As a conference organizer, juggling a number of different tasks all at once, often for a sustained amount of time, comes with the territory. When one task seems to be complete, it inevitably reappears on your next conference – and you’re starting the process all over again.

For me one of the most challenging, and often daunting tasks, is recruiting speakers. Integral to success, it can flip a conference from a small meeting of likeminded people to a captivating exhibition full of innovators and leaders.

How do I identify the right speakers for my conference?

You have your research, you have your agenda, you have your research contributors, but how do you draw up your list of potential speakers for the conference? Remembering that these speakers can be the very difference between a conferences becoming an annual event vs a once upon a time event, the recruitment strategies we use need to be solid and successful. No pressure or anything!

Like many aspects of B2B event marketing, speaker recruitment strategies have gotten a little stale, often leading us to call on last year’s star speakers or look at other competitor conferences. But this leads to uninspiring stale speaker line-ups and can take away your competitive edge.

Social media platforms have helped me to break away from the stale methods, with LinkedIn and Twitter being the most effective from a B2B standpoint I find. Both platforms give professionals the opportunity to have their voice heard further than simply their companies corridors.

In today’s digital world, it’s becoming more and more important for professionals to build an online presence and their own personal brand. This has made it easier for people to identify industry leaders, innovators, and in fact influencers. It is becoming more common for companies to push certain employees to become industry influencers, as it reflects well on the business, from an operational point of view as well as in regards of attracting new talent.

What do I look for on Social Media to find the perfect speaker?

While there’s no specific formula in finding your perfect speaker, there are a few tell-tale signs you ought to be keeping an eye out for.

Starting with Twitter; begin by searching for terms relevant to your conference. For example, if you were producing a digital marketing event you could search key terms such as: ‘content marketing’ ‘social media analysis’ ‘SEO’. Search through the tweets, particularly by people rather than organisations, looking for those that are heavily retweeted, favourited and replied to. You also want the potential speaker to be regularly active on the site and a great way to measure their influence and reach is by the number of followers they have.

Identifying a credible influencer can be tricky, but there are tools to make this a little easier, a great one being Klout. This tool uses a host of criteria to judge a person’s credibility and influence on social media to give a score from 1 to 100. Thanks to a snazzy Chrome extension available here, you can see someone’s Klout score easily on your Twitter feed.

If you liked the reaction from one of last year’s speakers, you can also rate them as social media promoter for your event. We’ve built these rankings into our Community Builder package, so you know who’s been the most valuable from an online promotion perspective.

Next to LinkedIn, your go to B2B platform can be great for potential speaker spotting too. Use LinkedIn to cross reference those you’ve found on Twitter, or start a whole new speaker search. To help you out here, LinkedIn have “Influencer” label. Couldn’t be simpler right? Well, these are difficult to come by, more so than a high number of followers on twitter, so don’t limit your search to just these people.

Other elements to look for are their activity on the platform. Check out the top groups for your conference topic and look for who’s generating the most popular posts. Keep your finger on the Pulse too, LinkedIn’s that is. Key influencers will be sharing their thoughts and establishing themselves as a leader in their field by posting here. Look at the responses on their posts, see if they are being shared or liked and whether people are engaging with this person. If the comment box is full with professionals engaged in discussion, you know that the said person has the ability to provoke debate and thought – two integral elements of a great presentation.

Recruiting speakers, how can I make this easier?

When recruiting your speakers you’re looking for the leading voices specific to your conference. You’re aiming to bring together the best of the best to share their knowledge with the delegates. The problem is, those at the top of their profession are often incredibly difficult to get hold of. They have limited spare time, are constantly on the move and always striving to improve the company they represent.

So how do you get hold of someone like this? Well, the age old tactic of searching on Google for a company number, ringing the operator, asking for said person only to get to their PA who has no intention of passing on your message is time consuming, tiring and counterproductive. If you are lucky your potential speaker on the phone, it is highly unlikely you have caught them at a good time – not the best way to start off what you hope to be a fruitful working relationship.

Sadly, another tactic which hasn’t gotten a fantastic success rate either is using email predictors, to try and find out your potential speakers email address. This can take multiple attempts, many of which will receive an email stating the address doesn’t exist and when you finally get an email that goes through, the chances of the reply are slim. A study by the Fast Company on cold emailing showed that out of 700 emails to C-level executives and VP’s at Fortune 500 companies, they only received 12 replies, which is the equivalent of 1.7%.

Be social and reach out online

Email inboxes are crowded and the phone calls often leave you frustrated, so why not try a whole new approach? Cut out the noise, distractions and reach out in a personal and direct way. LinkedIn InMails or Twitter direct messaging are great means for this. And you’re efforts to find and research them online shows you’re interested in them and impressed with their own efforts to establish themselves as an influencer!


By guest blogger and Event Organiser Ollie McCourt