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Content Under Pressure

Prepare Your Content for Conference Season

Ways to leverage your investment in speaking or attending.

By Susan Kostal

We’ve spent a lot of time in this column discussing what content clients need to get the greatest value from their relationship with you. Content is that miracle co-worker toiling while you sleep, keeping you top of mind for existing contacts — and providing the perfect lure for new clients looking to solve a particular legal issue.

Occasionally, what clients want to know and what you want to be known for diverges, at least slightly.

  • You may be looking to build out a new aspect of your practice, or further develop a specialization in a way that helps you stand out from the crowd.
  • You may find you need a piece of content that puts you smack in the middle of the zeitgeist, to recharge your currency.

Sometimes it’s easy to see the direction your content should go as you tweak your brand. Other times, not so much. That’s where conference season comes in. Here’s how conferences can be a source of new topic ideas — and a few ways to maximize your investment in speaking or attending.

Leveraging Content as a Speaker

Prep your value-add. You can’t always control what you present on, particularly as part of a panel. But you can carve out your specific takeaway with a value-add piece of content. These can be used in several ways. A piece published four to six weeks before your speaking engagement can serve as an announcement of your panel. But you’ll also use it to show prospective attendees you know exactly what you are talking about, enticing them to learn more.

Or, write a piece and hold it back, offering it to attendees in exchange for their contact information. This can be:

  • A short checklist
  • A rundown of best practices
  • A simplified cheat sheet on a complex topic for use with HR or staff
  • A more extensive white paper

Providing information like this is particularly helpful if you want to chime in on a topic that was assigned to another panel member who may be a competitor. Not taking advantage of these options means missing half of the business development “bounce” you should be getting as a speaker. (See also “Provide Maximum Value When You Speak at Conferences” by Ruth Carter.)

As an Attendee

Meet the heavy-hitters. Quality conferences often draw highly influential keynote speakers and top contributors to plenary sessions. Who among the speakers could help your practice the most? Which contributors do you want to be associated with? If the keynote focuses on an issue your peers can’t stop talking about, write a post-conference piece about the session, adding in your experience and insights from what you’ve seen in your practice and what you’ve astutely observed in the marketplace.

In doing so, you advance the conversation as you provide an easy way to reach out to the speaker with content they will be interested in as they promote their own brand. Using conference-related content to get in the slipstream of a popular speaker or topic is an ideal way to maximize the time and energy you’ve invested in attending.

As Speaker or Attendee

The “big thoughts” piece. It’s good, every once in a while, to stop and write a thoughtful piece on where you see your practice or the marketplace moving. But unless you write very often, it can be awkward to release a big “think piece” on your readers, as it will probably be different from the kind of content they are used to from you. Use the conference and what you learned and observed as the hook for a piece about the wider trends you’ve picked up on. The fact you were at a two-day conference meeting and speaking with some of the smartest folks in your field is the perfect lead-in to that meatier piece you’ve been sitting on.

These are just a few ideas of how conferences can inform your content. Share other ideas with me, and we’ll post the best tips to LinkedIn and Twitter.

See you at the keynote.

More on Content Strategy

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Susan Kostal Susan Kostal

Trends at Work columnist Susan Kostal is a legal affairs PR, marketing and content strategy consultant. She is a former contributing editor for Attorney at Work and previously wrote a monthly column, Content Under Pressure. Susan has covered legal affairs as a journalist for nearly three decades. You can follow her on Twitter @skostal and view more of her content at

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