How to Land Your First UX Speaking Gig

by Sheena Lyonnais

posted on 04-13-2017

A guide to landing your first speaking gig—whether it’s at your local meet-up, your alma mater or SXSW, here’s what you need to know.

There are hundreds of opportunities for UX designers to share their insights with others in the industry, and turning notes on a page into lessons on the stage is often easier than you might think.

Whether you’ve been sitting on a particular idea for a while or this is something that is completely new to you, this guide will walk you through the steps it takes to not only land your first speaking gig but to make an impact while you’re there. It is one thing to get up there and say something and another to do it with grace, passion and confidence.

If you’re an experienced communicator looking to shift from the boardroom to the conference room, feel free to skip a few steps. But if you’re new to this, read on to learn more about professional communication.

1. Practice Makes Progress

Very few people are natural-born communicators and commanders of the stage. Most of us need practice, and like anything else, the key to becoming a dynamite public speaker is to get as much of this practice as possible. This often includes creating your own opportunities to begin harnessing the power of your voice.

A few ways to practice public speaking include:

2. Conduct User Research

You’re a designer, which means you likely have some experience with research. Use this to your advantage by applying this practice to your budding speaking career. Start going to industry conferences, meet-ups, workshops and events and take notes on how others communicate with their audiences. Do they combine visual components, use humor, or other cues to engage their audience? How does the audience respond?

More importantly, what is the speaker talking about? Are they presenting trends or findings, sharing stories of their experiences, motivating or inspiring others in the audience? What is it that brought them to that stage? Do you find their story compelling? Also, who is in the audience? Try to get a feel for the types of people who are interested in the style of content you want to share. How do they respond and what tools can you incorporate from other speakers to help keep your audience inspired and engaged? Don’t be afraid to take field notes.

3. Identify Your Hook

Start thinking not just about how to become a speaker with more conviction, but a speaker with something to say. What topics are you passionate about and why do you feel this desire to share them with others? Have you discovered something unique about your process, products or users that you can’t stop thinking about?

This is what’s called “a hook,” or a niche, that you can leverage to land your first speaking gig. Offering a take on something others haven’t seen before is one way to get your foot in the door. What can you provide that is worthwhile or beneficial to your audience?

4. Network, Network, Network

Speaking opportunities rarely manifest out of thin air, especially at the beginning. Most speakers have to work their way up to the level of a keynote speaker; so don’t be afraid to start small. Be proactive by actively seeking an opportunity rather than waiting for one to come to you.

Some ideas to get you started:

5. Let Your Speaking Career Take Flight

That first speaking gig doesn’t have to be a mind-blowing TED Talk; it’s more about getting experience in the public eye.

Though it might be ideal if it’s related to your career or the topics that you want to talk about, if that seems unrealistic at this moment don’t fret. Dig into your hobbies and see what opportunities exist there. Perhaps you can speak to your local bird-watching group about where to spot the elusive Snow Goose, or whatever else niche interest you may have.

Remember, all of this comes back to the simple principle of having something say.

The worst speech you’ll ever give will be far better than the one you never give.

~ Fred Miller

Topics: Creative Inspiration & Trends, Design

Products: Creative Cloud