Blog posting date icon
min read

5 Steps to Flip the Script on Traditional Event Speakers

When researching and selecting speakers for your next event, there are steps that will aid in creating an efficient process and acquiring superior content. Help create an event your members will never forget!

Holiday Shaped Cookies on White and Grey Textiles

Speaking candidly – conferences, while informative, are customarily stigmatized as boring. Your association may expend a tremendous amount of energy, time, and money into marketing and publicizing, but without quality content at your event - all of that effort is for naught. Promoting your event or conference is a vital strategy to increase member attendance and engagement.

However, it’s not what’s going to keep your members coming back for the events that follow. Choosing the right speakers is the most effective way to entice your audience and guarantee immersion in the future of your association. When researching and selecting speakers, there are explicit steps that will aid in creating an efficient process and acquiring superior content.

These steps include:

1. Defining what you can offer

2. Crafting parameters and expectations

3. Reaching out to potential speakers

4. Customizing content

5. Ensuring that your event experience is unique and valuable

By following the guidelines illustrated in this post, and crafting a clear-cut methodology, you can be certain to achieve an event that’s worthwhile for the speakers as well as for your association’s members. Now, let’s dive into a deeper explanation of what these steps entail.

Defining what you can offer

Before you consider reaching out or even searching for potential speakers, it’s important to have a definitive understanding of what you can offer. Consider these questions when determining what your association can provide:

Q1: Can you afford to pay this person for their talk?

If you are able to pay speakers, construct a financial plan. Create a budget for how much you can spend on speakers as a whole. Subsequently, think about the number of speakers you’d like to invite, and determine how much you can afford to spend on each individual. Make sure you have clear-cut guidelines about what costs you can and can't cover. Are you paying solely for the speech or are you covering other expenses as well? Additional expenses can add up quickly. Be certain to clarify parameters for what will and will not be covered by your association so as to minimize any confusion.

Q2: If you can’t afford to pay for their speech, can you afford to cover the cost of a hotel and transportation?

If you are unable to pay for this person’s time speaking, covering travel expenses can be a cheaper way to aid their involvement in your event. Consider whether or not you would pay for a spouse/partner’s travel expenses as well. If you are unable to pay for travel expenses, looking for local speakers may be a more suitable route to take.

Q3: What else can you offer besides monetary incentives?

Whether or not your association is able to provide monetary incentives, it’s good to think about what else you can offer. Added incentives may further entice people to contribute to your conference. Alternate incentives can be as simple as creating of a video series leading up to, during, and after the event to market for the speaker and their ideas.

Crafting parameters and expectations

Once you have monetary guidelines established, it’s time to consider other aspects of the event. Craft a description of what the event venue will look like. How large is the stage? What number of attendees will be in the audience? Will a PowerPoint screen and/or podium be available? It’s important for the speakers to understand the setting of the event so they can best cater their presentation to the space granted. Next, consider designating a time limit.

A 5 minute presentation is very different from a 20 minute presentation; and a 20 minute presentation is incredibly different from an hour long presentation. Let the speakers know how much time they’re allotted in order to make the necessary advancements to their talk. Furthermore, elucidate upon the availability of notecards and/or a teleprompter versus complete memorization.

Subsequently, illustrate their reach. When I say reach, I’m referring to the number of people that will view their presentation and have the opportunity to be impacted by their words. Shed light on the number of attendees and manufacture a breakdown of their ages, professions, etc. Moreover, highlight the amount of online views previous event speakers have received to demonstrate the continued influence that their ideas will generate even long after the conference has ended.

Finally, draw up a complete package. Put all of this information - financials, incentives, venue, time limit, and reach - into a formatted document or ‘handbook.’ Explain what the preparation and day-of event will be like as well as any other information you feel would be necessary. Having a holistic view of the event information readily at hand will demonstrate your association’s organization skills and make it more likely for potential speakers to gauge their interest level.

