Event Marketing


How to Attract Guest Speakers to Your B2B Event


Corrine Stratton


Part of the attraction to your B2B event should always be a panel of interesting, worthwhile event speakers.

How do you go about booking speakers? Sometimes you’ll find them within the ranks of your own company. You may have people in leadership or innovative roles who are experts with a lot to teach a willing audience.

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However, sometimes you’d also like the boost a great guest speaker can give your event. There are the speakers who people recognize and travel to see. The question then becomes, how do you attract great guest speakers?

How to Find Event Speakers

Define a key theme and goals

Sometimes the idea of a well-known or respected guest speakers can be tantalizing, but it’s never a good idea to build your event around a particular speaker. Why not? Well, you’d effectively be asking one person to “carry” your entire event. They may be quite capable of doing so, but that also means you have no contingency should they suddenly not be able to make it.

On the other hand, if you define a key theme and your goals for the outcomes of the event first, you can attract people who are there to contribute to that theme. Your audience will sign up because they have a keen interest in your theme, which means if need be, you can shuffle speakers too.

This gives you the luxury of having the well-known guest speaker as an added bonus, rather than as the entire headline act.

Research guest speakers

Having a key theme defined helps you research and draw up a shortlist of relevant event speakers. Include experts and those who are in a complementary area that aligns with your theme.

Here are some places you might look for potential speakers:

  • Take a look at your (or your organization’s) current networks. Who are you connected with professionally? Remember to check LinkedIn as well - look at profiles and find relevant expertise and experience.
  • Research blogs that are written about the same topic as your event. Look for those written by experts as well as quotes within articles that can lead you to potential speakers.
  • Research potential event speakers via video footage of their prior engagements. This helps to give you an idea of their style and whether they are a good fit for you.
  • Have a speaker application form on your event page or website. This may draw unexpected event speakers whom you haven’t considered yet.

Once you’ve created a shortlist of speakers, it’s important to reach out as soon as possible. If you have any popular speakers on your list, you’ll find that they book up far in advance. Contact them at least six months before your planned event, or as soon as you’ve nailed down a date and venue. This is not only about booking the speaker, but actually giving them time to be prepared!

Sell your event

Why should the speaker come to your event? They need to have a compelling “why,” even if they are someone who you or people in your company know well. Speaking at events contributes to a presenters reputation so they want to speak at events that are well-received.

A good first step is to create a strong online presence. This gives you a resource to share with potential event speakers and shows that you’re putting effort into professionalism for the event. Create a compelling website, microsite, or page on your company website to help with booking speakers.

The speaker may also be interested in details such as the potential reach of your event. If they speak professionally or they have goals for booking more speaking engagements, they’ll want to know how you are promoting the event and how wide-reaching that might be. Access to a large prospective list is a great start! Give your potential speaker a clear understanding of who will be in the room including titles, industries, and company types (make sure to avoid providing personal information).

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Be prepared to pay guest speakers

Top speakers seldom speak for free. If speaking is their profession, then of course they rely on being paid for their services and likely have predetermined speaker rates. The best speakers know their value and understand that audiences do turn up to see them. They do (and should) expect to be paid for their time.

How much does a speaker cost?

You’ll find a huge variation among speakers as to what they charge for their services. Top speakers might charge very high speaker rates, but occasionally they’ll offer a discount for an event that they really want to attend. Fees often depend on the popularity of the speaker or industry. As a general rule, be prepared to pay for professional speakers.

Sometimes you can find speakers who will present for free or for basic expenses (such as accommodation or travel). For example, someone might be building their reputation as a speaker and would like the exposure from your event. Or, your event might coincide with something they want publicity for, such as the release of a new book. They may be interested in being able to present a special offer to your audience.

As a basic courtesy, all speakers should be compensated in some way for their time. It is important to make your speakers time in preparing for and attending your event worthwhile.

Be open to speaking topics

You’ve got a central theme and goals for the event, but it helps to be open and flexible to what the event speaker might want to speak about. If you’ve limited yourself to a narrow topic range, you might find that you also narrow your field of potential guest speakers.

One thing to consider is that professional speakers usually have their own goals for participating in an event. Sometimes that might involve speaking on the exact topic you had in mind, but otherwise, they’re looking to ensure that their goals and yours align.

Consider this; if you agreed to speak for free or for a smaller fee because you hoped to promote your new book, how would you feel if your session was completely unrelated to your book topic? It wouldn’t be a great sell for your book…

Consider virtual speakers

Dealing with travel schedules and budget limitations can make securing a great speaker for an event difficult. Opening up an in-person event to virtual speakers will allow event marketers and planners to cast a wider net when it comes to booking speakers.

Make it easy for speakers to participate

You’ve probably considered the logistics of putting together the event, but have you thought about the small details that can be an extra burden on speakers? Sometimes an offer to take care of some or all logistics is enough to sweeten the deal for a speaker.

For example, speakers might need:

  • Transport and accommodation
  • Specific dietary accommodations
  • Setup for the presentation technology
  • Any audience resources or handouts
  • The opportunity to meet and interact with the audience (perhaps a table or booth set up)
  • Rehearsal time and space

Ask the speakers what they need in order to make their travel easier and the event a personal success.

Every great event needs great speakers. If you’re organizing the sessions for your event, you have a number of options for finding top-notch speakers.

The best place to start is with your overall theme and goals for the event. This allows you to define the types of speakers you need to recruit. Remember, while you might be able to find some speakers for free, it’s always a good practice to compensate them for their time.

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