stage in 8 Steps

  1. Narrow down where you want to speak.
  2. Research the event. And the people behind it.
  3. Follow people. Engage with them. Be helpful.
  4. Find the event organizer’s personal email.
  5. Check for mutual contacts
  6. Be curious. Ask questions.
  7. Prove it!
  8. Play the long game

Step 1 – Narrow Down Where You Want to Speak [06:20]

Stefanie Grieser: So I’m, I’m going to start off with step one. Step one is before you even just see a conference and email them, narrow down where you want to speak. You know I get so many pitches. The minute they see a conference or conference goes live, or the speaker agenda gets announced and it’s like, “Hey, can I apply?”

Actually just kind of think about where you want to speak at, regardless of all of that. Regardless of announcements or anything like that. Like where would I want to speak? And get a little list going. Maybe it’s a really little list too, maybe there’s only three conferences or three to five conferences.

Get Specific [07:10]

Stefanie Grieser:I think it’s really important that you get specific.Get really specific. Specific about the where and it will help you with your pitches. So I love to share examples. This is Annika. She recently went through our speaker accelerator program.

And she got really, really specific. She’s a data person, so she went through and highlighted five conferences and one of those conferences was Coalesce. I mean the conference, doesn’t matter to you, but she was like, okay, I want to speak at Coalesce. 

Step 2 – Research the Event. And the People Behind it. [07:45]

Stefanie Grieser: And what I want to teach you to do is figure everything you can about that event, go research it. And not only at the event, but the people behind it. I’m saying, do some serious internet research. 

So, let’s go back to that example Coalesce. So, when I actually go to that website and I scroll down, I notice that they were put on by a company called Fishtown Analytics. So not only getting to know the conference. But again, the people behind it.

So I’m like, oh, interesting Fishtown Analytics hosts this conference, but go even further than that, Okay? Let’s look up Fishtown Analytics in LinkedIn. A simple LinkedIn search. And let’s look at who works there. So you know, okay 43 people work there. 

Let’s look at what those people look like. Oh, wow. Interesting. There’s an event manager, she probably has something to do with the conference that she’s putting out, Coalesce. Click through and let’s see what she’s saying. Let’s see what she’s talking about. Let’s see what she’s sharing. 

So, okay, Fatima. Okay, she’s the events manager at Fishtown. This is interesting. Oh, interesting. Now Fatima has shared a LinkedIn post here and she’s actually asking for help. “Let me know how I can get better connected.” You know she cares about a diverse speaker lineup.

And she cares about analytics, engineers and doing important work. Now, that told me so much more than the application form and the conference website. 

It shows me what the team cares about and what she’s specifically looking for. So now if you go back to Anika. Anika actually isn’t an analytics engineer, but what she can do is use that in her pitch right away. She can say, oh, I’m not an analytics engineer, but I’m a data person working in venture capital. Would that be of interest? Or something like that. You can pick up clues by really going deep. 

And then also, it’s so easy to go, Fatima, I’m going to go pitch her right away. But it’s like, wait a second, you have an opportunity here to help her and not think about pitching her. 

Step 3 – Follow People. Engage With Them. Be Helpful. [10:28]

Stefanie Grieser:So, step three is really about following people, engaging with them and being helpful. I can’t stress this enough: Engage with these behind the scenes conference organizers as much as you can before pitching them. Answer their tweet, send them an email about something that they asked for help with.

It goes so far versus like a cold pitch. So with Fatima, what I would have done here, if I was Anika, was actually nominate somebody else that was really diverse that maybe was in my space that was an analytics engineer. If I knew somebody. I’d say, hey, this person might be great, instead of just fully just nominating yourself. 

She’s asking for diverse people and say, hey, I know this person that did this project. Again, be helpful. Connect with people before pitching them. And I always do this as well, I always write something in the LinkedIn box that is from a human. 

So with the team, I actually ended up emailing her giving her some suggestions about who she might be able to get on her conference. But right after I sent that email, I sent a little invite and I said hey, Fatima. I sent you a little email in response to your LinkedIn posts looking for speakers and data. Smiley face. 

That was from me, it wasn’t a LinkedIn automated message. I’m not a recruiter. LinkedIn is full of spam these days, and people just delete, delete, delete. So if you can make it really human, tailored response, then she knows that I saw her post, that I’m not just a bot or that I’m not just pitching or anything.

Step 4 – Find The Event Organizer’s Personal Email [12:25]

Stefanie Grieser: And then my next step and I kind of was foreshadowing was finding the event organizer’s personal email. So not the email that’s like, you know, we had an email at Unbounce that was, but that went to everybody that was on the CTA conf team.

And it wasn’t really personal and I think it’s really, really important to kind of find that event organizer’s email. So with Fatima I just put her LinkedIn in RocketReach. I know that there’s other tools. This is the one I use. Enter her LinkedIn profile and then you can get her email. Okay, that sounds about right. And then you can have that on file to email her. So just for everybody is that tool that I use, so you can use it as well. It is free. I think it’s like you get five lookups a month, or something like that. So, I mean, that should be enough for you. 

Step 5 – Check For Mutual Contacts [13:44]

Stefanie Grieser: Then the other thing is checking for mutual contacts. So with Fatima, I actually found out that I knew somebody that knew her just by combing through her LinkedIn, looking at who looks at Fishtown.

Step 6 – Be Curious. Ask Questions [14:00]

Stefanie Grieser: And then step six is be curious and ask questions. Now I put those two and two together because I want to show you an example. I love showing examples. So, this is as if I was going to pitch myself. Asking a question. Is there an application process? And honestly, if I went back and even edited this further, I would have added a question mark on that email subject line. 

Getting really curious and just asking, hey, is there an application process that I should know about because some conferences don’t have that. But at least, hey Stef, I follow you on Twitter. You may remember me from this tweet. Pro Tip: Always use the word “this” and then I link out to something cool and relevant. 

So for example, this is if I tweeted the step of make sure you’re engaging before you pitch them anything. I linked out to a tweet that I had been tweeted. So hey, you remember me, I answered you on this tweet. Use the word this because then they get really curious and want to click it.

A question for you, does CTA Conf have a formal speaking application process? That is something really quick and easy that an event organizer can answer. Hey, we do. Here’s the information, or no, we don’t. And you can know. 

So really get curious about things. Saying you know one event organizer, or you know them, because you’ve made sure that you are engaging and being helpful before the pitch. So if you “know” them, through maybe three months of liking their tweets, or responding to them, or sending them a helpful email. You can send something like Liana did, like, hey, any chance you’re looking for another copywriting speaker for your conference? Right, and then it gets into a more casual like conversation. What’s your best article? Here’s one. Okay, um, let me see if I can get you in. 

Make it a bit more casual and ask questions. So again, be curious. Ask questions. So many people go into a pitch and assume a bunch of things. And it’s like, we don’t even take speaker applications, or we don’t even look for speakers that are XYZ, and you’re an XYZ person. Ask questions. Be curious. 

This is another email that’s back to Fatima. “Small world.” I know Janesa, like name drop that you know somebody if you know somebody.  “We had some crossover way back at Unbounce way back when you worked at RJMetrics. I worked at Unbounce” Say how you know them, from way back when, here’s what we worked on.

You know, say that you worked with her at Fishtown, so this immediately shows we have a mutual friend, and I’m not a stranger, don’t shut this email down right away.

“I know you run this conference, I saw your LinkedIn post.” Again linking out, doing your homework, seeing that you know what she cares about what she’s thinking about. “I’d love to help you. I want to put this on your radar.” Which is showcasing a speaker showcase where she could go and see if there were some diverse speakers that she could get for her conference.

“PS. I know somebody, I noticed that you were looking for analytics engineers in your post but Annika is doing some amazing work on her talk and has a talk on this.” So you can just softly pitch yourself. Like, hey, this is what I’m about. I’m not an analytics engineer, but I talk on this, this, and this. Come check it out or something. So this is the kind of email that you want to craft.

You want to say I want to help you. Not me, me, me. Because oftentimes as conference organizers, it just comes across right away as, I care about me and I want to get on stage. How can you help them?

This is another one that I just wrote. It’s really good to attend the conference and the name drop that you know what the conference is all about. “Hey Stef. I attended the conference last year and loved Joanna’s talk on copywriting. I have a few copywriting methods that go beyond Jo’s talk that might be helpful.” Like, hey, I listened to that talk. I thought it was good, but I have something else and it goes beyond like how can you level up.

