How to Attract the Best Speakers for Your Conference

Jan 4, 2018 5:04:00 AM Julia Sousa Tips for Event Planners

 

Amazing speakers can make or break your conference. It can mean the difference between a sell-out and half-full room. And much like casting for a big movie, if you confirm one high profile speaker, others will follow.

Attracting great presenters for your conference isn’t as easy as setting up a Call for Speakers and wait for the applications to come rolling in. It’s also not as easy as cold calling world class speakers and hoping to entice them to join you. 

For one thing, and especially if you work in a niche industry, you’ll probably receive applications from the same group of people each year. For another, unless you event is very high-profile, the big name experts who receive tons of invitations each year are likely to ignore your outreach.

 

So what can you do to attract the best speakers to your conference?

 

Survey the landscape and create your speaker wish-list.

First task is to put together your lineup of top picks for your event. Some presenters might be obvious experts in your field, and others might belong to a complementary industry that is aligned to your subject area. Then there are the high-profile presenters that are a draw for a keynote because of an attention grabbing reputation that people will want to see.

Here’s some ideas to find great speakers:

  1. Search blogs written about your subject area. Be a bit of a detective and see who is quoted, whose research is cited, and who wrote the post. Digging around will turn up some names - check them out online and find out whether they have presented at other conferences, and how to get in touch with them.
  2. Youtube and webinars are very useful. Here’s your opportunity to see how speakers present themselves in front of an audience. Are they charismatic and interesting? You might find some engaging new talent that you hadn't thought of.
  3. Survey your attendees or association members at the end of each conference, or sometime during the year. Who does your audience want to see? They’ll be happy to be asked, and it will turn up some new candidates for your list.



Present your conference’s best face online.

Great conference speakers receive lots of invitations. Your request to speak might fall on deaf ears, especially if your event is not well-known. So what’s the best way to get the attention of great speakers? Present your ask as-if they are already presenting at our conference!

Here’s how to go the distance with customizing your ask:

  1. Create a custom speaker application form and add it to your event website. Populate your site with engaging information about your event including video from previous years.
  2. Try mocking up a speaker profile for the person you are targeting, including their photo and bio. In painting the picture for them, speakers will see how they fit into the theme of your conference and what their experience will be.
  3. Send the application and mock-up to your targeted speaker. The more professional you come across the better, and you’ll be answering a lot of questions they might have if your event is new to them.

 

Use your network to connect with the best speakers.

There are some great stories out there about the lengths conference organizers will go to in order to attract great speakers. So make the most of your network! If you’re a socially savy connector you should be able to finesse an introduction to your dream presenter and get the conversation rolling. This is a great story of how having a LinkedIn connection in common turned into bagging a dream speaker.

Here are three ideas to make the most of your network:

  1. Find out what events speakers in your industry are likely to be presenting at. Here’s your chance to watch them deliver their talk, and determine if you want to invite them to your conference. It’s also an opportunity to meet them face-to-face, or follow-up on an invitation you’ve already made.
  2. Use social media to find connections you might have in common with speakers you are targeting and ask them for an introduction. LinkedIn is perfect for this. Follow-up and be persistent, but not annoying. It’s a fine balance but don’t give up too easily if they don’t get back to you right away.
  3. Make the most of speakers who have already presented at your conferences. Ask them for recommendations and/or introductions. They’ll be your best spokespeople since they already know you and your event from the speaker's perspective.

 

And here’s a bonus to help you manage your conference speakers.

Introducing a fabulous Attendease feature...Speaker Workflows! Speaker Workflows allows you to create custom application forms, surface the form on your event website, invite applicants, and manage the application process. As applications are submitted, you are able to review, approve, or reject applications. Approved applicants are automatically added to your event as speaker profiles. So easy and seamless.

Once all your hard work has paid off and you start confirming your conference lineup, make the most of your speaker’s network and get them to help you promote the event. Here’s how to make event promotion easy for your speakers - and why you should make the most of that opportunity. Speakers are usually happy to promote an event, but if they have to work too hard to help spread the word, your event could fall to the bottom of their to-do list. Simplifying the process and providing your speakers with the right tools to promote your conference will not only boost exposure, but will help to fill seats - a mutually beneficial outcome for everyone.


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