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Building Your Speaking Credentials Event Recap

Monday, August 26, 2019 10:53 PM | Jan Szmanda (Administrator)

A group of about 20 L&D professionals had the opportunity to participate in Building Your Speaking Credentials on August 15th. Amy Lins, Sarah Gibson, and Alicia Steindorf, who are all former ATD-MAC board members, lead us through a session that was engaging and had a lot of great takeaways.

Sarah Gibson started the session with some discussion as to why anyone would want to speak at a conference. The reasons range from personal(Amy Lins wanted to begin speaking to have an opportunity to travel) to professional – speaking is a great way to build your resume or gain CPLP continuing credits – to altruistic – giving your story and knowledge to better others.

Regardless of why you want to speak, it takes something to get there. That something is a story. Coming up with a compelling story is finding the middle ground between:

Passion: What you can't stop doing or talking about

Expertise: What you know a lot about

What's Hot: What are people talking about now or what would they want to hear you talk about

Then take that story and tie it back to your audience. Your audience is a key factor why you think about speaking, the same as it would be when you are training. However, you need to keep in mind that your first audience is the selection committee. The direct example of this that was used is the ATD competency model. Anyone that plans on speaking at ATD either locally or nationally should keep this in mind within that junction of passion, expertise and what’s hot.

Just because you have a topic and a story doesn’t mean that you are done or even ready to start speaking. In fact. that is only the beginning. You still need to gain experience, apply to speak, get recognized by the selection committee and make yourself memorable, hopefully in a good way.

Amy poses two question to the group: 

1.    What do you need to do before you even apply to speak at a conference?

2.    How do you gain experience for speaking when you don’t have speaking experience?

To the first question, much of the discussion was set around knowing the organization, track or theme of the conference and understanding who is going to be attending. However, the advice that was given might seem even more obvious. First create an outline draft of your presentation. Maybe include a few slides. Second, write a bio so people know who you are. And lastly, get a professional looking headshot.

The second question created some great discussion. As trainers, many of us discovered that we have some experience and building on it is about starting small. Speaking locally can open opportunities to speak regionally and eventually move to nationally. But there are other ways. One way is through your network, by connecting with conference leaders and opening doors. Another way is by doing some volunteer speaking at community events, nonprofits or even a local university or school.

When it comes to the actual application for speaking or RFP, the point is to get noticed by the selection committee. The easiest way to do that is to go back to your audience. What do they want? What problem can you help them solve? Answer those questions in your proposal. As someone that is part of the selection process, Alicia was able to give several points to what makes them notice a proposal. The first and one of the most important might be that it is engaging, interactive, and interesting for the audience. Another way to set your presentation apart is to have a unique perspective on an old topic. Using ATD as an example, not many people are going to be inclined to attend a presentation titled Instructional Design Basics. But you might fill a room with a presentation titled Inspiration is Everywhere: Using your Surroundings to Design Instruction.

Another word of advice that came out of the discussion was to not get discouraged if you don’t get selected. For ATD-ICE they may get 200 or more applications to fill 20-30 slots.

To sum up the session, there were many takeaways. For a presentation on building speaking credentials, a surprising amount of what I learned I can, and have, since started applying to my daily job.


For anyone that is interested in building their own speaking credentials, we have two opportunities. ATD-MAC is currently taking speaker proposals under the Get Involved tab; complete the Presenter Proposal. The Greater Madison Area Society for Human Resource Management (GMA SHRM) is also seeking presenters for their 2020 programming calendar of events as well as their Human Capital Conference.


We invite you to complete the attached Call for Presentation (CFP) for consideration.  You can also access the CFP from the GMA SRHM website. This document is the core document that you will use to describe your proposed program and make the case why and how your program is a good match to our programming priorities.  Please note that all presentations must be tailored to our HR audience and speakers must provide a takeaway deliverable such as a tool kit, exercise, or practical resource that participants can take back to work with them and implement.  We are also interested in your presentation background and if your topic has already received SHRM Certification or HR Certification Institute (HRCI) approval for General or Strategic Management credits. (Prior accreditation of the program is not a requirement.)

If you are interested in presenting a program for our chapter in 2020, please submit your completed CFP document, in MS Word format, to chapteradmin@gmashrm.org no later than Tuesday, September 10, 2019.  Please note in the Subject Line: Call for Presentation.

Thank you for your interest in sharing your knowledge with GMA SHRM members.  We look forward to hearing from you!

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