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Event Marketing, Event Planning & Management
9 October 2023 

How To Find Outstanding Event Speakers

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett
Chaviva Gordon-Bennett
How To Find Outstanding Event Speakers

Are you struggling to find an outstanding speaker for your event? It’s a tall order. After all, the right conference speaker has the power to captivate, inspire, and educate your audience, making your event a memorable experience. 

It’s not just about finding any speaker; it’s about finding the perfect speaker who resonates with the event’s theme and captivates the audience. They can inform and engage your audience, breathing life into your event and leaving an indelible mark on every attendee.

Whether you are organizing a corporate conference, a charity gala, a TED-style talk series, or any other type of event, this article will help you find ideal speakers to transform your next gathering into an extraordinary memory.

Understand Your Audience

Different events cater to different audiences. Prepare a detailed audience profile before you search for the right speaker for your event. What are your audience’s unique interests and preferences? 

Gain insights into their demographics, expectations, and the type of content they find most valuable. This knowledge will help you select speakers who can connect with your audience.

Here are a few methods to help you conduct thorough research about your potential participants:

  • Identify the age, gender, location, and profession of your target audience.
  • Conduct surveys or gather feedback from previous events to understand what types of speakers or topics your audience enjoyed the most.
  • Analyze your audience’s social media profiles and interactions. Look for common hashtags, groups, or influencers they follow to gain insights into their preferences.
  • Create detailed audience personas that include their goals, pain points, and preferences.
  • Understand your audience’s values, beliefs, and motivations to select speakers who align with their mindset.

Define Your Event’s Theme and Objectives

Your event’s theme is a guiding thread that ties everything together. Whether you’re planning a technology summit, a wellness retreat, or a marketing conference, your theme directly impacts your speaker selection.

The same goes for goals. Establish clear and measurable objectives before finding a speaker for your event. Clearly define what you want your conference speaker to achieve. Are you aiming to educate attendees about industry trends, motivate them to take action, or entertain them with engaging anecdotes?

Let’s say your event’s objective is to educate attendees about the latest advancements in artificial intelligence. Select speakers who are renowned experts in AI and can provide actionable takeaways.

Start with Research To Find Outstanding Event Speakers

Did you know that 53% of speakers say their fees are increasing in 2023? Do your research to ensure you find the right speaker within your budget range. 

Researching event speakers is not just a preparatory task. It’s a strategic imperative that empowers you to make informed decisions and lays the groundwork for a seamless and successful speaker selection process.

You can nail this step by following these strategies:

  • Visit online platforms: Leverage platforms such as TED Talks, YouTube, and industry-specific websites to discover speakers who have made a mark in your field. Their online presence can provide insights into their speaking style and expertise. To help you get started, here’s a list of the 13 best conference speakers to book in 2023.
  • Get recommendations: Seek recommendations from colleagues, peers, and industry associations. They can recommend speakers they have witnessed, giving you valuable firsthand insights.
  • Tap into speaker bureaus: Speaker bureaus 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.
  • Head to social media: Social media platforms are treasure troves of information. Use them to follow potential speakers, observe their interactions, and gauge their influence within your industry.
  • Survey your audience: Use event apps and platforms to gather feedback from your audience about potential speakers. This direct input can be instrumental in your decision-making process.
  • Let AI do the work for you: AI-powered tools can help you find an ideal speaker who has expertise in your event’s topic. For example, you can ask AI questions like, “Can you suggest some keynote speakers for an event about sustainability?” 

Look Inward for Compelling Conference Speakers

Sometimes, the ideal speaker might be closer than you think. Consider tapping into the talent within your organization to find someone for a keynote or speaking gig. Who are the people that everyone else loves hearing from or engaging with?

finding an event speaker
Top performers, influencers within your company, board members, or trusted partners can provide unique perspectives that resonate with your audience. Using this internal talent will strengthen organizational relationships and collaboration and bring credibility and authenticity to your event.

Check Event Speaker Credentials and Past Performances

To ensure you’re selecting the best possible conference speakers, dive deep into their past performances. Do they have any notable achievements, awards or contributions as a speaker? Take a look at online reviews of their past performances. Do audiences resonate with their style and substance? 

Additionally, look for testimonials and examples of their previous presentations. Evaluate their expertise in the specific topic you need them to address. For example, have they conducted groundbreaking research, published influential papers, or led innovation in their field?

