A quality speaker can make or break your event. If your presenter can’t deliver a solid presentation and keep the attendees engaged, your event (and future events) will suffer.
That said, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a high-profile speaker. There are plenty of people in every industry willing to present on a variety of relevant topics, usually for free.
The real challenge is to find great speakers – quality presenters who know how to impress and engage a crowd.
These types of talent can help you create an amazing online event, but they aren’t always well-known, so let’s go through the steps you need to take to attract them.
Let’s dive into the 4 best strategies to find great speakers for your virtual summit.
1. Build your event around an idea, not a person
The first step is to set a theme. What that means is, you need to lay the foundation for the event's content.
People rarely show up for an event to hear the wisdom of one person.
If you organize your summit around one person, you’re leaning on that individual to carry your entire event.
If they put on a poor performance, your online event’s reputation suffers.
An event with a clearly defined idea (whether it’s cryptocurrency, privacy laws, offshoring, or new blockchain technology) will attract interesting people who can add value to that idea.
2. Set a mock agenda: What topics will you be addressing?
First, get the most important executives in one room with your marketing, comms, and event team and try to leave that meeting by accomplishing three goals:
Set a program theme
Set the topics that are gonna ladder up to that theme. So, what will the speakers be addressing that will be associated with that theme?
Try to mock an agenda, and I mean get really specific here.
Go minute by minute of what that day is gonna feel like, and put it up on paper.
Try to include all of the breaks (yes, online summits also need bathroom breaks)
What is the attendee gonna experience as they take in all of this content?
Finally, keep in mind that despite all your plans, quality speakers often want to choose their own presentation topics.
They have their own preferences and goals. For instance, a smart contracts expert may be capable of discussing the rise of NFTs, but that doesn’t help him find customers for his services.
3. Begin Your Search: What Types of Speakers Are You Targeting?
As you begin your search, (and build your spreadsheet) divide your speakers into four different sections:
These are people that if you could get them to speak, oh, man, you would do anything to put them on stage.
This could be anyone from Elon Musk to Candace Owens. Like, really throw some dream speakers out there.
You'd be surprised, if you ask nice enough, you might be able to get them.
David Icke, Jeff Berwick, Max Igan... Although these people are aspirational, they really fit this content.
They really fit this theme and they're gonna get it, and they might come and speak at your conference.
They're kind of like your safety schools. These are gonna be people who are already speaking at conferences, maybe they're promoting a book, maybe they go to a lot of trade events, maybe they have a reason to speak.
You know that if you ask, they're gonna show up. So, you wanna fill those out.
Don’t… just don’t
The person who has just spoken at too many conferences, or they are associated with a competitor, or they have a bad reputation.
You do wanna identify them, and put them up there in the "Don't" section.
4. Step-by-step search action plan
Monster search list
As you're building out your speaker search list, you need more people on the spreadsheet than you think.
Try and identify at least 3 to 5 speakers for each topic.
Put the word out as early as possible
The moment you’ve picked a date and registered the venue, you should be aggressively seeking speakers. (Knowing your speakers helps your marketing too.)
The best speakers in most industries are booked well in advance of their engagements.
For in-person events, the standard used to be a year!
For online summits, this can be as short as 2-3 months.
The earlier you can book a speaker, the better your chances of getting the best speakers and getting the most out of them in terms of promotion and preparation.
If you wait until the last minute to schedule a speaker, the only ones available will either be undesirable or unprepared.
Call for proposals
Another tactic you can use is to issue a call for proposals.
A call for proposals, also known as a call for abstracts, gives potential speakers the chance to directly submit their ideas for talks
This gives you a large pool of qualified speakers interested in speaking at your event.
You can then assemble a review panel to review the proposals that are submitted.
For this tactic to work you have to be sure of your summit’s theme, but keep your topics flexible.
Be prepared to offer something for their time
How much you pay will depend on your industry, your budget, and the fee the speaker commands.
You’ll have to negotiate that with the potential speaker (or their manager)
But, don’t despair, you can absolutely find free presenters who are willing to speak for just the exposure.
There are plenty of people who are building their own brand or raising their own profile who would be happy to stand in front of a crowd for an hour for free.
Some speakers will prefer an opportunity to promote their brand, book, service, product, charity, etc.
Make sure you give them a chance to promote themselves to the audience.
Basically, the best speakers will only participate when their goals can be aligned with yours.
A key to success for any virtual summit is making sure you have a lineup of great speakers who are the perfect fit for your audience. You want your attendees to be engaged and get value from each session, and having a diverse group of quality presenters helps make that happen.
Luckily, there are many ways to find people who would make great additions to your speaker lineup.
Start planning your dream summit today! And if you need a little extra help finding quality speakers, be sure to check out our finding speakers video at https://youtu.be/HGLgUekpAtI