FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: I'm in upper-middle management at a big company where, as you wrote about in your recent column, I really feel stuck. I think I'd have a better shot at moving up somewhere else, maybe at a smaller company, especially if I can leverage my expertise in my field to get the attention of executive recruiters who might be searching for someone like me.
I've heard over and over again that one way to establish a reputation as a "go-to" person in a specialized area of knowledge is to give speeches at conferences and other industry gatherings, but my question is, how does one break into that? Don't conference organizers usually look for experienced speakers -- and (a classic Catch-22), if you don't have speaking experience, how are you supposed to get it? — Restless
Dear Restless: It's certainly true that recruiters scout conferences for talent (which is one reason why it's smart to go to them, even if your employer won't foot the bill). But "it's a common misperception that, if you have no speaking experience, you can't break in to national events as a speaker," says Lisa Calhoun. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
Calhoun is CEO of Write2Market, an Atlanta-based communications firm that organizes conferences. "What conference organizers are dying for is speakers, unknown or not, who have practical, expert know-how in a given subject area," she says.
She recommends three steps for getting a spot on the program at a big event. First, "make a list of all the conferences where you think attendees would have a lot to learn from you. Research those opportunities by looking at the program from last year's conference," Calhoun says. Second, "figure out what makes you unique, so that your proposed session will stand out." More
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