Conference-goers are willing to travel far and wide for the right speaker lineup. But finding and securing conference speakers isn’t always easy. 

Securing speakers is a lengthy process. It takes time and patience to build a relationship with candidates and get their commitment. But there are steps you can take to lay the groundwork for successful outreach.

Set your team up for success by sharing these guidelines.

Step 1: Solidify your ask before reaching out to candidates

Don’t contact anyone on your speaker wishlist until you are clear in your value proposition. Why should someone speak at your conference? What do they stand to gain from taking time out of their busy schedule and lending their credibility to your event?

Make sure your team includes this information in their ask:

  • What is the theme of the conference, and the topic you would like your candidate to speak about?
  • Where is your conference and what is the time commitment involved?
  • Why is this opportunity beneficial to both the speaker and the audience? Be sure to really spell this out the connection — you’d be shocked to see how many speaker requests only talk about the event itself.
  • Who will be in the room? (If you’ll be live-streaming the conference online, be sure to mention the total number of people who could be listening.) What type of audience are you expecting?

Related: What to Consider When Choosing a Speaker for Your Event

Step 2: Be patient

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. Use your judgement to determine your tone and decide how many emails need to be sent before it’s time to move on.

For example, let’s say you’re not getting a response from one candidate after the second or third weekly email. It might make sense to start reaching out to other, more likely to be interested people with an offer.

Step 3: 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. What do you expect from the speaker? And what do they expect from you?

Also, make sure you understand what the overall cost of the speaker is from the outset. Be aware, speaker costs often do not include expenses or accommodation. Some speakers also have specific requirements — like AV equipment — that are not included in their fee.

Step 4: Set deadlines for your speaker’s deliverables

Once they’re on board, your conference speaker will need to provide materials ahead of time. Let them know what’s expected of them and when. Here’s an example of a deliverables checklist, which your team should tailor to your event’s needs:

  • Topic title and description delivered by TBD deadline
  • Bio and headshot submitted by TBD deadline
  • Content outline reviewed by TBD deadline
  • Presentation deck and script finalised by TBD deadline
  • Final walkthrough before the conference by TBD deadline

Step 5: Follow up after your event

Don’t neglect speakers after your conference has ended. Your speakers put work into preparing for your event. Make sure they know you appreciate it.

After all, if they had a good experience themselves and feel appreciated, they’re more likely to tell colleagues, fans, and other influencers how much they love your event.

A handwritten thank-you note is a great starting point. But there are more thoughtful and creative ways to say “thank you.”

Use these ideas for inspiration:

  • Beautiful notebooks: Go old school with a high-quality leather or suede-covered notebook, perfect for jotting down notes and witticisms for next time.
  • Custom caricature: Invite a caricaturist to your event to sketch the masses, and have the artist draw your speakers, too. Once your event is over, you can give them the artwork to take home, for a truly original gift.
  • Goodies for everyone at home: Often, the colleagues a speaker leaves behind have to pick up the slack while he or she is gone. Acknowledge their sacrifice with a special order of local baked goods, doughnuts, or a basket of fresh fruit.

Learn more ways to improve your conference speaker strategy

Your speaker lineup can give you a competitive advantage. Using the steps outlined, you and your team can build a solid reputation with potential speakers — which will encourage them to advocate for your conference.

Interested in learning more ways to organise a great corporate event? Check out our how-to guide.

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