While you’re at it, reach out to colleagues and event organizers who have featured the speaker to get their honest feedback.

Prioritize Diversity and Inclusion When Choosing Speakers

Attendees  have high expectations for your event content and speakers. Diverse lineups of speakers bring a richer array of ideas and viewpoints to your event, creating a more enriching learning experience for attendees.

Including diverse speakers not only speaks volumes about your organization and helps your event appeal to a broader audience. It also broadens attendees’ horizons, encouraging critical thinking and fostering a more inclusive and tolerant environment.

However, it’s important to note that the current event landscape falls short of this ideal. Our 2018 report indicated that 70% of event speakers were male, and unfortunately, gender equity hasn’t improved significantly since then.

After an event, organizers might say, ‘We were intentional. We tried to get diversity of representation. We sent it to everybody we knew. We sent it everywhere in our network!’ But at the end of the day, if our networks look like us, act like us, and think like us, then we’re still self-segregating. And so you sent this out to everybody you knew, but how diverse are your networks?
Mita Mallick
Head of Inclusion, Equity, and Impact

Here’s how you can build a diverse speaker lineup for your event:

  • Set inclusive goals: Define diversity goals for your event and prioritize them during the speaker selection.
  • Expand your network: Seek new networks and communities where diverse voices thrive. Attend events, forums, and conferences that prioritize diversity.
  • Audience feedback: Ask your audience for input on the types of speakers they’d like to see and be sure to consider their preferences in your selection.
  • Build diverse speaker panels: Aim for diverse panels with speakers representing various genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, and perspectives.
  • Form partnerships: Collaborate with organizations and associations that promote diversity and inclusion to identify potential speakers.

Choose Speakers That Fit Your Budget 

Just as you scrutinize vacation package details, you must understand speaker fees and what they encompass. Does the fee cover travel expenses, accommodations, or additional resources like presentation materials?

For instance, if you’re considering a renowned industry expert, their fee may be higher, but it could include valuable extras like customized content or Q&A sessions.

Speaker fees are an investment in your event’s success. Consider the potential return on investment (ROI) regarding attendee engagement and satisfaction, as well as  the impact on your event’s reputation. 

Consider what value each speaker brings to your event. While one may have a higher fee, they could offer unique insights that significantly benefit your audience, ensuring you get value for every dollar spent.

Here are a few tips for how to get guest speakers for corporate events without breaking the bank:

  • Have a conversation about fees: Don’t hesitate to discuss fees with a speaker that you’re thinking about hiring, especially if you’re on a budget.
  • Go with local speakers: Consider local speakers or those within driving distance to reduce travel expenses. Opting for a nearby destination can save on travel costs, but choosing local speakers can be more cost-effective.
  • Book early for savings: Similar to booking flights and accommodations in advance, securing your speakers early can often lead to cost savings. Some speakers may offer discounts for early bookings.
The Event Budgeting Guide for In-Person, Hybrid, and Virtual Events

Conduct a Pre-event Interview with a Guest Speaker

A pre-event interview is a practical step to solidify logistical arrangements and confirm the speaker’s commitment. It includes discussions on travel logistics and technical requirements and a thorough review of the speaker’s presentation materials to ensure seamless execution on the event day. 

This interview helps you understand the speaker’s vision, style, and content, allowing you to gauge their enthusiasm and commitment to your event.

For example, if you’re organizing a tech conference, a pre-event discussion with a potential conference speaker can reveal their passion for emerging technologies and their approach to delivering complex information.

Convey your event’s objectives, theme, and desired outcomes to ensure that the speaker’s content resonates with your audience’s interests and that they understand the unique angle or perspective your event aims to offer. Once you finalize the speaker, you can share presentation tips to help them represent your brand more effectively.

To avoid any last-minute adjustments and surprises, confirm all the details beforehand, including travel arrangements, presentation materials, and technical requirements.

