Pitching Yourself During A Conference

I have a speaker friend I'll just call Sally, who was scheduled to speak yesterday at this XYZ Conference, and was sitting in the lobby of the conference hotel, checking emails when she saw/heard two other women speakers (who she happens to know because they live in the same city and belong to the same NSA Chapter) approach the conference registration table and ask to speak to the meeting planners in charge. When the association employee said that the people in charge weren't on site at the moment, these two women said "they just happened to be in the area" and proceeded to pitch themselves – cracking jokes, making small talk, asking questions, and spending a great deal of time telling that person behind the registration table how they would be a perfect fit for this event.

My friend Sally was so mortified that she quickly left, so that the two speakers wouldn't see her and pull her into the conversation. "I didn't want the association people to even know I knew them!" Sally told me. "It was really kind of desperate. There was all this conference stuff going on, people trying to register, and the usual activity that accompanies a conference. And here are two speakers trying to make a sales call. And it wasn't very subtle. And they kept insisting that they would be a good fit, and why had they not ever been called for that gig? It came across as really desperate and needy. And you could tell the association staff person was not pleased."

Her story reminded me of a conference I once attended where I was the keynote speaker. And while I was standing at the registration desk, chatting with the client, this woman comes up to us and asks who she needs to speak to about speaking at this conference next year. She's standing there in the middle of 400 women trying to register, a busy staff, and waiting to have a conversation about being a speaker at their future event. They said something polite like "don't call us, we'll you" and she walked off. The client then turned to me and rolled her eyes. We both proceeded to talk about how not only was that rude, unprofessional, and poor timing on the speaker's part – it was also completely inaffective. That speaker had just made a terrible first impression – probably the same as the telemarketer who calls you during dinner.

I understand the idea of going after business. I appreciate the art of asking for what you want. But I do believe that there is a time and a place for selling and pitching yourself. And sometimes we can be so blinded by the desire to get business, that we don't see how it's coming across.

Your thoughts?



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  1. Well Kelly – you asked for our thoughts, and my thoughts are 'I'm mortified that this happened!' then I thought wow – I hope I have never done that!  I think I have been blinded in the past of how I've come across because I too was hungry for business.  And, you are spot on about timing and respect for the meeting planner, the volunteers and the current speaker. Wow, those two women who bombarded Sally's event just weren't thinking.  On the other hand, I recently was invited to see a friend of mine deliver a keynote in Vegas where I live.  I was very discreet – only talked when I was talked to (with the people at my table) and then helped the speaker after sell his products.  Much to my surprise and delight, my speaker friend introduced me to the client and said I would be a perfect fit for them for next year.  That wasn't my intent to go see that speaker, but it was a nice bonus.  I am sure if I would have been pitching during the event, it would have turned everyone off and not served anyone.  Thanks for this post Kelly.  The one thing I would hope is that Sally would somehow let these two speakers know that what they did was wrong in hopes that they stop poaching conferences for leads in this way!!!!

  2. Inappropriate. Very innapropriate. My motivational speaker friend Christine Cashen once invited me to attend a presentation she was doing close to where I live. After she was finished she grabbed me and introduced me to the meeting planner. Just before she was about to introduce me to second person she thought I should know for "next year's meeting," I asked her not to. It just wasn't 1) The right time – everyone was swirling in post meeting busy-ness and 2) The reason I came. I just wanted to see Christine and cheer her on.  I am hyper sensitive to speakers who are opportunisitic – and will go out of my way not to "smack" of one…

  3. I'm always amazed at how some individuals simply don't get the difference between tasteful and tacky when it comes to connecting with others. Don't even get me started on a woman I recently watch offend another as she "assumed" this overweight woman she randomly approached would be interested in her weight-loss product. I wanted to smack her when she said to the overweight woman walking away, "Well, when you're ready to take off the weight, I'll be here to help." Tacky AND cruel.

  4. Are you sure you didn't make this up, my dear? I mean, are these people really in NSA? Don't they realize that speaker decisions are made months in advance, programs are printed up? I can imagine the announcement from the main stage, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a change in the schedule. As you know Hillary Clinton was scheduled to be our keynote speaker now but two women, Frick and Frack, came up to us at the registration desk and made such a compelling pitch that their topic (10 Ways to Talk to Millennials and Also Lose Weight) was more important. So please welcome, Sally's friends, Frick and Frack."

  5. UG.   I would like to think they didn't know any better…  I think it is always good to bring up these real life situations in a discussion – as sharing this may stop many others from making this mistake.  

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