Your competitor just presented. You’re frustrated. What are you going to do about it?

We’ve all been there. Sitting through a chamber of commerce event featuring your competitor speaking on a topic that you’re the expert on. You justify your presence there are gathering “intelligence,” but realistically you just sit there seething, noting all the mistakes they’re making and plotting your revenge. Hopefully, you’re not in so deep that you’re making comments to anyone about how you’d do things differently. But you want to!

There has to be a better way, right? I mean, why did your competitor get the speaking role and you didn’t?

Well, finding the answer to that is a big part of remedying the situation. Here are some tips on how to make sure it’s you up there the next time.

There are typically three ways that people and companies get access to chamber of commerce “expert” speaking roles:

  • Pay-to-Play – Very simply, they traded sponsorship for a speaking role on a specific topic;
  • Pay-to-Play (Indirect) – Many speaking roles are offered to companies as appreciation for their unrelated investment throughout the year;
  • Unique Expertise – The speaker has specific skills or knowledge that makes her the expert on the topic.

So, in deciphering how your competitor got the gig, plug it into that formula. Because the answer will give you an idea on your potential to land a similar role.


First of all, if it’s straight-up pay-to-play, then you know the rules of the game. Easy to understand. Remember that your chamber of commerce has to stay in business, and if they give things away for free, they’re not going to be able to do so. Pay-to-play breaks down into two categories: (1) the chamber is running an event on a specific topic and needs a speaker; and (2) a member proposes to them a topic, on which they will present, and pays a sponsorship for the chamber to promote, handle registration, etc.

What does this mean for you? It means that if you want those big topics that are the staple of chamber content – think topics like social media, HR, governmental regulations, etc. – it means you’ll probably have to pony up. Because there are likely companies larger than you that can write a check and take the spot. If the potential business is big enough, spend the money (but ONLY with a sales strategy to go with it!).

But, remember the size of your pond. If you’re fighting for attention in a bigger organization, there’s likely smaller organizations that either could use the content you can provide at a much smaller cost, maybe for free, if it’s valuable enough. If you’re in a field that’s that competitive, you need to find somewhere you have the ability to tell your story, and not get drowned out.

Pay-to-Play (Indirect)

This is where Momentum – The Business Growth Agency clients thrive. First, because we create a strategy: what’s our story, who needs to hear it, and where do they hang out?

Then, we spend a great deal of time building relationships, and striving to provide value to the organizations we and our clients belong to. I used the word “investment” above, as what’s appreciated by the chambers… That’s not just money. Which is important, of course, and strategically-placed sponsorships go a long way. But it’s also time, energy, leadership, introductions, referrals, content, tips, insights, guidance and promotion. All of these things help your chamber do its job, and they are also appreciated.

It’s here where companies of any size can compete. Yes, the conversation’s going to start with the organization’s biggest investors – it has to. But then they’ll look at those members that are the most active. It’s not all about making money. It’s about providing value for the chamber’s members. I’ve seen plenty of situations where the big firms bought the speaking role and phoned in the presentation, while much smaller companies, hungry for the business, gave an award-worthy presentation that was of much greater value to the participants. Be that kind of chamber member, and you’ll be asked to speak again and again.

Unique Expertise

Remember that old schoolyard taunt, “Finder’s keepers, losers weepers”? That’s important here, because this is where you get to use your creativity. What is your topic of expertise that you own?

Of course, you can’t just offer to speak about whatever you want to speak about – it needs to be of value to the chamber’s members. That being the case, you need to think relevant, timely and usable. If you have a topic that you’re the expert on, that a large swath of your fellow members are currently dealing with, and that you have a solution for – the chamber would be foolish not to use you.

And, since you brought it to them (you’re the “finder,” your competitors are the “losers”), they won’t give it to someone else, which would be terrible form. But, it has to be of significant, specific value for their members (i.e. it can’t be, “I’d like to do a session on social media”).

This can work on the panel discussions, as well, that the chambers build themselves, though that’s less likely. However, positioning your expertise over time, consistently showing value and making yourself accessible will put you in the best position to be on the other end of the line when they need a speaker in your field.


In the end, especially if you’re in a competitive field, this is a game you have to play. You may not be able to compete with big dollar sponsors, but your competitors doing presentations right in your face does you absolutely no good. You should not be hesitant to ask your chamber rep about how to get these speaking roles – even the coveted ones – and then decide if there’s a path for you. If not, using some of the guidance above, find another way.

Want Momentum – The Business Growth Agency to help put you in a position for more speaking roles? Let’s talk! Sign up for a 15-minute Zoom call with us here: