6 Strategies to Find Your Conference Keynote and Other Speakers

Are you struggling to find conference speakers? You’re not alone. Working out how to find speakers for your event is one of the biggest challenges for event creators. Check out these industry-leading strategies from Eventbrite for finding great public speakers.

Your speakers and panellists are an important part of your conference. For many events, the keynote speaker is the star of the show. But if your sourcing strategy starts stagnating, the quality of your speakers will begin to decline.

Not sure how to find a keynote speaker or create a speaker sourcing strategy? We’ve got you covered. Your team can use this list of common sourcing methods to understand which ones are right for your conference.

Call for speaker proposals or abstracts

Offer potential candidates the opportunity to submit their ideas with a call for proposals or abstracts. This can give you a large pool of speakers to choose from. But if you want quality candidates, you’ll need a solid promotion plan to attract pitches, along with the resources to weed through the submissions.

Finding conference speakers starts with a call-out, and there are several platforms you can take advantage of. Social media sites are a great place to start your search. Industry-specific publications and internal talent pools are worth paying attention to as well.

Choosing the perfect event speaker is easier than it sounds:

  • First, post on your social media channels a quick blurb about RFPs (requests for proposals). Include the information that’s most important for potential speakers to submit. This can be something as simple as their sample presentation title or as detailed as their entire slide deck. Your followers are a great pool of potential candidates for adding value to your event. Don’t forget to use email marketing as well. Use your list to connect with everyone that you have a relationship with.
  • Next, go through your proposals with care. Combing through the proposals and abstracts is easier when you take time to ensure the speakers are knowledgeable in the topic or industry. Your goal is to find the best conference speaker to convey your message, add a unique perspective, or provide expertise.
  • With your shortlist of possible conference speakers, start holding brief interviews. You want to ensure your speakers get your message across to your audience. Ask questions about their knowledge and experience in the field.

Even if you’ve already got a reputable, big-name keynote speaker locked down, using an open call is a good way to fill your roster with other fresh, up-and-coming speakers who won’t cost an arm and a leg.

Attendee surveys

Using an open call is one way to find conference speakers, but how about finding out who your attendees want to see at your conference? Surveying attendees lets them know you care about their experience and want them to play a role in shaping the content. They may even know someone who’s an event speaker. You can poll attendees on more than just speaker information – get feedback on the best types of social gatherings, schedules, meals, entertainment options, or event venues.

Then, use the survey data to find your conference speakers. Adding surveys to your event marketing strategy can also increase interest and event attendance. Eventbrite has the tools you need to create and post an effective survey. Use platforms like SurveyMonkey or Typeform to make it easy to administer the survey online.

Internal members, partners, and sponsors

It’s not uncommon for employees or other internal organisation members to speak at their events. The same can be said for external partners and sponsors. Sponsors provide support, usually financially, in exchange for free advertising. They tend not to have a say in event operations, unlike partners. Event partners are financially invested. Internal members are responsible for every aspect of the event. Internal members, external partners, and sponsors all have an interest in the event’s success.

A word of caution: while it may be easier to rely on internally sourced talent, having too many sponsors or employees in your speaker lineup makes it look like you can’t find or pay reputable external speakers.

Speaker lists and databases

Websites like Speakers’ Corner, Great British Speakers and JLA allow you to sort through and filter thousands of speakers based on topic and speciality. Like everything, these sites have their ups and downs.

Speakers’ Corner

Pros:

  • Wide range of speakers
  • Lots of filter options to narrow your search
  • Clearly indicates speaker price

Cons:

Great British Speakers

Pros:

  • Browse speakers by topic and event type
  • Virtual and in-person speaker options
  • Detailed speaker profiles

Cons:

  • Pricing information only available on request

JLA

Pros:

  • Lots of talented speakers
  • Sorts speakers by fee bans
  • Favourites feature so you can create a shortlist

Cons:

All three are fast and effective ways to find talent, but you’re also competing with other event creators. It’s not true for all niches, but some trendy ones make keynote speakers a tough find.

Placing your open call on multiple lists or databases is a great way to broaden your search. You will have more proposals and abstracts to comb through, but you can also discover exciting new talent.

Take time to read everything on the signup page before committing to a service. That said, using speaker databases is a good way to brainstorm ideas.

Publications

Academic journals, news sites, bestseller lists, and blogs are great for discovering industry- and topic-specific speakers. You’ll also want to look through LinkedIn profiles and Facebook groups. Both can be invaluable resources when you want to find a keynote speaker. And many experts will see your speaking opportunity as a way to gain recognition and find new audiences.

Look at your local and industry publications. Most have keynote writers that are also conference speakers. Even if you don’t find a speaker for this event, you are making contacts for the next one.

Keep a running list of publications relevant to your industry and add authors to your list of potential speakers. Better yet, use a tool like Buzzsumo to find the most shared articles and blog posts for any given topic.

Social media

Social networks like YouTube, LinkedIn, and SlideShare are goldmines for professional speakers. On YouTube, for example, you can search for topics relevant to your conference to see who’s talking about them. Then narrow your search by filtering by the number of views to help identify the most popular content.

Don’t forget about utilising the power of Instagram and TikTok. You can tailor your open call for a specific audience to reach a variety of new talent.

You can also mine social media insights to identify speaking candidates. Facebook Audience Insights allows you to build a profile of your audience and see who they follow on their social networks. The results can help you find your ideal speaker.

Prioritise your speaker wishlist

Remember: your goal at this stage is to create a wishlist of potential candidates. So don’t worry about whether or not you can afford them or how they’ll fit into the agenda. The decision-making process, in which you evaluate speakers and ultimately choose who to reach out to, comes next.

Eventbrite has the tools you need to use speakers to increase event awareness. By teaming up, you and your speakers can help to promote each other and boost your events.

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