For a conference, speakers are your product. They’re the leaders that differentiate you from the competition; they’re who delegates pay hundreds or even thousands of pounds to meet with; they’re the experts in their industry that bring their wisdom to your audience.
Their thought-leadership is not just essential to the success of your event on the day however, their influence could be a catalyst for making your event bubble up to the top of the industry ‘must attend’ list, if they provide sufficient endorsement and support in the run-up. (Be sure to check out our post on how to Source Speakers for Your Conference here!)
But how do you get them to talk about your event, without them feeling that it’s all a one-way street?
How to Get Speakers to Promote Your Event
As always, the answer is somewhat complicated and depends on your situation.
For huge, globally recognised events, you hardly have to ask speakers to promote their involvement – they’ll be keen to associate themselves with the event because it boosts their own brand. Imagine anyone keeping quiet about speaking at TED Global or Davos!
The question is, how can smaller events encourage their speakers to do the same?
The key is to understand their motivations for speaking in the first place.
Do they have a book coming out? Has their company recently launched a new product? Have they just become an independent consultant? Are they trying to hire talent?
Once you understand that context, you can figure out what your event can offer them in return for promotion.
Can you offer your delegates a discount for their book in exchange for them promoting a discount to attend your event? Can you do an interview with them on their recent product launch? Can you help build their credibility with a new audience? Can you get them a guest post in an industry magazine that allows them to talk about their great company culture?
When you’ve matched their needs with the complementary promotional activities you can offer them, they’re much more likely to reciprocate and promote the mutually beneficial marketing you’ve created.
From Understanding to Action
Understanding their motivation is only Stage One in successfully encouraging speakers to promote your event.
Stage Two is making sure everything is as easy as possible for them to promote your event, ruthlessly tearing down barriers to action like Amazon does when you shop online.
Be super specific about what you’d like them to do (ambiguity always leads to inaction), how they can do it, and then do as much of the legwork as possible in terms of creating promotional content.
For example, if you want them to provide you with a quote, don’t ask them open-endedly to do that. Instead, write the quote for them (something not too gushing, that they’re likely to sign off), and then simply ask for their permission to use it. Much less work for them.
Liaise with their PA or PR agency, rather than with the speaker directly. Many of your top speakers will probably have some kind of trusted administrative assistant, if not a full-blown PR agency. Build a relationship with them too, learn what they can / can’t sign off themselves, and work towards that kind of content.
If you’re looking for something more substantial than a quote, consider anything that will most easily fit in with their schedule, such as a written Q&A via email (rather than them having to fit in a full-hour for an interview); or a guest post (which can be ghostwritten by their team).
Ultimately you just need to remember: Any increase in friction will lead to a decrease in their promotion.
Keep Up The Momentum
Once you’ve got their agreement, and your marketing plan is in place, you might be tempted to sit back and wait to bask in their reflected glory, as they co-promote themselves in perfect symbiosis with your event!
However, snapping back to reality (you’re a practical marketer, afterall)–you know that great things happen only with your persistent nurturing!
You therefore need to move to Stage Three, and ensure you’re staying top-of-mind with the speaker, by keeping a continuous dialogue with them. Or, if it’s the programme manager who holds that relationship, ‘bug’ them to keep the lines of communication open for you.
If your event is weeks (or months) away, it’s not likely top of their agenda to talk about it. However, with consistent (not spammy) nudges through mentions on social media, the occasional email and friendly phone call, it’s much more likely they’ll mention speaking at your event when an appropriate opportunity presents itself, rather than forgetting it altogether.
If you’re really keen, you can try to proactively sync up any mutually beneficial opportunities for co-promotion with their PA or PR team, or for that really special keynote speaker, you might even act as a surrogate PR agent yourself, creating and shepherding the opportunity, so you know you can drop in a byline about your event at the end of the interview.
Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?
If the above sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is! Trying to get big-name speakers to actively promote your event takes time, planning and persistence in the majority of cases.
So you’d be right to ask: “Is it worth the effort?”
For Neil Cooper, Host & Organiser of Another Marketing Conference (which takes place on April 24th in London), it certainly has been.
He explains, “We started Another Marketing Conference as a passion project, so we didn’t have the data or audience of traditional conference companies and publishers, meaning we had to generate the lions share of our sales from social media.”
“The most effective form of social engagement we got – in terms of ticket sales – was definitely when speakers promoted us to their network.”
“We saw a pretty simple correlation, where promotions from speakers, for example a tweet endorsing the event to their followers, generally led to increased traffic and sales.”
“We also noticed that original tweets were way more effective in driving engagement than retweets – but there was still some value there. They much prefer to retweet or share content that mentions them – to avoid looking too promotional – but for us it was better if they generated the content themselves. So we had to do a bit of both.”
“Motivating them to tweet or talk about the event on social media was different for each speaker. Some did it because they liked what we were trying to do and what we stood for. Others did it because they saw a positive association with our brand – which obviously doesn’t happen on day one. Some take a bit of nudging and I’d spend ages crafting emails that flattered and suggested, rather than begged. An organiser’s desperation does not lead to speaker confidence.”
To help other organisers figure out the value of social sharing, you’ll be pleased to know that Eventbrite offers a couple of easy-to-use tools for measuring the impact of your speaker-promotion campaigns, so you can make informed decisions yourself.
The first is our unique link tracking functionality. Whenever you co-promote the event with a speaker (for example in a blog post on your site, a guest post, or a quote written to be shared via social media), just include a unique link, which are easy to set-up and track on your Eventbrite management page. You can learn how here.
The second is our integrated affiliate tracking system. If you have a really deep relationship with a particular speaker (perhaps they’re even a founding partner), then you can set up an affiliate scheme for the event, which they can easily sign up for, and this will allow them to track their own sales (as well as giving you access to the same information). This could also be a great way to encourage your speakers to use any discount codes you offered them.
Armed with this information, you’ll quickly be able to assess whether the financial impact of your speaker promotion campaign is worth the considerable effort to make it happen.
Got Results to Share?
Speaker-engagement guru? Frequent keynote speaker? Event marketing master?
We’d love to hear your thoughts and examples of successfully working with speakers to promote conferences of all shapes and sizes! Please share them with us in the comments below!