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How I Started Speaking at SEO Conferences (True Story)

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How Did This Exciting Journey Start?

Conferences I Have Spoken At So Far

What’s On My Agenda For the Next Months?

Why did I want to be a conference speaker? What was my motivation?

How do I manage my speaker application processes?

Resources, Methods & Additional Tips

What Else I Can Share With You About My Presentations?

Last words

How Did This Exciting Journey Start?

 

Sometimes you don’t realise your true capacity; What you are capable of doing or how far you can reach within your skill set. Sometimes you really need to be told those things, preferably from someone who works in the same industry as yours; maybe an expert who has more experience than you, or from a colleague, a client, a manager, etc. 

In recent years, I’ve been lucky enough to receive feedback and sincere messages from my network both in Turkey and abroad some of the things I’ve been told have followed a similar theme;

 

“Yagmur, you could actually be a good speaker.” 

“Why don’t you apply to speak at conferences.”

“You really helped us to simplify this SEO process for our team, you are good at sharing your knowledge. ” and so on. 

 

Not long after, I started receiving invites from industry professionals for speaking at online panel discussions, webinars, and podcasts. I started to love the feeling of confidence and achievement I had afterwards. However, I was still apprehensive about doing in-person talks. Despite the fact that I have had this on my “To-do” list since University, and in my younger years, I had loved to be on stage either singing, acting, or teaching, the idea of talking at an industry event still felt quite intimidating!

In September 2021, our Managing Director, Hannah Butcher, sent me a tweet posted by International Search Summit. They were looking for first-time speakers to attend their conference in Barcelona in November 2021. 

Spurred on by her support, and encouraged by my colleagues and friends, I took the leap and applied to be one of the speakers at the conference. After an interview with Kirstie Cartledge and Gemma Houghton from Webcertain, I received official confirmation that my speaker application had been successful, and they were looking forward to having me on the International Search Summit Barcelona speakers line-up. 

I can’t tell you how mixed my feelings were on that day; excited, nervous, shocked, thrilled, and stressed, but happy…but stressed. After I shared this with my team at Re:signal, they were so excited for me and immediately offered me their full support and motivation while I was getting ready for the conference.

It certainly wasn’t easy getting things ready for the conference in a couple of months; especially when you are preparing for your first-ever in-person talk!

Following a whirlwind month of prep, I completed my first-ever in-person talk in Barcelona. I was delighted by the amazing support, and huge motivation I received from the SEO community and I had a great time meeting amazing experts from the industry for the first time in person too. Thanks to the nerve-racking experience, I’ve made inspiring friends who I still see and deliver conference talks with together today.

 

The reason I wanted to share this story in such detail is that there is always a beginning, and there is always a little touch, urge or trigger where you start believing in your ability and capacity to reach your future goals. You only need to open your mind and heart to receive those little signs.

Conferences I Have Spoken At So Far

After my first talk, I felt more confident with applying to speak at other events and I have talked at the following conferences in 2022 so far:

What’s On My Agenda For the Next Months?

 

Why Did I Want To Be a Conference Speaker? What Was My Motivation?

 

It’s great to have a network that supports and encourages you to do this but we also need initial motivation in order to push us to step outside our comfort zones and do something scary/exciting like applying to speak at a conference. For me, there are a few different reasons that motivated me:

 

  • The chance to be a part of a special community

 

I like organic relationships – not surprisingly as an SEO Strategist 🙂 

Since I joined the global SEO industry and community, my self-confidence and ability to ask questions when I don’t know or can’t find the answers have improved a lot. Rather than pulling myself down and finding my skills low and inadequate, I have become more satisfied with the work I do and started to feel more comfortable sharing my experiences with other SEOs. I have also become more confident communicating in my second language, English, feeling empowered to start conversations and create connections with other specialists. This was all thanks to the incredibly supportive community I was able to meet through my conference-speaking adventures. Their encouragement has helped me to, improve my performance at work, and consequently helped my personal development too, for which I am so very grateful.

 

Since starting my conference speaking journey, I have learned;

  1. How to give and take constructive feedback!
  2. How to give and take credit for any good work!
  3. What “networking” really is, and can help me with my life and career abroad!
  4. How to trust my own experience and instincts, and stop feeling the need to “double-check” my client suggestions, by asking my colleagues,
  5. How to remind myself that “It will be fine…” when things are not going perfectly, and to look for alternative solutions – quick wins to recover from that traffic drop in my life in other words 😉
  6. How to be more proactive and be one of those people who are always ready to share ideas, resources, and opportunities with the SEO community, friends and more. 

