Getting great event speakers is no easy task, particularly if you don’t have a huge budget.

So how do you get well-known personalities to say ‘yes’ without breaking the bank?

We asked a collection of top speakers why they say yes (and no) to speaking at events.

Baroness Michelle Mone OBEEntrepreneur, Mentor & Public Speaker

“I would never accept a speech that did not fully tie in to my expertise. The best responses always come when hosts and audiences know exactly what they want and exactly what they will get. I prefer to do a briefing call with the client before the event to ensure it all fits perfectly.”

Martin Lindstrom, Branding Expert & Consultant / Best-Selling Author and Featured Columnist

“I’m a branding guy so not surprisingly what I do is driven by what my brand dictates me. I’m all about brand transformation – driving by three simple words: innovation, provocation, engaging. If there’s a fit between these values and what “creative freedom” the organiser allows me – we’re talking.

“Accepting a keynote primarily comes down to the strength of the reputation of the event brand – and with that the audience profile. Honestly – the theme of the conference is of less importance for me as I always craft content specifically for each event.”

Lee Odden, CEO at

“I’ve been actively speaking at industry and user conferences as well as private corporate events for 11 years. Outside of blogging, content marketing and inbound PR, speaking is really the only marketing we do for TopRank Marketing, so it’s an important part of our thought leadership and new customer attraction.

“Since speaking is an important part of our business marketing strategy, what I say yes to depends on a variety of factors that are ordered differently according to each answer:

  • Is the event/topic relevant to my expertise and aligned with our marketing message?
  • Have I spoken at the event before and how do they treat speakers?
  • What kind of speaking spot is it? Keynote? Solo breakout? Panel? Moderator?
  • Does the event cover all travel expenses?
  • Is the event paying any kind of speaker fee?
  • How credible is the event and what is the exposure opportunity?
  • To what degree does the audience represent our ideal clients?
  • Do we have a co-promotion partnership with the event? Is our agency engaged to market the event?
  • How many events am I already booked to speak at that month or within 2 weeks of it?
  • Is the event being held where we have a high concentration of clients nearby?
  • Will the event provide a pass or two for my team members to liveblog the event?
  • Is the event being held at an interesting location?

“Ultimately, it’s a combination of relevance, relationship, experience and compensation or business opportunity that guides my choice to say yes.”

Related: Organising a conference? Here are 10 things the speakers want you to keep in mind

Joe Pulizzi, Founder of Content Marketing Institute

“There is nothing like speaking to a targeted audience to get them more involved in your brand and the activities you offer.  Speaking is a core marketing activity for our entire team at Content Marketing Institute…it’s part of the plan.  I’m certain we would never have grown as fast as we have without these speaking opportunities.”

Marcin Chirowski, Global Head of SEO & Content Marketing EF English Live division of EF Education First

“I’ve had the pleasure to speak at few conferences and events. Why have I said YES previously? The main motivation factor for me was a desire to share my experience with the marketing community. I’ve learnt a lot from others and the feeling that I can give back is very rewarding. That feeling sticks with you for a while after the event and keeps the internal engine going. On the other hand, I’ve said ‘no’ on few occasions as well, mainly when the time or location of the event didn’t match to what I had planned already. ”

Jason Allan Scott, Host of The Guestlist Podcast; Author of The Eventrepreneur Series; Founder of VenueMe & NonInvasives

“For me it’s all about time, to reach my goals I have to add more value to my time then most, and knowing that my healthy time is finite means I have to guard and protect myself. This means discriminating between the things that help you get there and the things that don’t.

“Learn to say no to the people, situations, and commitments that do not move you toward your goal, that distract you, or that you simply do not enjoy. Be purposeful in your actions—learn to say no! It’s a powerful little word with a huge impact. I love to share but I always think about the impact I could make and if the speaking gig will allow me to keep moving forward towards my goals.

“If your pitching a speaker it helps to know there motivation, future plans and what they can get out of your engagement.”

Dave Chaffey, CEO at

“A senior audience is most important for me when deciding to speak at an event since our resources at Smart Insights are designed to help with planning and managing digital marketing strategies. I’m also keen to learn from other speakers, so knowing about quality and topics from other speakers is often a factor if the audience or size of event size isn’t a perfect fit.”

Related: The conference director’s checklist: everything you need to know & do on the day

Alison Battisby, Social Media Consultant and Founder of Avocado Social

“I always think about the type of people attending the event and whether I believe they would be the right sort of fit for my training workshops and consultancy. It’s good to know if social media has been requested as a topic to be covered at the event, then I know if my talk will be in demand! I always like to find out if anyone else is also covering my subject matter, as if there’s more than one social media speaker I wouldn’t want to duplicate any content with them – that could be embarrassing as it appears poorly planned!

“It’s good to know who else is speaking, sponsoring or generally involved in the day, as there would be interesting networking opportunities. Finally I like to understand the size of the event, and whether the organisers have a good social media presence. If they have a decent following, and plan to promote you as a speaker, this could really help to elevate your profile.”

Alexander Osterwalder, Co-Founder of Strategyzer and creator of the Business Model Canvas

“I use a couple of criteria to discriminate opportunities:

  1. If the event can help Strategyzer, the company I co-founded. The value for Strategyzer needs to be at least as high as my speaking fees.
  2. If 1. doesn’t apply they need to pay my full speaking fee.
  3. I only speak at events where I can talk about my core topics and create value for the audience.
  4. I prioritise events that target the same audience as my company Strategyzer: Senior leaders of large established companies, mainly global players.
  5. If I don’t have to travel too far.”

Alex Shebar, Community Director at Yelp London

“There’s really only one reason for me to speak at an event: if I feel I have something to say on the topic. I don’t mind speaking in front of 10 people or 1,000 (in fact, some of my best talks and learnings have come from smaller crowds), as long as I feel like I can impart some wisdom and have people walk away with knowledge they can use, I’m happy to chat. And of course, although not a make-or-break, a nice breakfast in the morning doesn’t hurt either.”

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