“About me, I’m a seasoned copywriter with 15 years of experience and I worked for {name drop, name drop}.” So again, go beyond, add to what she taught and then add some social proof and then answer with a question. “Do you have a formal application process? What’s the best way I could tell you a bit more?”

That’s a great pitch. Getting curious, name dropping, attending the conference. Really, knowing it comes down to doing your research, finishing with a question, finishing with curiosity. 

So Jo told me that you guys love templates, like, love, love, love templates and I was like, cool.

I have templates. But the thing with templates, is that you have to use them smartly. So I have three templates and they’re quite different. And I, you know, to be honest, I’m an early stage entrepreneur, there’s two of us working at Shine. I don’t have a landing page that then you could get it, but you can email me at 

I have the templates written up in a simple Google Doc. and I’m happy to share them. I just want to say use the templates with caution. There’s about three or four and they’re based on the emails that I just shared with you Use them with caution because I think sometimes templates can help. And then sometimes they can box you in so you have a couple

Step 7 – Prove It! [20:23]

Stefanie Grieser: So, Step seven is prove it. So, prove that you are a good speaker with photos on your speaker page. Or with video, conference organizers love to see videos. They love it. If you don’t have a video, podcast. And they love testimonials 

Jo, she puts us right on her speakers page. Here’s some feedback from the attendees of the CTA Conference. She literally copy pasted it verbatim. Conference organizers love that because they want to know, how is that person as a speaker? They want to know that your material’s great, but then you’re going to be a great speaker? 

But the question I always get is, what if I don’t have any of that? Well, prove that you know what you’re talking about. So maybe it’s not a video. Maybe it’s not a picture of you talking on stage. Those are hard to get when you’re kind of a first time speaker. But do you have a blog post? Do you have a podcast episode? Even a Google Doc of some of your work. I don’t know. It can be anything but just prove you know what you’re talking about.

Step 8 – Play The Long Game [21:41]

Stefanie Grieser: This kind of goes back what I said in that one email template, which was, “Hey, I attended your conference. I saw this person’s talk.” If you don’t succeed at first, play the long game. Speaking is the long game. You might not get accepted at that conference the first time around, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get accepted the next year. So attend a conference, go to their podcast, write a guest blog post on their blog.

Do something to get on their radar and then use it as a stepping stone to then pitch them and to go speak. So definitely play the long game. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get accepted on your first try. I know tons of people who had pitched me their first year and I didn’t put them in the conference lineup. And then the next year, I did.

So to recap, here’s a nice recap slide. Steps one through eight. Narrowing down where you want to speak, doing some serious, serious internet research, following people and engaging with them before you ever pitch them. And finding the event organizer’s personal email, if you can. They’re very behind the scenes, but you know, you can find them. Check for mutual contacts and then be curious and ask questions, versus just that cold pitch that has periods, Even just scan your email and say, do you have any questions here? 

And then prove it. Prove it by showing that you’re an amazing speaker. You know what you’re talking about. And if you’re a first time speaker, even more, prove that you know your shit. And then play the long game. Play the long game if you don’t succeed. Your first try and try again.

Joanna Wiebe: Love it.

Stefanie Grieser: Yeah, I’m Stefanie Grieser from Shine Bootcamp and I help people go from scared to confident on stage. So funny to round out the presentation, one of our speakers I went through our program did that how it started, how it’s going. And it was so cute because it kind of went from Shine and then her speaking at Inbound. I thought it was really, really awesome! 

And so many people ask me, what’s Shine Bootcamp all about? Go to we don’t run programs all the time. You have to apply, so join the email list, then you’ll find out when our next program is. Then you can apply, then you get accepted and we have a six week program.

That finishes with the Speaker Showcase. So this is one of the links that I sent to Ange. We just finished a speaker showcase with 64 speakers that went through our program and they actually get to speak at a conference, which is this conference. And we ended up raising two grants for charity. Yeah, that’s, that’s me. That’s it.

Joanna Wiebe: I love it. Thank you so much for sharing this today. Please email, It’s showing on the screen right now. The replay will be available shortly with links attached to that as well. But in the meantime, go start looking up those events you want to speak at and making those connections. And if you want more tips on how to write effective email copy, read this. Thanks, guys. Thanks everyone for attending. We’ll see you next Tuesday. Bye.

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