 

  • I love knowledge sharing!

I learned SEO from other SEO experts who were kind enough to teach me, and I still continue to learn in this way (you know, it’s a never-ending process:). They were so passionate, patient, and very generous when it came to sharing their experiences with me when I first started out in the SEO industry. This was really important as I actually still use a lot of the  strategies I learned from those early days, and this method of learning SEO has actually led me to become much more confident with my methods and approaches to research phases on different cases. 

Hence, I want to give back to the community so future SEOs can also learn from my experiences, in the same way, I did. The thought of being able to touch people’s lives with a little information, or a helping hand is a real motivator for me and helped me muster up the courage to talk at conferences.

  • I have developed an entrepreneur mindset 

Deep inside, I’m preparing myself to be a future founder/entrepreneur one day. So, I believe that experiencing all these things that come with speaking at conferences, like collaboratively creating ideas and relationships, managing stressful processes & crises, sharing my experiences and knowledge and meeting so many amazing people will also contribute to my future success too. 

  • I love the challenge of doing my own PR 

Although I used to be quite apprehensive about doing my own PR in the past; I decided to reconsider this when I moved to the UK in 2020. When I first started out, I wanted to make my name memorable in the industry, so that I could create trust, find a job, create relationships, build a personal brand and so on. Since I was new in the SEO industry and also in the country, speaking at conferences, and joining social media conversations, Slack communities, meet-up events and other channels – would all help me to build my personal brand within the digital community.

  • I love travelling

I love travelling. I love travelling with my laptop. I love writing, discovering new places, meeting local people, and tasting different cuisines, all of it! So I saw an opportunity to travel in my conference speaking adventures! I use my passion for travelling to help shape my research for speaking opportunities in different countries/cities. Thanks to this approach I’ve also managed to meet SEO people from different countries, learning from their experiences and unique challenges too. In fact, it’s fascinating to see which parts of SEO projects differ from country to country and the different approaches others have come up with to combat this in different niches.Plus, the time I spend on a train or flight really helps me to disconnect from apps and chat and just focus on my presentation before I arrive at the location.  

You know the old saying; “Choose a job you love.”

Well, I say: “Choose a job you love and do whatever you can do to love it even more.” 

 

How Do I Manage My Speaker Application Processes?

So, I also need to give you, the reader, some useful, actionable tips; otherwise, my blog post will just turn into “what Yagmur does in her spare time”, and we don’t want this 🙂 

Firstly, I would like to share the fact that I was really, really disorganised when I first started this journey. I wasn’t saving my speaking pitches properly and was always trying to find the forms I had previously sent, or trying to remember what I had submitted in my speaker bio etc. 

After much stress, and many long nights, I finally learned my lesson and built a Google Sheet. That sheet became my go-to source whenever I think about speaking at a conference, submitting an application or if I want to double-check my process, start creating my deck, etc. It contains:

  • A list of the conferences I want to speak at (Name, Location, Date, Speaker Application Submit Page/Form Links, Submission Deadline, and anything else related to the conference). As a starting point, you can check the complete list of SEO conferences in 2023 shared by our founder Kevin Gibbons for this list. 
  • Potential Speaker topics in my mind considering the conference audience
  • A copy of my speaker pitch once I submit 
  • The contact details of the event organisers once they get in touch with me
  • Any relevant links to my previous conferences (talks, decks, resources) so that I can use them as a reference while applying
  • 2 versions of my speaker bio (short & long) – as sometimes, you may have a character limit for speaker pitches. You can always update it according to your topic and audience 
  • My profile photo (headshot) with high resolution as they ask that too
  • My social media links if I want to add them 
  • Status of my application so I don’t miss any opportunities for early bird tickets for my network, or the opportunity to buy my flight/train tickets, book my hotel etc. with lower prices. 

Here I have shared an example template for you so that you can make a copy and personalize it for yourself: Conference Speaking Journey Sheet

 

Resources, Methods & Additional Tips 

 

  • I was lucky enough to take part in Speaker Confidence Training scheduled just before my first in-person conference with Kirsty Hulse. This was a great day full of insights, tips, methods, resources, inspiring ideas, motivation and encouragement. I really felt better afterwards and this also inspired me to develop my own methods when practising those feelings with a person who is a professional in their field.

