Three Benefits to Speaking at Industry Conferences

by Carol Van Den Hende
published in Community

Welcome to the Author Marketing Toolkit, where you can learn from 20+ years of time-tested marketing and insights expertise, translated for publishing. I’m Carol Van Den Hende, an MBA and strategist who’s known for bringing treats (“sweet!”)

I’m thrilled to be joining you here at DIY MFA to share actionable insights.

Over the last year, we’ve discussed author brand, how to SPARC great book cover design, using LinkedIn as an author, the role of contests in marketing your work, and multiple other topics. Please check out these previous articles on

Have you ever thought that you’d like to share your knowledge through speaking? Today, we’ll cover how to get started with speaking at industry conferences and three benefits of doing so, which include: giving back, building your community, and tangible perks.

How did I start speaking at industry conferences?

Nearly a decade ago, I joined a writers’ group and attended their in-person session. When I introduced myself as a marketer working for Mars Incorporated, a gasp of delight rippled through the room. Initially, I thought they must really love chocolate. Pretty quickly, though, I realized they were eager to mine my knowledge of marketing! 

This group kicked off my speaking career by asking me to teach and share my expertise. I was passionate about the topic of brand, because I realized that not many had the perspective of a professional marketer, and people who were teaching the topic often conflated the concepts of brand with visual identity. These were my first two topics, and continue to be the most foundational presentations I give at industry conferences.

The Joy of Giving Back

In summary, I started speaking as a way to contribute to the writing communities that I’ve found to be incredibly generous.

This is the first benefit of speaking—the pure joy of seeing the impact of teaching. It’s a wonderful feeling to see how marketing knowledge can empower writers and publishers.

Nowadays, I often introduce my talks by acknowledging “Authors write for the love of the word and don’t always realize until later that they’re also expected to be marketers, businesspeople, and branding experts.”

Over the years, audiences have resonated again and again with my five core topics: Author Brand and Why Readers Care, Design as Art: Principles to Spark Brilliant Cover Design, Marketing like an Authorpreneur, Marketing Mindset, and Generational Insights into Millennial characters.

Conference attendees have said, “Carol inspires me and fires me up every time. I can’t wait to market my book and my why!” This is a great reason to speak at industry conferences—to give back, and witness the fulfillment that comes from making a difference for audiences.

Building Your Community

Secondly, I’ve found that the connections made at industry conferences last. 

I continue to be in contact with, and follow the work of, writers whom I met years ago at Writers’ Digest, Rutgers Writers’ Conference, NJ-SCBWI, Sisters in Crime, RWA, and other venues. 

A recent case in point: I spoke at the Independent Book Publisher Association’s Publishing University conference and was blown away by meeting publishers, authors, and other industry professionals. I loved presenting my book cover design insights. And multiple members of this warm, wonderful community have already reached out and connected!

Tangible Perks

Third, beyond networking, there are tangible benefits to speaking at industry conferences. Some events pay an honorarium, and/or provide speakers with free attendance, complimentary travel, the ability to sell books, or additional perks.

I truly treasure speaking at conferences, meeting new people, and making a difference in authors’ and publishers’ careers.

Simple Steps to Start Speaking at Industry Conferences

If speaking sounds appealing to you, start by identifying what topics you could uniquely teach. Ask yourself what you know deeply that others would like to learn. 

I’ve seen speakers present information on period costumes, medical details, productivity tools, story structure, editing, characterization, building conflict, great first sentences, social media, and much more. For instance, author K.M. Fawcett leans on her martial arts experience to teach classes on “Self-Defense” and “Writing Believable Fight Scenes.”

Once you have your concept, craft a logical flow, and a compelling course title and description. Research conferences in your area that you might like to attend, and submit proposals. Make sure to follow all their guidelines for submission.

After I submit a proposal, I hold the dates on my calendar until I hear back from the conference. As with many speaking gigs, conferences plan multiple months in advance, so expect events to put out a call for speakers six to nine months or more before the event.

Once you land a gig, ensure you (over)deliver. For me, I’m always striving to leave the audience with actionable takeaways, and that the talk is high energy and enjoyable. Make sure you know your content intimately enough to address questions well. Author Nancy Herkness says, “A well-organized, information-filled workshop sends me in search of the presenter’s books to buy, while a poorly prepared presentation leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

Don’t forget common courtesy—make sure you’re responsive to communications, that you’re on time or early, and that you’re well-prepared for the talk. You can even help promote the event, and follow up the talk with a thank you note to the organizer along with suggestions for future topics.

Herkness, who speaks and attends industry conferences, says, “If you do a terrific job of presenting one workshop, word will spread of the value you deliver and invitations to speak at other conferences will follow. You can become an authority on your topic, which brings invaluable exposure for your brand, as well as creating an aura of quality around your books.”

One professional who provides useful tips is Grant Baldwin. His “The Speaker Lab” podcast and website provide helpful guidance on building your speaking career.

Benefits of Speaking

In summary, consider speaking at industry conferences as a great way to 1) give back, 2) expand your community, and 3) benefit from attending valuable events and being compensated. Once you decide to speak, pick a topic of expertise, pitch conferences, prepare, and overdeliver!

Please share your own experiences with speaking at conferences in the comments!

Carol Van Den Hende is the award-winning author of the Goodbye, Orchid series, a public speaker, and MBA with 20+ years’ experience in marketing, strategy and insights. Carol is passionate about simplifying marketing concepts into actionable steps that authors need for publishing success. Please sign up for Carol’s newsletter at or contact her at

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