Are you struggling to find talent for your conference? You’re not alone. 89% of event creators said finding and securing speakers for their event will be a major challenge in 2018.
Your speakers and panelists are arguably the most important part of your conference. But if your sourcing strategy stagnates, the quality of your speakers will decline over time.
To secure the speakers that attendees are most interested in — not just the flashiest names — have your team review your current speaker sourcing strategy. They can use this list of common sourcing methods to understand which are right for your conference.
1. 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, and the resources to weed through the submissions.
That said, it’s often a smart method for discovering fresh, up-and-coming speakers who won’t cost an arm and a leg. If you’ve already got a highly reputable, big-name keynote locked down, use an open call to fill your roster.
2. Attendee surveys
In addition to asking interested speakers and presenters to raise their hand, why not ask your attendees who they’d like to see at your conference? Surveying attendees lets them know you care deeply about their experience and want them to play a role in shaping the content.
As with speaker proposals and abstracts, you’ll get a large pool of potential candidates and need to spend time evaluating nominations. Even if you don’t choose the exact speaker an attendee suggests, you’ll gain insight into the types of speakers they’re interested in hearing from.
3. Internal members, partners, and sponsors
It’s not uncommon for employees and organization members to speak at their events. The same can be said for external partners and sponsors. These individuals will have “skin in the game” and are already invested in your conferences’ success.
A word of caution: while it may be easier to rely on internally sourced talent, too many sponsors or employees in your speaker lineup makes it look like you can’t find or pay reputable external speakers.
4. Speaker lists and databases
Websites like the National Speakers Association and SpeakerHub allow you to sort through and filter thousands of speakers, based on topic and specialty. You can also find keynote speakers at sites like a-speakers.com
There are a couple of drawbacks to using these sources. Most sites charge a commission or subscription fee to use. And since they’re readily available to anyone, it’s a safe bet that your competition also uses them to find talent. That said, they’re a safe bet to brainstorm ideas.
Academic journals, news sites, bestseller lists, and blogs are great for discovering industry and topic-specific speakers. And many will also see your speaking opportunity as a way to gain recognition and find new readers.
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.
6. Social media
Social networks like YouTube, LinkedIn, and Slideshare are goldmines for professional speakers. On YouTube, for example, 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 stop there. You can also mine social media insights to identify speaking candidates. Facebook Audience Insights, for example, allows you to build a profile of your audience and see who they follow on the social network. The results can help you find their ideal speaker.