Reaching out

In any case, having help is always a great option. Your association should start to reach out to various community members in order to create an event that everyone can find appealing.


If you have a constraint on spending, looking for local speakers is a great option. Investigate corresponding practices and companies in the area surrounding your association. Chances are, if they’re working in a field linked to your organization’s objective, they’ll be excited to get involved. You could also ask local sponsors to speak. However, this can be a bit tricky. Ensure that they have inspired, related content to speak on rather than just talking about their contribution to your association.


If you’re struggling to get into contact with potential speakers, asking current members may be the way to go. Asking people who are already members affords your association the ease of effortless contact. Additionally, if they’ve attended and enjoyed previous event experiences, they’ll presumptively be more willing to speak. If you don't want to ask members to speak, ask for their opinions instead. Send out a survey inquiring about voices your members would like to hear or people they’d like to network with.


Look to social media for inspiration. Who are your members talking about? What topics or people inspire them? Review sites like LinkedIn, the National Speakers Bureau, etc. to see people who have already demonstrated interest and experience with event speaking.

It also doesn’t hurt to go back to the basics and simply try a Google search. Cool websites to explore include TED, IdeaCity, PopTech, 99U, and Big Think. Some people have creative thoughts and vast amounts of knowledge, but difficulty communicating their ideas to others. Watching videos is a great way to determine how they well-versed they are when speaking their ideas.


If you can, try to get a “keynote speaker.” Having a renowned professional or household name speaking at your event can serve as a tremendous marketing tool to increase engagement. Additionally, networking is one of the most significant components to gaining new members so be sure to market the opportunity to network with such a reputable professional.

However, be certain that you don't compromise on quality just to get an acclaimed name. Incorporating lesser-known speakers with quality content will benefit members more than selecting an acclaimed speaker with less meaningful ideas.

Customizing content

Set a timeline for speakers to share drafts of their talk. While they are professionals, you want to ensure their content is relevant, valuable, and acceptable. They should be willing to work with you on suggestions or necessitated changes and be generally receptive to feedback. It’s also just as important to hone in on speaking abilities as it is to ensure amazing content. Make available a time before the event when speakers can have a run-through of their presentation and work with them on factors such as pacing and tone in the weeks prior.Finally, make it pop.

Allow speakers to use humor, incorporate the audience, introduce music or unusual photos, etc. in order to make their speech stand out. Yes, it should still be professional and informative, and yes, having an amalgamation of all the ideas listed may be overwhelming. However, by allowing speakers to select one or a few areas of their talk to express their creative side, you’ll also be creating a more engaging experience for your members.

Ensure an incredible experience

Ensuring an incredible experience takes a lot of work, and is made up of a multitude of components. Selecting the best speakers is a surefire way to craft a marvelous event, but there are a few other tips that can add to the excitement for both your speakers and your members.

Having a theme can make it much easier to market your event and allows for an intriguing stage and venue design. By ensuring your theme is broad, you won’t have to cater to certain speakers or topics, but will allow yourself a larger range of opportunity. Consider bringing a host on board. Having a consistent host to moderate the day’s schedule is a great way to introduce another person to network with, even if they’re not doing a talk.

Having a post-event meet and greet is a wonderful way to allow members and speakers to interact with one another. During this time, people will have the opportunity to ask questions, share experiences, and gain further insight into subjects they’re interested in.If you can afford it, granting each speaker a gift serves as a wonderful sendoff. Small items like a shirt, reusable bottle, stickers, etc. can make them feel appreciated, serve as a wonderful reminder for the event, and can even be used for marketing if your association’s logo is branded on the products.

By defining what you can offer, crafting parameters and expectations, reaching out, customizing speaker content, and ensuring an incredible event experience, your association can be efficient when selecting speakers and create a great lineup of presentations that your members will love. The interest generated through the inclusion of unique topics and creative talks will even encourage subsequent interest in the events to come. Choose to be different, and your members will follow.