How To Secure Earned Cybersecurity Speaking Engagements

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Written by Henry Dalziel

Speaking at a conference is an extremely powerful marketing channel.

Let’s be crystal clear: being a speaker is good for two major reasons:

  1. Hugely beneficial for your company
  2. And – it’s a great way to network

Taking each of these in turn, let’s start by appreciating that when you speak at an event or conference, you position yourself as an authority. The company you represent is, therefore, through your delivery, presented as a leader within the niche.

Additionally, when you walk off the stage you’ll be recognized, and trust me, as a speaker myself, it makes networking so much easier.

The Conference Organizers Do All The Hard Work

The event organizers do all of the hard work.

They are the ones that have to organize the pre-conference promotion and marketing, the on-site logistics, lead generation, registration, and so much more.

Organizing a cybersecurity conference is not for a slacker. InfoSec subject matter is extremely complex and organizing an event can take a long time; indeed, events like Black Hat, CyberTech Tel Aviv 2021, or DEF CON can take a year to organize.

Organizing an IT security event or seminar can take a long time because you’ve got to get the right mix of subject matter experts, motivational keynote speakers, and engaging panelists that are all knowledgeable in the content. Couple this with the pressures of putting the show together on a budget and on time is, to say the least, a major challenge.

We’re friends with a lot of the Cybersecurity conference organizers and we’re always hearing how stressed they are leading up to their events. Needless to say, 2019 was a torrid year for the industry; however, there was some respite in the fact that most events were simply pushed online.

The most important task InfoSec conference organizers have is populating their event right blend of speakers. Get it right and you’ll have a memorable security conference; get it wrong and you won’t get a repeat audience the following year.

There’s also the arduous task of making sure that event sponsors are happy and are, hopefully, generating business.

How To Get Cybersecurity Speaking Engagements?

Speaking engagements come in three sizes:

  • Paid
  • Sponsored
  • Earned

Let’s take each one in turn.

#1 Paid Speaking Opportunities

A “Paid Speaking Engagement” means that you’ve been “booked” to speak at an event for a fee, i.e. you are being paid. Think along the lines of Bruce Schneider or Kevin Mitnick.

If you’re a Cybersecurity Professional then being paid to speak is, of course, a privilege.

Typically these people are personalities within their security niche.

The overwhelming majority of InfoSec event speakers are “sponsored”.

#2 Sponsored Speaking Opportunities

Sponsored and Earned are the opposite types of speaker engagements you can have.

Sticking with Sponsored Speakers; means that in exchange for sponsoring the event you’re allowed to address the audience with your company’s solution. It’s not a good idea as a sponsored speaker to give the audience a pitch-fest barrage of content, but rather to weave the vendor’s solution into the overall problem.

It’s normal for a Cybersecurity Company to pay anywhere between USD $2,000 – USD $20,000 for a speaking slot on a well-known stage such as RSA or Black Hat.

#3 Earned Speaking Opportunities

“Earned Speaking” basically means that you’re speaking for free – but – you still need to offer value. It’s common for an earned speaker to have to pay for their accommodation and travel but there are often “perks” or “speaker benefits” that are bundled with the speaking opportunities.

The most common types of speakers at Security Conferences are “earned speakers”.

How Do You Become A Cybersecurity Speaker?

Now that we’ve established the three categories, let’s focus on how an “earned speaker”, i.e. the most common type, secures speaking gigs.

Before committing time to actually getting speaking gigs, you need to be sure that your content is:

  • Timely;
  • Engaging;
  • Useful (“Actionable”)

If your content ticks those three boxes then it’s time to apply for “Call For Papers” or “Call For Presentations”.

The “Call For Papers” Process

The first thing to do is to find Cybersecurity CFP’s – something we specialize in through our InfoSec Event Navigator platform. Our platform, essentially, has one major benefit: it saves you hours of research.

However – don’t fear – there are free options if you don’t want to pay. Simple Google searches will generate CFP’s, and there are several other platforms that you can use as well that list out CFP’s.

Once you’ve identified a bunch of speaking opportunities (or “CFP’s”) then you’ll need to submit an abstract.

Most conference organizers are real sticklers for the CFP being submitted exactly as they have asked. Get it wrong and you’ll be rejected. The CFP submission process deserves respect – if – you have deemed it an event worthy of your time and resources, and of course whether your marketing team feels that sales might be a possibility.

Make sure that your abstract matches the conference audience. Despite being founded by the same person (Jeff Moss) speaking at DEF CON for example is very different than Black Hat; it’s a totally different audience and the expectations are completely different.

Also, make sure that your abstract speaks to a problem that the attendees encounter. This is particularly true for Cybersecurity. Take, for example, privacy, GDPR, SCADA, Digital Forensics, Cybercrime, etc., these are all very specific subjects that have unique problems and challenges.

Needless to say, make sure that your content is unique! If there is a sniff of plagiarism then you’ll be out of gas in no time at all.

Experience Matters

A conference organizer is taking a bet on your delivery.

Typically, the bigger the conference, the more experience they will like to see.

Organizers tend to prefer speakers who can provide proof of their stage performance. That might mean that you submit a video of you presenting to a group or at another similar type of conference or event.

It’s also not unheard of for conference organizers to request session feedback scores from previous speaking engagements.

The reason why organizers are so strict on allowing speakers onto their stage is obvious: they’ve invested in the event. If you look good, then so do they, and of course, the opposite is also true.

Also, remember that the more socially engaged you are the better. Why? Because cybersecurity conference organizers tend to prefer speakers who have a solid social networking presence and are happy to use it.

Wrapping Up

If you get the speaking game working for you it can be hugely beneficial.

Qualified sales leads will flow to you!

Your marketing team will love you for it and you’ll also have exponential success with regards to more business coming in, and your personal network growing with every event that you speak at.

We wish you all the best with your Cybersecurity speaking engagements, and hope like everyone else, that the COVID nightmare stays in the past and that we can re-start our speaking schedules!

2 thoughts on “How To Secure Earned Cybersecurity Speaking Engagements”

  1. Hey I am [redacted], I work at Cisco.

    Looking for speaking opportunities.

    9+ yrs of Security Experience
    ISO 27001 LA


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