Here’s How More HR Pros Can Get Involved In Industry Speaking

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© frank peters -

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Back in 2009, I wanted to learn more about speaking at HR events. I was in transition, working on consulting projects and on contract and thought it was a good skill set to have. So I brainstormed some topics and proposed them to events both big and small. I ended up speaking a dozen times in a year and it was great.

Getting started wasn’t easy, but it was worth the effort.

How to get your foot in the door

The topic came to mind for two reasons. One, we’re spending more time here talking about the upcoming TLNT Transform conference in February, and two, I had recently seen a post by Mark Stelzner of Inflexion Advisors that spoke about getting practitioners more involved.

By coincidence, Stelzner came to town and we were able to do the interview live and in-person (a first for TLNT Radio).

Stelzner’s post (and our conversation) essentially broke down how to get into speaking slots at small and large events:

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  1. Start small – You probably have a local SHRM or HR association chapter. Starting at that level and working your way up (along with creating recommendations and a history of work) can go a long way to getting into regularly speaking. Even warming up with a local civic group isn’t a bad idea if the HR associations lack in your area.
  2. Partner with your vendors – Many vendors have webinar opportunities (a great way to start off, too) and can help open the door to speaking opportunities. Doing a joint presentation with a vendor at an event can be a great way to get your name out there.
  3. Study others – Stelzner cited examples like Charlie JudyLisa RosendahlDwane Lay and Tim Sackett of people to emulate when looking on how to make the leap up to the podium. Talking to them and learning about their struggles can be a good way of figuring out how to be successful.
  4. Ask for help – Professional speakers and consultants are often willing to give you pointers to help. But something we discussed (that I cannot emphasize enough): talk to the person in charge of the event program. Ask them if there is a subject area they are light on or if you could offer your expertise in one or two areas for a presentation.

Speaking as development

One of the other issues we touched on was the idea of speaking as a development opportunity for HR leaders. Stelzner pointed out that HR leaders aren’t often called to speak internally so companies may be less willing to allow an HR leader to invest any time into developing speaking. And certainly, there are also political and business reasons why an HR pro may not be able to speak at an event.

I can tell you one thing though: speaking helped me a ton. And not because I was particularly good at it (in fact, I’d probably never do 12 speaking engagements in a year again). But it stretched me beyond my comfort zone and allowed me to learn how to do something completely different.

Even if all it ever is, it’s worth it. Not to mention that if you get pretty good at it, it can help your career out immensely. But you’ve got to get your foot out there and take the first step.

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Lance Haun is the practice director of strategy and insights for The Starr Conspiracy, where he focuses on researching and writing about work technology. He is also a former editor for ERE Media, broadly covering the world of human resources, recruiting, and sourcing. 
He has been featured as a work expert in publications like the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, MSNBC, Fast Company, and other HR and business websites.
He's based in his Vancouver, Wash., home office with his wife and adorable daughter. You can reach him by email or find him off-topic on Twitter.