Fifteen years ago, when I would launch a speaker program for a new client, I’d work with them for a week or so refining the executive speakers’ biographies.  I even had a template for those who didn’t already have some type of written bio.

Fast forward to 2018.  When I launch a speaker program now, one of the first things I do is look up the executives’ LinkedIn profiles because I know that is what conference organizers also do when considering speakers.  I rarely use bios when I “pitch” speakers. Instead, I send an email with a hyperlink to…(you guessed it!) their LinkedIn profile.  I’ve even seen several Call-for-Presenter (CFP) forms, request a link to a speaker’s LinkedIn, or other online profile, in the place of a bio.

Does this mean that executives biographies are pointless?  No. Bios are still necessary.

It is common to include executive profiles on a company website. This helps build trust by associating people with the brand. When those in charge have impressive and relevant backgrounds, that often reassures potential employees, customers, partners and investors. Bios are also important in the context of the speaker program. Once a speaking engagement invitation is confirmed, a bio is typically posted on the conference website, illustrating the reason that particular speaker is suited to address the topic. (That said, the word count of the posted bio is often culled to highlight only the executive’s most recent responsibilities and achievements.)

For the purposes of pitching a speaker, however, bios are not as important as having a strong LinkedIn profile. Several years ago, unscrupulous public relations or communications people were able to fudge executive titles.  I remember being asked on several occasions whether strategically removing words such as sales or marketing from a title (words that might raise red flags to conference managers and attendees) would increase the chances that a subject matter expert might be chosen as a speaker. Though it was not an advisable practice then, in the modern days of online transparency, obfuscating a title is no longer possible.  Conference managers will search for a speaker’s name or go to LinkedIn to examine their background before, or in addition to, opening an attachment with a corporate bio. Why rely on a document that could be embellished, when there is ample information online?

I don’t claim to be an expert on LinkedIn marketing or how to develop the best profile, but these are a few tips I’ve learned from some of the savvy executives with whom I’ve worked.

  • Use a current photo. Make sure it is professional or shows your expertise.
  • Ensure that the profile is up to date. At the very least, all job titles and memberships should be accurate.
  • Customize the URL. It creates a positive impression if you have taken the time to customize your LinkedIn URL. This is an easy update to make through the platform.
  • Use it to publish content. Posting content on LinkedIn shows that you are a thought leader who has, and is not afraid to share, ideas and opinions.
  • Add video to the experience section, if relevant. If you have spoken at events in the past and have a good sample video to share, do! This is a simple way to show that you have speaking experience.

LinkedIn also offers tips for updating your profile which may be found here.