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Choosing The Right Speakers for A Conference – Aspects to Keep in Mind

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The right guest speaker can elevate even the dullest of conferences and get people interested to be there. When a name that matters in the industry is the headline of your conference, it can add tremendous value to the event and provide the must-needed buzz to boost your advertising efforts. 

A guest speaker sets the tone of the event and, if they have a great reputation in the field, they can boost the reputation of your organization as well. What’s more, a keynote speaker can accelerate ticket sales and generate more revenue for the event. 

As you can understand, choosing the speaker can have a “make or break” effect on the conference, which is why it is a very important process that should be carefully tackled. To help you out, below are some tips that should guide you in choosing the right speaker for your next event.

Before looking for a speaker, make sure you: 

Regardless of the type of conference you want to put together, the most important aspects are planning and preparation. To make sure you have enough time to tackle predicted and unpredicted challenges, you should begin planning at least six to twelve months ahead of time. Knowing your audience, identifying the location, selecting a topic, laying out the event, creating a budget, and inviting your speakers are the bare minimum of these preparations.

With this in mind, here’s what you should determine before you start looking for speakers:

  • Define the objective of the event

What are you planning on achieving with this event? Defining the intent of the conference will help curate your list of potential speakers and simplify your decision as to which is the best fit for the occasion. Setting up a clear budget and defining your core audience will also help.

  • Acknowledge the purpose of the speaker

What will the role of the speaker be? Are they here to kick-off the event, inspire, educate, or make your audience ask questions long after the event has ended? You may want to say “all of the above”, but that’s not always possible. Knowing what purpose that person needs to fill will help you determine which type of person aligns with the values and goals of your event. 

  • Figure out which keynote slot they fit

As a rule of thumb, speaker conferences are usually scheduled in one of the three key moments of the event: 

  • Kick-off – this is usually the first speaker, which should outline the key purpose of the event and set the tone
  • After-lunch – this is a slot may speakers fear to be placed in, as it involves a great deal of energy and determination to bring everyone back into conference mode after a good meal
  • Closing keynote – this is a great slot for an innovation speaker, as they are usually able to pull together the most important ideas of the conference and make attendees reflect on these aspects post-conference

Start scouting for speakers

After going over the things mentioned above, you should be able to grasp better at the type of speaker that is best suited for your event. And, once you do that, it’s time to start seeking out the right person. 

Don’t know where to find guest speakers? Try the following options:

  • Past conferences you’ve attended: if there was a speaker in particular that left a good impression on you and suits the theme of the event, why not seek them and ask for a collaboration? You’ve seen them at work, you know what they can do, so the screening process is almost done. 
  • Personal recommendations: call your friends, business partners, and contacts in your network and ask for referrals. Be detailed in your request so that individuals who are referring someone to you have a clear image of your needs.
  • Research similar events: look online for past, current, or future events that have a similar theme and see who they are inviting to speak. You may be able to find someone that fits your ideal description. 
  • Organizations in your sphere of interest: Even if you are not an active member, you can look into certain organizations to discover which speakers have had success in your sector or specialty. Take a look at who your competitors have hired as well. 
  • Online and offline TED Talks: TED Talks are known for hosting some of the best speakers on many fields of activity, so if you are looking for inspiration, this is great place to start scouting. 

Curate your shortlist

Once you start looking for speakers, chances are you will find plenty of options that suit your event. So, how do you choose the one person that has the most potential to elevate your event? By doing your due diligence and researching every person that makes your shortlist. Ideally, you should keep your list down to 4-5 options (that’s why it is called a shortlist, after all) before the next step.

Once you have your list ready, do the following to make an informed decision:

  • Watch them speak: If you have the option to, make time to attend a conference where they are present as a speaker to assess how they interact with the audience and whether or not they’re a suitable fit for your event. If you are unable to attend in person, you can view some of their presentations online.
  • Stalk them online a bit: This will offer you a better understanding of their skills, tone, and personality. Try to find out if they’ve performed at previous events and have that information on their blog and social media sites. All of this information can be used to determine if the speaker is a good fit for the situation but can also help you sell your event.
  • Organize a one-on-one: If you can’t meet with your speaker in person, have a video interaction with them using Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or another similar tool. This allows you to ask the key questions, get to know them a little better, and receive a definite assessment value from an interactive call like this.

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