Event Success Unveiled: 8 Proven Strategies to Secure the Perfect Guest Speaker
Typically, one of the most important aspects of finding a good guest speaker is time. Ideally, you need to be planning the event up to 12 months in advance, and the sooner you can find your speaker, the better. A guest speaker is more than momentary entertainment for attendees — they can be crucial to building positive press, drawing in other guests, and lending the event credibility.
Setting the Foundation
Before you seek speakers, you’ll need to have a firm grasp of the “why” of your event. Consider the following:
A high-profile speaker who isn’t right for the audience can actively harm your event. For example, lining up former NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon may seem like a win. But if the event is for businesses that build restaurant appliances, Jeff Gordon will be an odd choice.
Expect to pay thousands of dollars — even tens of thousands depending on how famous the speaker is. When researching speakers online, examine their profiles closely for speaking fees. Some profiles, like this one for Sky Dayton on All American Entertainment, may contain links for contacting the speaker or their management to inquire about the cost. You may even be able to hire the individual for a virtual speech at a reduced price.
Travel and Schedule
Speakers who must travel to your event from long distances are more subject to delays and complications. If your speaker is flying in on the day of the event, they may get held up due to flight cancellations and other issues.
Make sure you work out the logistics with them and either stick to speakers who can make it to your event with a three-hour flight or build in extra time (though the speaker may increase their fee to compensate).
The Speaker’s Role
Is the speaker simply delivering a speech? Or will they be available for meet-and-greets, breakout sessions, and master classes? Both speakers and attendees need to have clear, accurate expectations.
The Speaker’s Ability
Hiring someone simply because they’re famous or an expert can lead to trouble. You need to ensure they can deliver a message to a live audience. If the speaker isn’t able to communicate effectively in your setting, you should look elsewhere before it’s too late.
The 8 Strategies
Once you’ve determined what you’re looking for in a speaker, you can move forward with reaching out to potential guest speakers. Here’s where to find them.
1. Seek Speakers You’ve Seen
You’ve probably been to events where you witnessed an impressive speech. That speaker may be the first person you reach out to. If you can, start by contacting the coordinators of the event you attended to ask about the best way to reach out to your chosen guest speaker.
2. Search Social Media
Using hashtags and search queries appropriate for your event topic, search social media for guest speakers who can deliver what you want. Find videos of the speakers on YouTube to make sure you have an understanding of their style.
Social media pages are an excellent way to get a glimpse of the speaker’s personality, and they will generally have contact information in an obvious location.
3. Ask for Referrals
Event coordinators tend to network with other event coordinators, and this is an excellent opportunity to make good on these relationships. Discuss the nature of your event and see if they know anyone who would be willing to speak.
Your fellow coordinators may be able to reach out for you or supply you with a speaker’s contact information.
4. Reference Agencies and Databases
Fortunately, organizations such as the National Speakers Association connect event coordinators with guest speakers. You can contact the organizations with your specific needs or peruse their databases and search for a speaker you like.
5. Poll Your Audience
If you’re running a recurring event, you can ask previous attendees who they would like to have speak. This cuts down on your research time and assures that you’re hiring someone people will want to see. You will have to get several names in case your first choices aren’t available.
6. Watch TED Talks
The advantage of using TED Talks as inspiration is that every speaker is a known commodity with the ability to deliver a message within a short time window. The TED Talks website allows users to sort by topic, language, and duration or by typing in a keyword in the “Search talks” field.
7. Contact Your Chamber of Commerce
Your local chamber of commerce has experience interacting with business owners, hosting events, and connecting with experts. They will likely have plenty of suggestions for speakers.
8. Research Other Events
Take inspiration from similar events. Reach out to those events’ guest speakers via social media, the speaker’s website, or their agency. You could even attend the event and talk to them in person.
Narrowing Down Your Choices
If you’ve done your research and identified your shortlist of speakers, now’s the time to interview them to see if they’ll be a fit. Watch videos of them or attend an event where you can witness them in person. Speak with other event coordinators and find out how the guest speaker did. This level of research up front will ensure you hire the right guest speaker.