How to become a guest speaker at creative events


As a designer, you’ve probably heard of design events such as OFFF Barcelona, TED, FITC, Reasons To Be Creative, Yay Festival etc.
Tons of people go to these creative events to get inspired by their workshops and their guest speakers.

“The guest speaker is a person who is asked to speak at an event. The person is usually not deeply connected with the event or running it in any way. Instead the guest speaker may add to the event by sharing knowledge, indicating support, entertaining others, or doing a little bit of all of these things.”

When you’ve been to such an event, you’re probably wondering how you could become a guest speaker.


Know what you are going to talk about

The first step is that you need to know about what you’re going to talk about.
Usually subjects like self initiated projects, your road to success, ‚how you made…’, work very well.
Ask yourself questions like: what is it that someone wants to learn from you? Do people already show a lot of curiosity in your work/projects? Do you have something to share that’s unique?

Alex Mathers: “Your main aim should be to inspire the audience so make sure your overall message is clear, helpful and positive. Always approach an audience with the question in your mind: ‘How can I really inspire and improve the lives of these people?’ Be a little provocative and care free. See yourself as someone of value who wants to change the world. You will motivate yourself this way.”

Alex Mathers speaking about Red Lemon Club
Alex Mathers speaking about Red Lemon Club at OFFF Barcelona

Last but not least, try not to have a presentation about showing your work only. People can Google that which is less expensive than buying a ticket to an event.

James White, Signalnoise: “Make sure your audience gets something out of it. It should never be selfish. People can go to your website to see your work… so onstage there needs to be a story, narrative, lesson or advice. Otherwise it’s empty.”

Just do it

When you’ve decided that you have a subject in mind, which is maybe the most difficult part, the next step is to overcome your shyness and really decide that you’re up to it. It’s time to put away those notebooks with your knowledge and speak up!

If you’re still a bit afraid to stand in the spotlight, try to overcome it. Go to events and walk up to people you don’t know and try to start a conversation.
As awkward as it sounds, it does actually make you realize that nothing can go wrong.

Don’t forget to stay humble. See yourself as the same level as your audience, never think that you’re higher. You’re just a creative person after all.

James White, Signalnoise: “Don’t become a speaker if you want attention, or want to just show your work on a stage. Don’t put yourself ahead of your audience.”

James White speaking at OFFF Barcelona
James White speaking at OFFF Barcelona

Oh! A reassuring fact: when you are on stage, you won’t be able to see a lot of people due to the lights. You’ll only see the first rows. Phew!

I have a subject and I’m ready!

So how do you get design events to notice you? Well, chances are not very high if you think about how many creative people there are in the world.
Why would they pick you? Maybe you should send them a hint. That’s right, now that you’re not shy anymore: email them and tell them about this interesting project, journey, etc. … you want to share and why you think others would enjoy it.
Usually when you’ve done one good talk, the rest comes. And hey, at least you know then if you like to be a speaker or if you never want to do it again.

Alex Mathers: “Find something that genuinely interests you, twist it into a new angle, become an expert at it, and practice. Don’t expect to be a good speaker until you’ve done it fifteen times (I’m not even close yet!)”

Héctor Ayuso,  organisator of the OFFF Festival: “My goal is to organize the festival that I would love to go as an attendee, so more than a name or an specific theme or discipline, anything that gets my attention, anything that gives me something new, inspires me, could be at OFFF. So, take risk, find your own way to communicate, your own voice, push limits, be honest, be yourself, share and you can become a speaker ;)”


The last do’s and dont’s:

– Get enough sleep the night before you’re on stage. Failed this a couple of times myself! But really, do so. It’s not easy to be tired and to tell something interesting at the same time for 45 minutes long.
– When you’re nervous before your talk: jump, walk, drink a beer, have a conversation with a friend, whatever makes you feel more relaxed.
– Test the internet if you need it when you’re on stage and they’re setting things up.
– DO have a working laptop with you! (for Macs it’s a VGA Adapter).
– Clean up your desktop and shut applications down that can make a sound like email and Skype.
– If you don’t have a timer, ask backstage if they can remind you when your time is almost over.
– Share your Website and Twitter information at your slides.
– Contrasting colors work well in slides.
– If you can walk during your presentation, do so. Always better than sitting down.
– Be yourself and smile, laugh.
– Thank the people and the crew!


– Don’t put a lot of text on slides.
– Try not to read from a paper. Just do some words on a slide and talk about that (what you’re presenting should be a well known subject for you).
– Don’t switch from subjects often, it’s difficult for the audience to follow.

Alex Mathers: “Don’t think too much before hand. Just see the process as enjoyable and have fun. Don’t load up on caffeine before if you have nerves. Don’t be too serious (like I’ve been), but don’t be too overly happy either.”

– Don’t touch the microphone, obviously. Makes an annoying sound. Make sure your hair can’t either.

Leave a Reply to Mark

One Response to “How to become a guest speaker at creative events”

  1. Mark

    Havn’t read anything about this before, so good post 🙂