Event speakers have the unique ability to inspire attendees and transform your event into a truly memorable experience. So it’s a big job!
But how can organizers actually go about finding the perfect speaker for their event? Also, how can organizers stay on budget while still creating panels that attendees will connect with? Lots of ways – but it all starts with trusting your vision. So to get you started, here’s our top tips for organizers when finding speakers for their events.
Put out a call for proposals.
If you put out an inspiring call for proposals the best speakers will find you. We promise.
It’s the “if you build it they will come” idea. Just start by writing a message that is relevant, interesting, and human, and post it on your network. Chances are your post will resonate with people, get reposted, and eventually, amazing speakers will start to reach out.
You can also treat this as a marketing push. Maybe record your message in video form and post it to Facebook, Instagram, or even TikTok. Video is proven every day as the best way to connect to people instantly.
The most important thing is that you are getting your vision for your event in front of potential speakers (and attendees) so that they can discover it for themselves. We all like to find new people to connect with – you want to be the person that speakers are happy to find.
Search your network, and beyond.
One of the best ways to find speakers is to start by searching in your network, and then gradually widen the circle.
Reach out to friends and colleagues. Sometimes we forget that we actually know the perfect person already for a panel or even a keynote. Working with people you know also saves time on introductions and figuring out if the speaker is a good fit.
Research recent events. Explore events you got invited to, attended, or show up in a google search. Speakers that have already spoken at events will be more likely to speak at another event, simply because you know it’s something they are doing right now.
Widen your search to speaker networks. Sites like Innovation Women, Big Speak, or National Speakers, host vetted professional speakers and offer an easy-to-use system for booking. Speaker networks also provide a diverse range of speakers, and help you find people you might never have thought of for your event.
Watch for red flags.
One of the worst feelings is getting too far down the road with a speaker and realizing they are not a good fit. Here are our top red flags to watch out for.
Not interested in your event: They may be a great speaker with amazing energy and an inspiring message, but if there’s no connection to the event, the crowd may not see the point.
Rub you the wrong way: Maybe they seem a little too edgy, or could even be offensive to your audience. The last thing you want is for attendees to feel uncomfortable at your event.
Not easy to communicate with: Taking forever to reply, unclear responses, ghosting – these are things that will only get worse when there’s a real issue at hand. Best to steer clear.
No clips of past work: In the age of Zoom and iPhones, every speaker should have a video of themselves doing a presentation, or some kind of public speaking. It’s just standard now.
Extensive rider/No rider: An extensive rider (the things the speaker requires) can be very pricey, and time-consuming. Items like no brown M&M’s are a red flag (unless it’s Van Halen). Not having a rider can also be a problem, because it means that you have no idea what the speaker wants and it could end up being a hassle. It’s also unprofessional.
Make sure it’s a good fit.
The best speakers are the ones that fit best at your event.
If your audience is looking for a low-key speaker sprinkled with dry, sophisticated humor, then that’s who you should find. On the flip side, if you need someone to raise the roof, then look for a person that loves to pump up the crowd.
Consider tone. Is the speaker too jokey? Or too serious? Will their message resonate with your audience? Will your audience want to meet and talk with them? And will the speaker want to take time to talk to your audience?
People attend events to make connections, especially with the people on stage. You want attendees and speakers to feel like they could talk more, or that they are all working towards the same goals at the event.
Stay on budget.
You want a speaker that works within your budget rather than taking it over entirely.
Read through the speaker’s entire rider. What are their production needs? Are they in line with what you have or will you need to rent more gear? And who will be in charge of that gear to make sure it works?
Personal needs can also get pricey. If the speaker intends for you to pay for expenses, you’ll want a clear price tag for those expenses. The cost of travel, lodging, and any needs they may have should be pre-discussed before everyone starts booking.
Speakers are important, but so is staff, venues, shuttles, food, drinks, and all the other things that make events tick. So keep that in mind when figuring out your speaker budget.
Innovation Women is a visibility bureau dedicated to providing equal exposure and speaker opportunities for women and creating more diversity on stage.
“Since 2015, Innovation Women has consistently grown and placed hundreds of women on stages across the world. We have also helped hundreds of event managers successfully build diverse panels and events.”
Creating a diverse and inclusive speaker line-up is about making sure that everyone’s voice and perspective are represented on stage.
Diverse panels also encourage more engagement with attendees, better discussion, and inspire the next generation of speakers in your industry. All things that make events better, for everyone.
When in doubt, trust your gut.
Finding the right speakers can be tough, and time-consuming, but the best advice we have is to trust your gut along the way.
Putting out an inspiring proposal and working with people in your network can save time and help fill a panel with people you know and trust. Watching for red flags and budget issues will make sure that your event is as stress-free as possible. And creating diverse panels will create the engagement and sense of community that we all strive for at our events. So most importantly, trust your vision, and good things will happen.
Become an expert at finding the right speaker by joining us on Thursday, April 28th at 2pm CDT for a live virtual discussion with Bobbie Carlton, Founder of Innovation Women on Picking the perfect speaker for any event: Where to start and what to know.