As an association executive responsible for meetings, you know several issues can drive meeting attendance. Cost, location, networking, and education are among the top considerations that help attendees decide to attend or not, but one of the most important concerns is the roster of speakers. If the speakers are recognizably good and they cover relevant topics that attendees need to explore, your attendance can soar.
We’ve all been in the room when a confident, funny, knowledgeable speaker takes the floor and speaks directly to a challenge we’re facing. We’re fully engaged – ready to make changes or learn new information. It’s a pleasure to spend time in the session.
We know that booking great speakers is essential to a meeting’s success, but if you’ve been planning meetings for a while, you know how hard it can be to find the best speaker at a price you can afford. Here are a few new ideas to help you attract great speakers to your next event.
Ask the Industry
Sending out a “Call for Speakers” is a tried-and-true method for receiving speaking proposals from a variety of interested speakers. You probably have a tested process for releasing a call for speakers. But if you’re looking for someone new or someone to speak on a new topic, sending an announcement through the channels you always use could limit your responses. Send your call for speakers through new channels, like the social media platforms where professionals in your industry post regularly. Post it on your association’s Facebook or LinkedIn page. Ask your members to repost and comment, spreading the information to their networks.
It’s easy to get lost in social media in a speaker search, but you can stay focused with a few suggestions. Start by defining the qualities and experience you want from your speaker. Then figure out where your target group can commonly be found on social media and search using that platform. LinkedIn, Twitter, and industry-specific forums are often good places to start.
If you’re looking for experts in specific areas, use relevant hashtags and keywords to discover speakers who are actively engaged in discussions related to your events. Use whatever platforms your target audience uses, but don’t overlook platforms like LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a powerful search function and can reveal industry professionals whose expertise and speaking experience match your needs.
You might post surveys on social media to ask your members who they would like to hear at your next conference. This is also a great way to suggest new topics and get almost instant feedback.
Just let the machines search for you. Seriously, use an AI-powered tool to provide a list of names. Ask for a list of speakers who are experts in the field you need. Once you have the initial list, you can start to vet the people on it, or you can narrow your request of the AI tool.
Sometimes, an AI-powered tool can’t give you a list of names but can give you places to look for speakers who have those credentials. It might suggest places to search that you haven’t considered, which is always helpful.
Speakers Forums & Associations
There really is an association for everything, and you should consult the associations for people training to be great speakers. Try the speaker search tool on the National Speakers Association website. It allows you to search using names, topics, or keywords, as well as type of event, dates, and meeting location. There are also online resources and databases that allow you to post a call for speakers for a fee if you're willing to pay to attract more options.
Colleges, Universities, Professional Schools
Medical societies provide hands-on or live demonstrations during their conferences. If you need someone who can demonstrate a new process or procedure, contact the colleges, universities, or professional schools that prepare students for the profession. It’s likely that someone on staff teaches it every day and can use that experience to provide a thorough demo. Asking a popular professor to speak can prompt a great session.
Some colleges, universities, and professional schools also host speaker bureaus that specialize in matching event organizers with qualified speakers. They can provide you with a curated list of speakers who align with your event’s goals.
Search the people presenting TED Talks to find someone who has expertise in your topic. Granted, TED Talks are short, but the presenters have proven they can engage an audience with a specific topic. They may also present longer talks on similar topics. Colleges and universities often host TEDx Talks – where you can go to find speakers in your local area.
We share information in the association world. Ask your association colleagues if they would recommend a speaker they’ve hired. Use your end-of-conference survey to ask attendees for the names of great speakers they’ve heard. As you listen to podcasts or participate in webinars, keep a list of great presenters and the topics they cover. Remember to search YouTube and Instagram for speaker ideas.
Take Time to Look
Finding great speakers is not always a quick exercise, but getting the right people to speak on relevant topics can help make your conference a success. If you’d like to explore new ways to find speakers, start early and be creative.
Emma is the Marketing Manager at Rhythm. When she's not thinking about all things content-related, you can find her traveling or shooting 35 mm film.