Beyond the Panel: How to Leverage SXSW Speaking Opps for Maximum PR
Posted by Gemma Pollard
Conference and festival season is well and truly upon us. Two marquee industry events, the SXSW and the 4As Transformation conference, kick-off this weekend and many of us are busy preparing for events, panels and presentations. Standing out amongst a sea of stimulating content isn’t easy but there are people who nail it time and time again. So what makes a winning formula?
Ad exec Cindy Gallop – whom you may recall from her brilliant Ted Talk “Make Love Not Porn,” — is a prime example of a savvy speaker who leverages her appearances for maximum PR value. Gallop has built a strong social network of followers who amplify the effort she puts into every speaking opportunity, ensuring her content reaches a much larger audience than the one sitting directly in front of her. She’s also very smart about her content; it’s provocative, unique and she delivers it in emotive, shareable quips that people can’t help but tweet — and in many cases, this social buzz begets editorial coverage.
If you have a speaking slot at SXSW (or anywhere else for that matter), you’ve got a fantastic opportunity to spread your message to attendees, as well as all your other stakeholders around the country. Here are some tips to make the most of the opportunity:
- Reporters make great presentation guests, so invite them! A media blast alerting relevant reporters to your presentation is essential. Keep it short and sweet – these guys get inundated during SXSW, but even if they can’t make it to your presentation you’ve opened the dialogue for follow-up pitching and deeper dives into the topic.
- What’s the bigger picture? Ensure the content of your panel ladders up to a bigger picture PR strategy. You can publish POVs before and after your panel to start and maintain dialogue around your topic, through bylines placed in relevant media outlets or even on your own corporate blog.
- Invite everyone you meet. Much of the value of SXSW comes in the interactions with people on the fly – at parties, workshops or standing in line. Carrying something to give to the people you meet telling them about your presentation/panel works a treat, so consider securing some business cards that you can hand out in the days leading up to your session. A piece of card handed from human to human is still effective, even in this digital world.
- Slide branding 101. Each of your slides should have the event’s Twitter hashtag, Twitter handles of all presenters/panelists, and your company name/logo + handle. People will forget them if they’re only shown at the start – make it easy for them to promote you. Include a link to your presentation on the last slide.
- Social is your friend. Enlist some social support people (in the audience or even remotely) to live tweet and make your content shine throughout the presentation – both from their own handles or your corporate one. If you’re on a panel, remember that you’re competing for share of tweets so ensure your social support team is smart about what they tweet to get those valuable retweets. Visuals make great social content and keep your sound bites to just that, bites – snackable content is highly tweet-able.
- Keep your content snack-able. Whether you’re presenting or are part of a panel, think about little tweet-able bites, quotes and statistics you can share. If you’re in control of the slide content, include visuals that are clear and easy to understand, without the commentary. Many people take pictures of interesting slides (again, brand your slides clearly!) and tweet, Facebook or blog them so make sure yours stand out and are attributable to you.
- Get more mileage out of your panel through guest columns and blogs. Repurpose your content through POVs in media outlets or even your own corporate blog.
- Use your slides as a marketing tool. Each of your slides should have the event’s Twitter hashtag, Twitter handles of all presenters/panelists, and your company name/logo + handle. Make your slides easily accessible (on SlideShare or a similar site) for maximum sharing. Have your social media person tweet the link to the presentation a couple of times – with the event hashtag – from your corporate handle during the presentation so your audience knows where to access it (you should see a bunch of retweets of the presentation too – good for attracting more followers to your handle and getting your content out there).
- Video the presentation. Find a friend with a flipcam and give them a front row seat. The end result might not be slick, but it can be chopped up and used for blog posts post-presentation. Your team can even create a series of quick-fire video captures of audience members before and after to see what they thought.
- Take pictures. Whether you post them on Instagram, Flickr, your blog, Pinterest or Facebook, pictures of you on stage will help give that personal behind-the-scenes feel to your post-presentation social content. Take a before picture with your co-presenter or fellow panelists (it’s likely you’ll be surrounded by people post-panel).
The Onion’s Baratunde Thurston, a rising star on the speaking circuit, is another executive to follow to inspire your PR strategy. He lays out a strong thought leadership foundation of relevant topics leading up to his presentations and leverages social channels (both his and the event’s) to continue the dialogue afterwards. His keynote at last year’s SXSW, “How to Read the World,” captured a great deal of earned column space.
Whether you’re keynoting a conference or hosting a more intimate session, you can spread your message even further with the right strategy in place. Break a leg!