The Festival of Marketing

Can I reverse-engineer a big dream to speak at the Festival of Marketing?

On my Linkedin a few weeks ago I posted about sharing big dreams with your network. After reading a Twitter thread about a guy who tweeted his way into lunch with a billionaire, it got me thinking.

What if all you have to do is ask?

So I got my phone out that night and wrote a list of 10 big dreams. Each one makes me react internally with who on earth do you think you are?

So they’re probably about right.

The first one is ‘I want to be a speaker at the Festival of Marketing’.

Linkedin post on festival of marketing

On this blog, I’d like to reverse-engineer this big dream together.

What’s in the blog:

  • What is the Festival of Marketing?
  • Why do I want to be a speaker?
  • Would they let me?
  • Choosing the content
  • Leveraging my network
  • Asking for feedback
  • Submission time!

What is the Festival of Marketing?

According to the website, “Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing offers hyper-relevant content and experiences to help marketers feel more confident, capable and inspired.”

If you work in marketing, it’s a big deal. Last year’s keynote speakers include two of my favourites, Mark Ritson, who I did my Mini-MBA with in 2021, and Steven Bartlett, of Diary of a CEO fame.

There are huge brands at it every year, it’s sponsored by some of my anchor clients, and it’s hyper-focused on helping marketers do their jobs better.

Why do I want to be a speaker?

As well as liking the sound of my own voice, I’m focusing on building my personal brand this year.

I primarily target two audiences- marketing directors at enterprise companies, and marketing-adjacent roles in mid-size companies (sales enablement, sales leadership, partners and alliances). My two audiences are likely to be out at this event.

You can read my full segmentation and targeting rationale in this article

On top of that, event content is stretchy. It becomes very easy to repost on social media, share on this blog, chunk down into different ways. It can continue serving me for months to come.

And finally, being a freelancer relies heavily on your own confidence. Something about speaking at events is a confidence-boost rocket fuel for me.

Would they let me?

So I want to be a speaker. How do I even begin with what I would talk about?

I started on the event website, looking through previous speakers and topics. Would they even let a one-man band speak, or have they focused on just the big brands?

Scrolling through the agenda, I came across this:

Festival of marketing speaker slot

This is a big win- a consultant on stage. I had a look at his bio, and he does have some previous big brand experience- but then again, so do I.

There were quite a lot of solopreneurs and founders on the ‘Ask me Anything’ or ‘This Much I Learned’ stage, but they all seem to be prominent brands in their own right, which I’m not. (yet)

So they probably would consider a one-man band on the Ideas Exchange Stage. My only concern is that some of these could be paid-for slots. For example, I saw a client from Salesforce on the stage, which I know (and can deduce from the poster) are sponsors. I also saw some slots for the agency ReallyB2B, but they were also all over their Instagram, so I wonder if there’s a professional relationship there.

In fact, a lot of the smaller companies I recognised were sponsoring in some way. I do have routes in there, but we’ll come to that. Let’s choose Peter Cross, the consultant.

Bad news- he’s ex-John Lewis, and a professional speaker.

Good news- there’s a precedence of single people without big brand employment being speakers. Without being deterred, on to what the hell I would talk about.

Festival of Marketing Speaker Content

A brainstorm. What would I talk about?

There’s two parts to this:

  1. What does the audience want to learn?
  2. What unique perspectives and experiences do I have?

All good marketers know that the #1 rule is you are not the audience.

Let’s find out what they’re searching for. I know how to write for SEO, but I’m only a beginner in SEO research. So the below is a little basic, but better than nothing.

I used SEMRush’s tool to look for trending questions in the UK around the ‘marketing’ topic. The problem here is that it’s pretty broad, and it doesn’t filter the audience. I’m not sure a professional marketer would search ‘what is content marketing’.

How about what existing visitors of the Marketing Week website are interested in? You’d imagine going to the festival you’re at least familiar with the brand.

Ok. Some interesting analysis of their traffic. Let’s dig into the organic keywords and page performance.

Three observations:

  • Brand searches- people are looking for the analysis of current adverts that Mark Ritson so cleverly breaks down in his articles. Could also be why Marketing Week are leaning into them, both for articles and for speakers at the event.
  • Good bit of interest in programmatic advertising, which isn’t a sweet spot for me.
  • Job hunting.

I’ve run into a problem here- without spending more time learning SEO or paying for tools, there’s no way of knowing what marketers are searching for. Unfortunately, the general public are skewing the results. I could spend more money and time doing quantitative research, or I can do a quick qualitative approach- a survey.

I chose a few topics I had floating around my head. The benefit of this is that I can turn the others into engaging blog posts!

Poll for festival of marketing talk

It looks like the trend-led Chat GPT was a clear winner.

Leveraging my Network

I know a lot of people at the FoM, or who are sponsoring or speaking. I could approach them with a boring, generic request for feedback on the topic, or I could take the time and effort to flesh it out and make it worth their extensive expertise. It’s about respect.

Some of these I knew were involved, and some of these I discovered through a fair few hours stalking everything FoM had posted.

Salesforce– Ex-employer, current client, large sponsor. I imagine they were given a lot of guidance by Marketing Week on what resonates with the audience. I wonder if they’d share their insight into what the show is like and the audience?

Marketing Week– I’ve referred sponsors to them for part of their Knowledge Bank programme before I even decided to do this. I’ve also been on webinars with one of the editors of their sister publication. But of course, I’d rather be polished before approaching them, as they’ll be the people who’ll decide if I get it!

Wavemaker– I work with them extensively as part of my contract with Adobe, and they’re a sponsor. Would they give me any insight into the content guidelines?

Mark Ritson– I did his Mini-MBA in 2021, would he consider supporting a former student’s attempt to reverse engineer using his principles?

Secondary connections– I recognise a lot of the names on the sponsor list and speaker list that I’ve come across in parts of my career. Could I get intros to these people and ask them for help too?

Asking for Feedback

I could reach out to each of those people with just the topic, or I could create my outline and ask for feedback that way, which respects them and their time more. So I made the decision to park the outreach for feedback and tips for if (when?!) FoM contact me to say they’re interested.

Festival of Marketing- Submission Time

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, applying for a speaking slot is as much a confidence play as it is a PR exercise. With that in mind, I decided to strike while the iron was hot and just apply. Done is better than perfect.

Notice a few things I did:

  • I started with what they wanted, not an ‘I’ statement
  • I varied the sentence structure and length to keep it engaging
  • I teased my speaking style
  • I mentioned my unique angle
  • I included social proof.

What’s next?

I shared with my Linkedin audience that I’d submitted my interest. Next, I’m going to work on the outline and see if any of the connections I mentioned above can help get my submission to the top of the pile. It’s not what you know…etc.

And if all else fails, I’ve been brave, and I’ve got some more blog post ideas!



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