Has your company tasked you with finding the keynote speaker for an upcoming industry conference? Even if you’re not a professional event planner, you can learn how to identify the best keynote speakers in your industry and entice them to accept your invitation.
As someone who speaks at conferences for my industry regularly, I’d like to share some tips that will increase your chance of success. Here’s how to snag your industry’s top speakers.
- Look at current industry influencers and thought leaders for prospects.
- Understand your audience and bring on speakers who they’re likely to identify with.
- Choose speakers who blend inspiration with practical advice.
Set Aside Months, Not Weeks to Find Your Speaker
You will need to go on the hunt for your keynote speaker six to 12 months ahead of your event. The best ones are often booked if you wait any longer. Before you scope out potential speakers, know what budget you’re working with. That way, you can limit your search to those speakers your organization can afford.
Start with Your Industry’s Thought Leaders
Although lists of industry influencers and thought leaders are a great place to start, not everyone who can write well and do their job well can move a crowd to act. Keynote speakers must first inspire—and then fill in the details.
Otherwise, the marquee event at your conference will likely devolve into a yawnfest. Even if the speech is full of practical wisdom, no one will hear it because their minds will be a million miles away.
Instead, look for a dynamic speaker who can set the tone for the entire conference. Find someone whose keynote address will be one event-goers will remember for years to come.
Stick to Your Industry or Closely Related Fields
If you can afford him, former US president Barack Obama is one of the nation’s most popular–and riveting–speakers. However, as Hall explains, unless your conference dovetails with areas within the former president’s expertise, there won’t be many practical takeaways your attendees can use.
For example, if your event is a gathering of urban planners, President Obama would be one fantastic speaker to snag. As someone with a keen interest in that field, the former president would provide your crowd with some insights they could apply to their work back home.
Not so much if yours is a gathering of tech entrepreneurs or car dealers. Techies might rather hear from Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, while car dealers might line up for miles if former racer Derek Daly were the headliner. Not only would they inspire with their words, but their industry expertise will provide plenty of actionable advice for their business.
Understand Your Audience
With today’s data analytics giving event planners the ability to look into everything from social media likes to online behavior and demographics, there is really no excuse for not digging into that data to find registered attendees’ preferences and pain points.
Keep that data in mind as you sift through potential speakers. If 70% of your audience struggles with digital transformation, perhaps a guest speaker from a top IT company might be a great choice. Once you’ve chosen a speaker, though, be sure to market your speaker’s expertise in those areas your audience struggles with.
You can even use your target audience’s data to buy segment-targeted social media ads, create content on your blog that centers on the keynote speaker’s areas of expertise, and retarget those who fit your industry’s target attendees’ profile once they express interest online.
Your keynote speaker will undoubtedly appreciate the thoughtful publicity—and so will your attendees, who might not have attended otherwise.
Consider the Theme of Your Event
As you narrow down your prospects, work closely with the other event planners to find a speaker that fits with your event’s chosen theme. For example, let’s say that you’re planning a conference for auto dealers, and your theme is “2021: Power and Speed.” For that theme, the aforementioned Derek Daly might be a great keynote speaker.
On the other hand, suppose your theme was “Luxury Elevated.” In that case, perhaps the CEO of one of your industry’s luxury car brands might be a better choice.
Get Referrals from Other Industry Professionals
Ask your friends and colleagues who work for other companies in your industry if they’ve heard conference speakers who knocked their socks off with inspiring words and industry expertise. If they produce some great prospects, it’s well worth the time it takes to give them a call or pay them a visit.
If you’ve chosen a few names from your industry’s influencers and thought leaders, run them by your industry colleagues to see if they’ve heard them speak. This step can help you narrow down your list, making it easier to find the ideal speaker for your upcoming event.
Never settle. Don’t stop until you’ve found a speaker who will make your event the one everyone will put on their calendar next year.
Attend the Competition’s Events
To whittle down your shortlist, you need to actually attend other events in the same industry that compete with you for attendees. Look for industry experts that can go above and beyond the usual motivational dribble to inspire your attendees to become better versions of themselves.
Not only will you get a chance to hear a slate of motivational speakers, but you might even get a chance to network with potential speakers in person. You’ll also have an opportunity to market your own event informally as you meet others in your industry.
Once you’ve chosen your speaker, go out of your way to make her or him feel welcome. Don’t forget your full-press marketing strategy to ensure that your speaker has an attentive audience primed to hear what he or she says.
With an inspiring keynote speaker that addresses a variety of issues that keep your attendees up at night, your event will gain a reputation that surpasses anything in your industry.
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