When it comes to recruit speakers for your event, finding the right ones can be vital to how successful the event is. Not only do you want to attract a few heavy hitters in your industry and at least one big name keynote speaker, you’ll also want to ensure you cover different areas so that different topics and interests are covered.

 Planning Ahead

Before you reach out to possible speakers, you’ll want to spend a bit of time planning. The speakers and workshops you have at your event can make or break it. You don’t want only a handful of topics discussed over and over after all. You’ll want to ensure:

  • You have a mix of newbie and seasoned conference attendee material
  • You have fresh material that’s not been covered before
  • You have heavy hitting industry issues as well as lighter workshops that are just fun
  • You are meeting attendee needs

Probably the best place to start with an advisory board. The advisory board will conduct polls, meet to discuss speaker options and use their wealth of connections to come up with a list of possible speakers.

Initial Call for Sessions

Fairly early in the process of lining up speakers, you’ll want to send out a call for session proposals to your membership, upper management and past conference attendees. Tell them that if they know of someone who would be a good candidate for a workshop session, to share the news.

  • Set a deadline that proposals must be in by. You will need plenty of time to go through the proposals and will also want to allow time to line up additional speakers if the first pool of candidates doesn’t pan out.
  • Create a session proposal form. This will keep all submissions in the same format and will also ensure that you have the information you need to make a decision whether or not the workshop is right for your event.
  • Set up a system of checks. Before you approve a workshop, set up a system of several people double checking that you aren’t repeating the same or similar topics.

The session proposal form doesn’t need to be complicated, but should include information such as:

  • Speaker’s name
  • Title of proposed session(s)
  • One to two paragraphs explaining what the session will be about
  • Any special resources or materials needed
  • A speaker bio
  • Speaker address, email and telephone number
  • Other sessions the speaker has presented (just because the potential presenter has a good idea doesn’t mean s/he is an experienced speaker)
  • If possible, a video clip of the person speaking

Recruit Speakers

You’ll likely get some good workshop topics and speakers form your initial call, but it is unlikely that you’ll get enough speakers to cover every session you’ve planned. Once you have your initial speakers in place, it is time to broaden the search and locate people to cover any topics you’ve not yet covered. Some places to find speakers include:

  • Internet searches
  • Company CEOs
  • Book authors
  • Local universities
  • Speakers bureaus (these often do charge a fee)
  • Nonprofit organizations

Another way to find excellent speakers is to visit other events in different areas of the country. For example, if your event is specific to the Midwest, you might want to visit a similar conference on the west coast. You will create connections and also meet session speakers who might be interested in speaking at your event.

Outside the Speaker Box

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when recruiting speakers. In addition to the ideas above, ask for recommendations from conference attendees. Many attendees go to several conferences a year and may know of a speaker that you do not. In addition, you can seek directors of nonprofit organizations and celebrity speakers to add to the appeal of your event.

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