 

  • Following that, I arranged 6 weeks of coaching sessions with Dr Nese Ceren Tosun to overcome the stress and anxiety that I get before events like public speaking. 

 

  • I had conversations with other speakers. I asked them about their feelings when they have a talk scheduled so that I started feeling better as I wasn’t the only one feeling stressed out there. Even speakers with years of experience feel the same from time to time. 

 

  • I found articles from conference speakers where they shared their experiences. The Women in Tech SEO Slack Channel conversations and community helped me with this as we have an inspiring community, and we do like sharing. A couple of findings which really helped me a lot so far: 

Areej Abuali’s Twitter Thread:

 

– Hannah Smith’s article about How to Write a Compelling Speaker Pitch

 

  • I took every opportunity given to me to develop my skills. We have a personal training budget at Re:signal, and I used this for improving my presentation skills in English, and this made me feel more comfortable as I received one-to-one feedback on the things I can improve in my language while presenting. 

 

  • I always try to attend the conferences and SEO Meet-ups that I want to speak at in the future, to see the experience from the audience’s perspective before applying to speak at them. 

 

  • I follow the events which bring conference speakers and event organisers together so that they share their ideas, opinions, and tips. I always try to attend this kind of event in person to create connections, ask questions, share my experiences and listen to others’ opinions, and get involved more – basically, I tried to be present as much as I can. Recently, I attended the event organised by “Take It Offline – TIO” and had a chance to catch up with the speakers & conference organisers. 

 

  • Sometimes, event organisers provide you with speaker training as well. For example, recently I gave a talk at BrightonSEO and the team provided us with a “Speaker Training Day” with Matt Matheson. The training focused on speaker confidence, and he shared very useful insights.

 

My Tips for Presenting at Conferences

 

  • I always consider giving free practical resources that the attendees can take from my talk and then use for their own purposes. It also helps me to shape my speaking deck and the topic I am discussing so that I don’t get lost. I would definitely suggest this, as I have received very positive feedback about this approach so far. For example, here is a roadmap sheet I have prepared for startups and used in different formats for my talks so far:  Good Vibes SEO Roadmap for International Startups & Small Businesses

 

  • Unlike many speakers, I kind of fail whenever I try to record myself and record the time when I rehearse for my speaking slot (usually they have been around 20-30 mins). I have noticed that, whenever I rehearse, I am giving a completely different talk with completely different words. Thus, I only go through my slides before the talk and think about the experiences I included on my deck rather than memorizing the words I am going to use by heart. This has helped me massively in my conference talks, and I find it helps the words come more naturally during my talk. 

 

  • I try to be as specific as I can when I am preparing my speaking pitches. I first consider the audience I want to prepare a talk for and then structure the pitch accordingly – also, I always try to find a unique title, so I can grab the attention of my potential audience;) For example, the title of my talk at BrightonSEO was > “To ‘B’ or not to ‘B’: B2B Content Strategies for Startups” and people give me really good feedback on the title choice. My first talk was entitled “Good Things Come in Small Packages: How to Create a Success Story with a Limited Budget”

 

  • I started saving any infographics, statistics, gifs, reports, visuals, or insights that I felt “I may need this in the future for my deck.” to my sheet as well

 

Last Words

 

Speaking at conferences is not everyone’s favourite activity 🙂 But if you  have already read this blog till the end, I kind of feel that you may want to give it a try 🙂

 

Well, I don’t remember how many nights I spent getting stressed and anxious but I always found a way to help myself during those periods, and I absolutely DO remember the amazing feeling after completing a conference talk. We always dream things, but we also need to know that dreams will stay as dreams and not become real if we don’t get out of our comfort zone and test our capabilities and skills. No one can load those experiences and learnings into our brains, bodies, and souls except us. I believe that just like Google or social channels, the universe has its own algorithm too, and it brings us personalised & unique opportunities each time we try something new – be proactive, be open to feedback, and be present.

 

Thanks to everyone who always encourages and motivates me during my journey; our team at Re:signal, my friends from the SEO community, my family & close friends and also “myself” (I know it’s weird, but it’s true). This article would never be written nor shared without your presence in my life 🙂