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Speaker outreach and interaction is an art to master for virtual/hybrid event development. This art often defines the critical line for an event and can lead to friction with speakers if not appropriately managed. The nature of outreach differs for owned, paid, or earned opportunities. Here we will provide a baseline model working well for speaker outreach across all types of options.
Base strategy for speaker outreach
Expect your audience to be picky and looking for great speakers from interesting companies that address exciting subjects. Therefore, defining a great speaker lineup becomes a balancing act between speakers, companies, and topics considering different options.
Your speaker outreach strategy can be top-down centered on companies and subjects or bottom-up focused on speakers you target. Often starting with a top-down idea on what you aim for, quickly pivoting to a pragmatic pursuit of speakers fitting the target frame. A great event lineup requires a mix of star speakers, attracting an audience and speakers, and insightful but less recognized speakers.
It can help you focus on two out of three options. Hitting all three across all speakers in a virtual/hybrid event is too ambitious. Continue balancing companies, speakers, and subjects through the event development and continue evaluating until you have your whole lineup complete.
Factors increasing speaker outreach success
Your goal to secure great speakers relies on three pillars—relationship to speakers, nature of the event, and clarity on the session at hand. You need to have all three in place to land the best speakers.
Personal relationships with speakers improve your odds of getting a positive response. An internal or external connector working as a channel for the speaking invite provides value for both parties. You know someone who has a good idea of the speakers’ abilities, and the speaker gets a trusted source for the speaking opportunity at hand.
Speakers want to understand the nature of the event, the type of audience, their exposure, and the proven or projected reach of the event. The bigger the upside here, the easier it is for speakers to accept.
Speakers also look for clarity on the event theme, other sessions in the program, and other speakers at the event. Already committed, well-known speakers and great moderators are essential to attract other speakers.
Secure speakers with a good one-pager
The outreach is complete when you have a committed speaker, and it is worthwhile to create a simple one-pager supporting the commitment phase.
The one-pager is a high-level description of the event. The organizers’ expectations on speakers for each session and key dates help speakers get all ducks in a row for their preparations.
Flexibility in delivering
After two years of virtual deliveries, you can expect speakers to have personal preferences for recording or delivering live sessions. These four base models could all be in play for a different session during an event.
- Record with own gear or in own studio remotely operated or providing a complete recording.
- Provide gear supporting the targeted quality level
- Speaker visiting a studio
- Visit by a professional production crew
Set a clear production baseline, meeting the quality ambition you have for your event. But plan for flexibility, where you can say yes to a few outlier cases in your production. The best event session could be a hard-to-get executive or a session recorded on a smartphone.
Limit interfaces to speakers
The more senior speakers you have, the more effort you need to work with their support team from day one. Working with Executive speakers could involve up to five interfaces
- Connectors – the people who personally know the speaker or the speaker’s agency.
- Content creators – typically a speechwriter or marketing lead pulling together talking points and any visual support
- Schedulers/planners – managed by speakers’ personal administrators.
- Moderators – in play for fireside chats and panels, with or without previous relationships to the speakers.
- Production team – your production team and any production contacts at the speaker end.
Questions for you and your team
- What does our blueprint for speaker outreach look like today?
- What can you do at the organizing end to improve your speaker outreach process?
- Who at your end should interact with the speaker and their team?
- Which templates do you have to support an efficient speaker outreach?
- Who are your best connectors for speaker outreach?
- Which production options do you expect to be in play for your next event?
Additional reading suggestions