Your ability to find and secure event speakers is crucial to your success.

Choose your speakers wisely and they’ll add their credibility and reputation to your event. Fail to attract valuable talent, however, and your attendees will question your conference’s worth.

But that’s not easy when 89% of event creators said finding and securing speakers for their event will be a major challenge this year. If you’re struggling to find talent for your event — you’re not alone.

With a documented speaker sourcing and outreach strategy, you can use your time and resources more wisely — and make sure your agenda will attract an audience.

As you follow the steps below, you can use this free speaker outreach template to create your wishlist of speakers, evaluate their potential fit, and prioritize your outreach.

Step 1: Outline your event speaker requirements

The people you choose to speak at your event are brand ambassadors. So before you can begin your search, outline your speaker requirements with these factors in mind.

  • Relevance: What thoughts and ideas do you want attendees to leave your conference with? Find speakers and panelists who’ll meet conference-goer’s needs and expectations.
  • Influence: A great speaker has the power to build trust with your existing attendees and persuade new ones to register. Seek people who have a healthy presence on social media and a solid reputation.
  • Purpose: A speaker’s role is defined by their place in the agenda. As you search for potential candidates, look for people who can entertain or inspire your audience.
  • Archetype: The speaker and panelists you consider will often fall into common archetypes. Celebrities, for example, are well-known by people even outside of your industry and can increase your awareness of your event. Subject matter experts, on the other hand, know their stuff and can often bring fresh insight that differentiates your event from the competition.

As you document and socialize your speaker strategy, be sure to note your must-haves and what you’re willing to be flexible on.

Step 2: Create a wishlist of potential speaker candidates

Your goal at this stage is to create a wishlist of potential candidates. Don’t worry about whether or not you can afford them, or how they’ll fit into the agenda. The decision-making process, in which you evaluate speakers and ultimately choose who to reach out to, comes later.

For now, focus on finding potential candidates. The methods you use to source talent can have a significant impact on the quality of candidates you have to choose from. For instance, if you always start with the same sources of speakers, your choices will become increasingly limited over time.

As you find potential candidates, don’t just write down their name and contact information. Keep track of where you find them during the process. This way you can more easily identify the sources and methods that work best for your event.

Use this list of common sourcing methods to understand which are right for your conference.

Step 3: Prioritize your speaker wishlist

If you contact people on your speaker wishlist haphazardly, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get who you need. So before you begin offering speaking opportunities, evaluate your wishlist with these strategies in mind:

  • Identify your needs. How many speakers do you need? What roles (keynote speaker, session speaker, panelists) do you need? Your number of available speaking slots and their roles will help you organize potential speakers.
  • Craft the narrative. Attendees crave experiences, not agendas. Use the information you’ve gathered about candidates to determine who your first, second, and third choices will be. Your speaker lineup should create momentum throughout the day and keep attendees engaged. For example, you want someone energetic to speak after lunch, not someone who will put your audience to sleep.
  • Find a rising star. Instead of spending large sums on a well-known speaker, consider hiring a rising star for a fraction of the cost. An up-and-coming speaker can help you differentiate your conference from the competition. They’re also more likely to exceed your attendees’ expectations than an overexposed speaker or celebrity.
  • Seek diverse speakers. Diversity and inclusion are extremely important factors in your lineup strategy. A diverse set of speakers will offer a large variety of perspectives and increase the value of your conference. McKinsey & Company research found that diverse companies are more likely to be profitable than those that aren’t.

In addition to putting your event brand and audience first, this strategy also helps you make smarter decisions during the hiring process.

Step 4: Secure the right speakers for your event

Securing speakers is an iterative process. It takes time and patience to build a relationship with candidates and get their commitment. Set your team up for success by sharing these guidelines.

  • Solidify your ask before reaching out to candidates. Make sure your value proposition is spelled out. What is the theme of the conference, and the topic you’d like your candidate to speak about? What type of audience are you expecting? Make sure your team includes this information in their ask.
  • Track your progress. As you and your team send emails and make phone calls, remember: Many qualified speakers are also busy professionals. Polite persistence is the name of the game. Set a cadence and decide how many emails need to be sent before it’s time to move on.
  • Discuss commitment and compensation. Once a speaker has responded to the invitation, be clear about expectations, and make sure they can deliver all your requirements. Also, make sure you understand what the overall cost of the speaker is from the outset. Speaker costs often do not include expenses or accommodation. Some speakers have specific requirements — like AV equipment — that aren’t included in their fee.

Download this free speaker sourcing and outreach template

Your speaker lineup can give you a competitive advantage. And with the advice in this post, you can find speakers who can strengthen your event brand and grow attendance.

Use this free template to compile your wishlist and find speakers who draw crowds and retain loyal attendees.

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