How To Manage Unexpected Speaker Challenges

Things can go wrong. For event speakers, last-minute cancellations, technical glitches, or unforeseen challenges can disrupt even the most well-organized events. Here are some tips for how to prepare ahead of time to tackle unexpected challenges: 

  1. Create a contingency plan: Maintain a list of backup speakers or alternative presentations that you can quickly deploy in case of a speaker’s last-minute cancellation. Ensure these substitutes are well prepared and align with the event’s theme and objectives.
  2. Line up technical support: Have technical support personnel or an IT team on-site to address any technical glitches or issues that may arise during the event. They should be equipped to troubleshoot and resolve problems promptly to minimize disruptions.
  3. Share communication protocols: Establish clear communication protocols among event staff, speakers, and key stakeholders.
  4. Brainstorm audience engagement strategies: Keep the audience engaged during unexpected interruptions. Use event moderators or hosts who can provide updates, answer questions, and facilitate discussions to maintain attendee interest and participation.
  5. Create a plan for resource allocation: Allocate additional resources or personnel to manage unexpected situations effectively. The extra staff can assist with logistical challenges or support attendees who may need assistance.

Bonus: Use Artificial Intelligence To Help You Find and Manage Event Guest Speakers

Finding high-quality speakers can be difficult, but AI can make this easier and more effective. With AI, you can quickly find great speakers and make sure they have a good experience at your event. Here are some practical tips and prompts for using AI to handle speaker interactions, manage event details, and make speakers feel valued.

AI Prompts for Finding Speakers

  • Can you help me find a list of top speakers in [specific field]?
  • Can you provide contact information for [specific speaker]?
  • Can you suggest some topics that [specific speaker] is known for?
  • Can you suggest some diverse and inclusive speakers who would be good for our conference on [topic]?

AI Prompts for Logistics, Scheduling, and Accommodations

  • Can you help me create a schedule for the speakers?
  • Can you send a reminder email to the speakers a week before the event?
  • Can you help me draft and send reminder emails to speakers about their schedules and other logistical details?
  • Can you assist in creating a contingency plan in case a speaker cannot attend or there are changes in the schedule?
  • Can you help me find suitable accommodation options for our speakers near [event venue]?
  • Can you suggest some welcome gifts or tokens of appreciation for our speakers?

AI Prompts for Crafting Presentation Material

  • Can you help me review the presentation material [specific speaker] submitted?
  • Can you suggest some resources or tools for creating engaging presentations?
  • Can you review the content of the presentation slides for accuracy and relevance to the topic [specific topic]?
  • Can you suggest any recent studies or developments related to [specific topic] that should be included in the presentation?
  • Can you help me create a chart/graph to visually represent the data on [specific topic]?
  • Can you suggest the most effective way to visually present the information on [specific data point]?
  • Can you generate a summary for [specific topic] that can be included in the presentation slides?
  • Can you help me develop compelling anecdotes or case studies to illustrate my points effectively?

AI Prompts To Create Audience Engagement Opportunities

  • Can you help me create a feedback form for the audience to rate the speakers?
  • Can you suggest some interactive elements or polls that can be incorporated into the presentation to engage the audience?
  • Can you help me formulate some thought-provoking questions related to [specific topic] to include in the presentation for audience interaction?
  • Can you assist in organizing breakout sessions for [session name] to encourage discussions and interactions among attendees?
  • Can you help me create guidelines and topics for breakout session discussions related to the presentation?
  • Can you assist in analyzing audience feedback and suggest modifications to enhance engagement in future sessions?
  • Can you suggest ways to personalize content to address the specific interests and needs of the audience?

Although you know this, it’s worth repeating: Double-check AI’s output because you may find inaccurate information about potential speakers, including an outdated title or company association.

ultimate guide to AI chatbot prompts for event professionals

Get Started: Find Your Perfect Event Guest Speaker

A well-chosen speaker can elevate your event from ordinary to extraordinary, leave a lasting impression on attendees and create positive buzz around your brand. 

Finding an outstanding speaker for your event might seem challenging, but it must not be rushed or taken lightly. It’s the most critical investment in the overall success of your event. The time and effort you dedicate to speaker selection are not in vain, because speakers are the ones who captivate and motivate your attendeesd. 

The Bizzabo Event Experience OS offers event organizers a user-friendly and intuitive platform to seamlessly engage and involve speakers in virtual events. With its robust features, Bizzabo simplifies the entire process, ensuring that event organizers and speakers can focus on creating impactful and memorable virtual experiences.
Overwhelmed by the challenge of planning your next in-person event and ensuring you’re setting speakers up for success? Download our in-person event production kit and get all the templates and guidance you need to execute an unforgettable event.

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