• Carly Dickler

Crafting Winning Speaking and Awards Submissions

Last you heard from me, I was making my fashionably late debut to Backstage with my Welcome to Hollywood blog. Now I’ve been here for nearly a year, and I’ve been asked back to share some insight into crafting speaking and awards submissions, which I guess has kind of become my thing (this is me humble bragging, something I’ve learned from Steve).


This time, I’ll be discussing positioning our clients as thought leaders in their respective industries and helping them establish credibility by finding appropriate conferences, events and awards. For a smaller organization or a client trying to break into a new space, the clout of a thoughtfully placed speaking opportunity or a shining “industry’s best” award could be the missing piece of the puzzle for their initiatives to begin gaining momentum. Presence at a conference – whether it’s an exhibitor’s booth or a speaking session on the conference main stage – is a great pitch topic, a selling point for future events (“Hey, Carly from Hollywood Agency delivered a great talk on X at Conference A. We’d love the opportunity to have her come speak at our conference as well.”) and shows an organization’s clients and competitors alike that they’re some of the best in their field.


Enter Hollywood. On behalf of some clients, we monitor industry-specific conferences and awards and apply on their behalf. To see success in your award and speaking submissions means to immerse yourself so deeply into your clients’ offerings that you have the same level of understanding of their work as leading industry professionals, who are so often those organizing conferences and deciding who does and who doesn’t make the cut. For me, this means going beyond digging into all the resources we have for each client and reading up on the industry as a whole. While it can be time consuming, it makes for a much more well-rounded application as you’ll be able to demonstrate an understanding of where your client fits into the landscape of whichever industry they belong to.


Recently, we secured two opportunities for our client Oak Development & Design to speak at the NAHB International Builders Show, one of the country’s largest residential construction trade shows (I’m humble bragging again). Here are some of my top considerations when building out an application and how I applied them in this instance:

· A fresh topic: Most likely, the conference you’re applying to has been around for more than a year. If you can, find agendas from years past and look at previous speakers’ topics. Do you notice any topics missing that your client could offer insight on? Oak Development & Design primarily works with millennial homeowners who are moving from the city to the suburb to buy their first homes. We leveraged that to develop The New Suburban Dweller, an insight into current trends among the demographic currently holding the most buying power in the country.

· Back it with facts: Why do people need to know about your topic? This is a question I see often. I’m sure your proposal is interesting, but you need to convince people that it’s important. If there are studies and data to back the issue, throw. them. in. It doesn’t matter whether they come from a study done by your client, a government organization or a third party. Points if it’s recently published.

· Keeping an open mind: Sometimes there just isn’t a speaking opportunity available. Maybe you’re late to apply or applications closed early. Ask if your client can moderate a panel or sit on one as a speaker. Maybe they have lighting talks available (a trend that’s been on the rise since COVID began). Oak started off with a smaller speaking opportunity at IBS and were later offered the opportunity to deliver a full education session.


All of the above can be applied to awards submissions as well. Leaning into your client’s differentiators and demonstrating the importance of their work using data are the basis of a compelling submission as to why they’re number one in their industry.


If your organization could benefit from a speaking & awards program, send me an email at carly@hollywoodagency.com. I’d love to help craft an award-winning submission.



PJ Antonik, Founder and CEO of Oak Development & Design, at IBS 2022 (via @heartofoaktv)

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