It’s not what you know, it’s who you know – or so the saying goes. That’s why attending events and networking with others can lead to new business for your agency. When done well, networking and public speaking can strengthen your agency’s brand by raising awareness and helping founders meet new business partners and prospective clients.
Live streamed events were the number one area marketers invested in this past year, according to HubSpot. Webinars and multi-format virtual events receive the most engagement from viewers. With in-person events now back in full swing, what began as an inconvenient alternative has now given us a myriad of ways to connect with new people.
To better understand how agencies can find and attend these types of events (or host their own) to score new work and make meaningful industry connections, we spoke with networking expert and Wix Partner Community Manager Steven Demoya. He weighs in below:
Leverage network and speaking engagements to score new work:
“We all attend speaking and networking events for the same purpose: chiefly to learn from industry experts, and, if possible, make new connections,” says Demoya. “Partners really thrive during these events because it’s an opportunity to freely discuss business in real time, whether from an agency sharing insights or during peer-to-peer discussions.
The key to succeeding during these events, according to Demoya, is to master the art of the exchange. That is - aim to be a giver, not a taker, by connecting professionals with one another and sharing some of your favorite resources. When you add value in this way, you cement your brand’s thought leadership and serve as a point of reference for the topic discussed.
To that effect, leaning into communities where you can rapidly form new connections and share your knowledge at scale is an excellent way to put your agency on the map. Once you become a Wix Partner, check out the Partners’ Facebook community to grow your agency by engaging with other like minded founders.
“Speaking directly to a community about topics you’re passionate about is an excellent way to garner rapid-fire feedback. It all boils down to networking and finding those pockets where your skills, insights and experiences are hyper-relevant and really resonate,” Demoya says.
A word of caution though - Demoya suggests you start by answering other people’s questions and contributing comments before asking a bunch of your own. Once you build rapport, people will start to recognize you and be more inclined to help out. It’s here that you can refine topics of discussion, collect opinions and find events to attend (or invite people to your own events).
Finding (or making) networking and speaking engagements:
Speaking to crowds of people for the first time can feel both daunting and exhilarating, but the first challenge is finding where to do so to begin with. Here are some strategies:
01. Leverage your existing contacts
According to the six degrees of separation theory, all people are six or fewer connections from one another. That means that all those contacts you’ve made, or past clients and colleagues, can be put to good use in meeting new people. Beyond testimonials and portfolio work, introductions and recommendations are particularly powerful ways of networking. Plus, inviting speakers to an event you’re hosting is both a gesture of good faith, and an opportunity to strengthen your own brand by curating sessions with external thought leaders.
02. Think outside your niche
Adjacent industries might benefit from your expertise, so consider what your audience’s other interests are. For instance, if you’re a web design agency that primarily works with small businesses, don’t limit your speaking engagements to events related solely to web design or entrepreneurship. Instead, get in front of audiences interested in topics like social media marketing, e-commerce or graphic design. Trade shows, industry-specific conferences and local meetups are all great places to showcase your broader expertise. By speaking to a wider range of audiences, you’ll attract new leads from unexpected places and position your agency as a well-rounded creative partner.
03. Speaker matching services and online platforms
Services like SpeakerMatch and IntelNgin make it easy to find speaking opportunities at conferences, events, organizations that are a good fit for your business. They provide information about member attendees, connect you with reporters looking for experts, and have robust search features enabling you to drill down by industry, geography, employee size and more.
When you’re ready to go, one platform you can head on over to is Hopin.com and start your own virtual, in-person or hybrid event, complete with high quality live streams, multi-level ticketing, attendee engagement solutions, and one-to-one or one-to-many speaking formats. Of course, you can stick with Instagram live or Clubhouse, but keep the formatting of each in mind and plan accordingly.
A proper strategy is arguably more important than the platform you choose, so be sure to follow the best practices below.
Networking and speaking engagement best practices
01. Turn your speaking engagements into high-quality content
Always have a camera on hand to record your speaking engagements. You can use these recordings to create video and transcripts for your blog, social media and website. This is a great way to get exposure for your agency and increase the ROI (and reach) of your speaking engagements.
You can also enhance the content contained within your presentations by creating blog posts, articles, or eBooks inspired by the material in your presentation to further establish your business as an expert creative agency.
02. Learn about your audience in advance
A little research goes a long way. When you know who will be attending an event, you can target the content of your presentation to address their specific problems or pain points. Utilize networking intelligence tools like ZoomInfo, DiscoverOrg and LinkedIn to get background information on potential clients and contacts.
Doing your homework on in-depth profiles of companies and individuals can make or break your first impression. At the very least, make sure you know where the attendees work and what they do, so you can create strong talking points that resonate with them.
“Ask yourself - ‘what is something I’ve learned in my journey that could add value to others?’ Then, check in with your audience to make sure that it actually does” says Demoya.
03. Team up to deliver the best audience experience
“When virtual events first started hitting the mainstream, it was awkward at first before it started building momentum,” says Demoya. “You can’t read the room as well. If people are on their phone, distracted, you don’t always know. So, how do you keep people engaged?
His advice: try to glean as many signals from your audience as possible. Ask questions to boost engagement in the chat, check up on them, and offer breaks for people to reset so you know you’re not losing them along the way, and if you can find points of differentiation, that’s also likely to keep their focus. Remember: When it comes to speaking, you’re not only competing with your direct competitors, but also with distractions.
“Having a team to back you up and moderate the conversation is critical. Back when we hosted live webinars, we always made sure to keep the chat busy. We actually had a team with a separate Slack channel to coordinate among ourselves, but if we’re taking specific questions, then I like to highlight certain questions and keep track of what we’re asking at which time” adds Demoya.
04. Shuffle your lineup
As a general rule of thumb, it's best to curate a variety of speakers when hosting your own events. In the same vein as when you ask for referrals from past clients, you should also ask your speaker list to connect you with other speakers.
More often than not, past speakers make the most engaged audience members, partly out of gratitude but more so because they have genuine interest in the topic of discussion. They also function as the backbone of a strong lead-gen strategy, as you get to tune into their respective audiences. For that reason, keeping a large rotation of speakers is best to draw new attention and score new work.
Network like a champ with Wix
When approached strategically, networking and speaking engagements can propel your creative agency forward. They’re an effective way to connect with clients, prospects and partners to cement your thought leadership and elevate your agency’s credibility.
As a Wix partner, you have access to a range of resources to take your networking and speaking engagements to the next level. “For our Partners, be sure to reach out to your account manager and let them know you have an idea in mind you’d like to present,” says Demoya. “They can help you formulate an action plan for sharing a presentation or social post, or potentially put you in touch with someone who can help you participate in a Wix webinar.”