Running an online event comes with a set of challenges. Apart from deciding the structure of your online event and the way you’ll organize the online sessions, you also have to “sell” the idea to your potential speakers.
Thought leaders and top-notch industry professionals may be well accustomed to attending face-to-face events and delivering in-person speeches, but only a few may have online event experience.
And although delivering a virtual speech may sound easy, chances are your potential speakers will feel a higher degree of uncertainty. They may not know how to use the digital tools adequately enough to engage with the online attendees, or they may even overlook the incredible benefits an online event can offer. So you’ll have to rethink your speakers’ outreach strategy and try a slightly different approach.
To help you with this task, we’ve put together a quick list of tips that will help you develop a strong outreach strategy and increase the chances of getting people to speak at your event.
Tip 1. Invite people you know
When planning your first online events, you may be tempted to reach out to top-notch industries or star speakers. But if you don’t have the budget for them (some may charge hundreds of thousands of dollars per speech), it’s a much better idea to connect with the people you already know.
Instead of chasing an industry influencer who’s unreachable, why not ask your clients to share their industry-related experiences with your virtual audience?
You’re still getting awesome speakers at your event, plus you’re strengthening your relationships with your clients by giving them visibility and networking possibilities (not to mention they’ll probably be very flattered!).
Another option is to reach out to your partners and ask them to provide you with some names of professionals who’d be willing to speak at your online event. Chances are your partners know interesting names in the industry and would be happy to assist you.
Tip 2. Focus on fireside chats instead of keynote speeches
One reason why some professionals may refuse to be a speaker at your event is the time and effort they’d have to put into preparing a presentation. And let’s be honest: Nowadays, not too many people have the luxury of time to work on a stellar keynote speech. One way to get an easy “yes” from some professionals is by telling them that they don’t have to prepare a thing.
This, however, will require you to organize a fireside chat or an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session where you and your virtual attendees get the chance to ask questions. These Q&A formats are much easier for your speakers since they don’t require any presentations. By simplifying the experience of your speakers, you’re more likely to get an emphatic “yes.”
Tip 3. Present your event’s added value
When you email people and ask them to speak at your event, focus on listing the benefits they’ll get by doing so. For example, you can describe the virtual attendee profile, along with the expected attendance rate. Highlight the visibility and outreach of your event, along with the target group they’ll be speaking to.
In addition, mention who your partners are and the potential networking opportunities they’ll get. If anyone is interested in connecting with a specific partner, you could even offer to arrange a virtual one-on-one meeting. Mention all these things, and watch how quickly people will agree to speak at your event.
Tip 4. Mention the name of a star speaker who agreed to speak at your event
This tip will work only if you’ve already managed to book a top-notch speaker who is well-known in your industry. If so, go ahead and do some namedropping in your emails to potential speakers. Along with describing the benefits of speaking at your online event, casually mention the name of your stellar influencer who also agreed to be a speaker. Being in the same program with a first-rate professional can be a good incentive to get people to want to speak at your event.
Tip 5. Offer an incentive
Monetary incentives may not be in the scope of your planning budget, but if you want to incorporate a professional in your events program, you’ll have to offer something. Usually, prime speakers will present their speaking rates on their website. Others, though, may not provide speaking services, yet may still be interested in a monetary incentive.
If you don’t have it in your budget to offer a monetary incentive, offer exclusive access to your product or even the possibility to use your product for free for one year. What’s important is to decide how valuable a speaker is and how much you would be willing to invest to have this person at your online event.
Go get your speakers to say yes
Getting a yes from a potential speaker may be difficult when running both face-to-face and online events. In the second case, however, the challenge is twofold, considering the novelty of the online format and the unknown benefits it can provide. So make sure to build the entire outreach strategy around the big wins a professional will get by speaking at your online event.
Try to simplify their work by inviting them to answer questions instead of delivering a presentation. Always mention those other professionals who accepted to be speakers at your event.
Finally, if you don’t have any other option, consider incentivizing your potential speakers and get them on board. All these little tactics will increase your chances of packing your event program with interesting people who’ll have valuable stories to share with your virtual attendees.