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How do event pros make the most of their speakers? While speakers are key players in any successful conference, meetup or exhibition, they can start contributing long before they take the stage. Here are 10 ways to increase the impact of your speakers, sell more tickets, and get attendees excited about your event.
We expect our speakers to live, breathe, and share passion for the topics they love. Each day, they must be able to connect with, engage, and inspire our audiences - and they (literally) have the final say on our event content. While on stage, a delicate balancing act plays out, with entertainment, education, and selling all requiring attention – and a great speaker will find time for each. We do everything we can to make our events a success, but when it comes down to their bit, the happiness of our attendees is completely in the speaker's hands.
Yet that's not all. Speakers should take on another key responsibility, one that often gets missed – evangelism and marketing of our events. As event organisers, we often solely take on the responsibility for marketing, and take the blame when there are not enough bums on seats. But your speakers should be marketing your events as much as you do, and if they’re not, they're abdicating their responsibilities.
But getting speakers to be as invested in marketing your event as you are can prove to be a challenge. Often, they are disconnected from the day-to-day marketing of the event, despite having a huge interest in its success. And yet, speakers have a unique, rare kind of power to help spread messages and reach the right people. They also play a crucial role in setting the overall tone – their values, personal brand, associations, and eccentricities can impact how everybody sees the event.
So, how can we turn speakers into marketing machines and boost ticket sales? These tactics range from minor tweaks in communication methods, to major marketing campaign moves. Read on to learn how to turn even the least tech-savvy speakers into online marketing machines and ultimate ticket generators.
Be Straight With Them From Day One
Warn them from the beginning that taking on the job means being the event’s chief evangelists. Set out your expectations from the get-go rather than asking for an occasional favor once planning is under way.
This includes deciding where you’ll need their help. Is it awareness (selling tickets), exciting those who have already bought tickets, or customer retention (post event)? Or, will their role change over time? Constantly tweeting about speaking at event is really about raising awareness – but if it's already fully booked, the hype may just annoy. However, if it’s fully booked, following attendees on twitter – and tweeting to find out what audiences want to hear – can build a strong brand identity as well as improve the impact of an event.
Introduce them to your marketing team from the start too. Explain to the team that your speaker is actively engaged with the entire process, and make sure the speaker knows who to talk to about issues they may have along the way.
Help Them Be Proactive
Leading up to the event, encourage your speakers to be doing everything they can to promote your event. Explain that you want them to be sharing and talking about the event. Blogging on behalf of the event, tweeting about the event and/or following and engaging with attendees, or writing an article about a related subject are just a fraction of the ways that your speaker can actively involve themselves.
Have a firm grasp on what they need to achieve in terms of marketing for the event, and give them some time with the team to learn what they need to do to be as effective and creative as possible.
To your audience, it will look far better if this content is coming directly from the expert, rather than the event organiser. Nobody will have the credibility or reach of your speaker – help them, and they will, in turn, help you.
Keep Up To Date With What’s Going On
Research, research, research. Set up Google alerts on the subject/related subjects for new stories or blog posts. Pitch your speaker to comment on anything that arises, then act as the middle-man between your speaker and the publication, which means you control the story and ensure the event is included.
Create A Page Dedicated To The Speaker
Give people something to reference on your event’s website. Not just a snippet, but a full bio and all the information anybody could possibly need about the talk. Like a Wikipedia page on a subject, this must be the go-to page for your speaker and the talk. There should be no reason journalists and bloggers wouldn’t link to this or mention it when writing about the speaker.
Don't Let Them Do Nothing
They’ve got to get good at something, even if it is one thing – whether it is blogging, tweeting, sharing on LinkedIn, being interviewed on a related podcasts, graphic creation, contributing to the press, webinars, or data sharing. Even if it's just mentioning your event at other talks.
If this is new to them, do the research, work out the best possible channel, and put a simple ‘how to’ guide together for them. Then, give them feedback for the first few times.
Get Them To Reach Out To Other Influencers
Some perspective and case studies from others could be a massive benefit, not only for the talk itself, but to make a wider audience aware of the event. Once collaboration has begun, get your speaker to call people out publicly to thank them in full view of the upcoming audience. This will not only get them excited about the event’s content, but is a sure-fire way to spread the word and get people talking. For example a tweet idea:
“I’m going to be sharing at #EventMBLive why @michaelchidzey of @chillisauce built the biggest bra on the planet for @vanish”
Of course we are going to share this, and it’ll get attendees excited about the event.
Analyse Online Presence
Do some digging and find online bios that already exist for your speaker (ones that rank), and ask for them to be updated to include the speaker’s talk. This should also include updating bios on the speaker’s social media accounts and in any press release templates, featuring the speaker, that will be going out before the event. This will help spread the word and strengthen your event’s website across search engines.
Use Your Speaker’s Contacts To Amplify The Event
Your speaker will have built up a number of contacts – whether it’s in their own field, through previous work or even people they know on a personal level. This is another group of people your speakers should be reaching out to, and that could prove to be most effective in promoting your event.
Whether it is good friends or favors that can be cashed in, an email or call is all it takes to get the job done. Keep the message short and sweet. For example:
You will probably feel like a spare part during this task, as it will have to be your speaker personally reaching out to their contacts, but it is important that this gets done. Simply book an hour with your speaker, take your laptop and a phone, and power through.
Do Some ‘Follower’ Detective Work
Your speaker will no doubt already use one or more different social networks, and the people that follow him/her on these networks are another great way to promote your event.
By using tools like Followerwonk you will be able to find out who is following your speaker, and even filter the list to show you followers near to where the event will be. Chances are anyone who is following the speaker is likely to know them, so get your speaker to reach out – especially to ones who live locally to the event.
Alternatively, you can retweet the speaker's message and then advertise it to specific accounts and their followers through Twitter. For example we recently spoke at The PA Show – so we advertised the talk to UK followers of PA Life Magazine, PA Executive Magazine, The PA Club etc. We had a full room at the talk, which even included people standing.
Show Some Personality
Ultimately, you just want your speaker to be themselves online, portraying their message as naturally and authentically as possible.
You may need to assist with identifying opportunities and the overall strategy, but it must be the speaker’s tone and values that are followed. The speaker will be one of the reasons why people turn up in the first place and so their true voice and identity should be shown right from the beginning and throughout to avoid audience disappointment. It is therefore vital that they should be coming up with content that they themselves would naturally say offline – there should be nothing fake about this.
It makes sense to involve speakers in your event marketing. Not only will their knowledge help the online marketing stage massively, but also their connections and online presence will prove to be crucial for promotion too. And great speakers actually have similar attributes to successful marketers: they connect and engage, entertain, educate, evangelise, and spread passion. If they aren’t involved in marketing it is a missed opportunity. The trick is to treat your speakers as integral team members from the day they sign on until after your event. Provide them with the help, tools and information they need, and they’ll be a great investment.
However, not all speakers will have been involved in marketing an event before, and may be very reluctant get on-board. If you can’t convince your speaker to adopt any of these recommendations, you could see if these tasks can be delegated to somebody who works closely with them, ask if you can do it for them and get their sign off (but obviously this will involve far more of your time and be less authentic), or alternatively accept that your speaker is not your competitive advantage and either invest in other tactics to sell tickets or decide that they are not the speaker for you.