Event Management & Data

How to Choose the Right Speakers for Your Conference

Victoria Rudi
August 21, 2019

Table of Contents

Speakers sell tickets. Want to sell out your upcoming conference? You’ll need an all-star line-up of presenters on your agenda. Here’s a step by step guide on how to find conference speakers.  


One of the most important decisions you’ll make when planning your event is selecting the right speakers. Not only will the right speaker selection make or break the success of your event, but attendees will also remember the content you delivered for years to come.

Speakers set the entire tone of the event and bring in ticket sales. So, speaker invitations shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Many people may not realize how many factors go into choosing an engaging and memorable speaker line-up. Speaker selection is truly a science. It’s all about finding the right chemistry of speakers that will speak to your audience. If you want to have a successful event, prioritize the content you are offering and diversify your speaker line-up.

In this blog post, we’ll look at how to select the right speakers for your upcoming conference.

What makes a good speaker?

As you start to vet speakers you should keep a few qualities in mind.

  • Relevance

Every event planner wants to have a big-name speaker headline the keynote at their conference. But if the speaker message doesn’t align with your target audience interest or goals, it will be a waste of everyone’s time and money.

You want conference-goers to leave your event feeling like this is the best content they’ve heard all year long. Find speakers who’ll solve attendees pain points and provide solutions to their businesses and personal lives.

  • Entertaining and captivating

As you start to search for potential candidates, look for people who have a reputation for entertaining and captivating a room. A speaker who has these qualities will keep attendees engaged and entertained.

As an event organizer, the worst thing is having speakers on the roster that are boring and can’t speak in front of an audience. You want conference-goers to leave your event feeling inspired and motivated, 

  • Influential

Relevance and entertaining are two characteristics that need to be on your list of requirements. Influence is another important quality your speakers need to have. Track down people who are considered influencers in your industry and can speak to some of the latest trends.

  • Experienced

When sourcing speakers for your conference, it’s essential that you hire presenters who have the experience and training to captivate a crowd. You want someone whose background aligns with the themes and topics surrounding your event.

Has the speaker presented in front of a large group before? Does the speaker have experience presenting to your industry? Can they effectively speak on the topic being presented? Those are all points you need to consider when hiring speakers.

Now that you’ve determined your initial criteria for speakers. How do you sort through the hundreds of industry experts to choose from? How do you narrow down your search? Let’s take a look at a way a few ways to find speakers for your event.

Create a mock agenda

After you’ve determined a high-level theme for your conference. Develop a mock agenda with proposed topics that you want speakers to present on. This will help you further narrow down the long list of speakers you want to reach out to.

You’ll want to create a targeted pitch that discusses in detail what your goals and objectives are for each session. This will ensure that the speaker presents on a topic that resonates with conference-goers. 

Research, Research, Research

Now you’ve created your mock agenda, start researching speakers who would be a good fit for your event. First, make a “dream speakers” list.

The people on your dream list should be A-list celebrities like Gwynne Shotwell, Seth Godin or Gary Vaynerchuk. Set the bar high when adding speakers to your “dream” list. You’d be surprised they might be able to speak at your event.

Create a “second-tier” list. The people on this list really align with your themes and are considered industry experts. The speakers on this list are also considered a big deal in their own right. They are most likely authors, social media stars, and researchers. Speakers on this list are worth the ask and will definitely attract people to your conference.

Think outside the box, not all speakers will have published a book or been featured on the world’s millionaire list. Look for hidden gems, find influencers who have given local TED talks or have a podcast.

Tap into your existing network

Sourcing speakers for your conference may seem like a scary and intimidating task. But it’s something that you have to do to organize a stellar event. Start with your existing network. Scroll through your LinkedIn connections to see who you already have a relationship that may be an excellent candidate to speak.

Next, reach out to professional associations that are related to the industry tied to your event and see if they can recommend someone. Word of mouth marketing might be the best way to build your roster of speakers. Before your event, put out a call for speakers on your social channels and website.

This will help you find someone who is passionate about your industry and can bring a unique perspective to your conference line-up.

Diversify your line-up

As an event organizer, you’re constantly feeling the pressure to deliver a diverse line up of speakers. Diversity is more than race and gender; it also means finding people who can bring a diverse perspective to the conversation. This means bringing in people who took the road less travel to get to where they are today.

If your conference is a business conference, bring in start-ups, small businesses, and fortune 500 companies. Don’t just focus on the big brands when vetting speakers. Diversifying your speaker line by company size allows attendees to hear different points of views from people at all business life cycles.

Final thoughts

Remember a great speaker can make or break the success of your event. So, don’t wait last minute to reach out to speakers. Start the speaker outreach process nine to 12 months in advance. Set speaker goals and expectations at the forefront of the planning process.

Immediately after the event, survey participants to receive feedback on the content the speakers provided. This will help measure the success of your conference and determine who should be invited back next year.

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Victoria Rudi
Senior Content Specialist
With a Master’s degree in Event Management and a keen follower of SaaS technologies, Victoria is an event content master, producing insightful and valuable for Eventtia’s blog and beyond

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