A great speaker lineup and a successful event often go hand in hand. That’s because speakers add so much value beyond the thought leadership they provide.

Combining the right mixture of authenticity, relevance, and reach, great speakers have the power to build trust with new prospects and persuade on-the-fence attendees to register.

As temporary brand ambassadors, they lend their credibility and integrity to your event, boosting your registration and helping you attract a bigger audience. With so much riding on your speaker lineup, of course, you want to get it right. Here’s how to select a good speaker for your next conference.

What makes a good speaker?

Since speakers are at the heart of business events and fundraisers, a solid lineup can make the difference between “wow” and “meh” for your attendees.

A good speaker will first and foremost be an expert in the industry or area your event is focused on. They will have a healthy presence on Slideshare and social media, including clips of previous speeches they have given. (You can use these highlight videos to determine how engaging and entertaining they are.) And, of course, they will have excellent public speaking skills, with good dramatic timing.

That being said, there are a few archetypes most speakers fall into. You can use these labels to better understand your speaker mix as you book them and balance your lineup later on.

  • The influencer speaker: Whether on Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms, this person will have a considerable following, be actively engaged with their fans, and bring their loyal audience to your event.
  • The celebrity speaker: This type of speaker is best for keynotes. Publicly recognized and well-known by people outside of your industry, these are probably the hardest to land for an event, since they cost more than others and are difficult to approach.
  • The niche expert speaker: If your event is catering to a very select group of people with a niche focus as your theme, then finding the experts who really know their stuff in that field is a must. These are probably the most difficult to track down.
  • The curveball speaker: Not every speaker has to be an obvious fit for your conference. Sometimes an unexpected pairing can create the most buzz. Thinking outside of the box (while always relating it back to your theme) can be a great way to go.

How to find a good speaker for your conference

Compiling a list of your ideal speakers can show you the kinds of qualities and thought leadership you’re looking to showcase at your event. Plus, it never hurts to aim high! If successful, booking big talent can really take your event to the next level.

But it’s not just the industry celebrities that are worth your and your attendees’ while. There’s a lot of great speakers out there you may not be familiar with. A great place to find inspiration is by looking for people who have spoken previously about your industry/topic at similar events.

To find good speakers:

  1. Do your research on Google, SlideShare, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can also use tools like FollowerWonk and SocialBro to search for specific topics, job titles, and how many followers someone has.
  2. Solidify your ask. Before you reach out to any speaker on your list, it’s crucial to distill the what, why, where, and who of your event. Keep it simple and to the point. And be sure to add to it as you book your remaining speakers (if somebody sees someone they know has already been booked for your event, that’s a pretty compelling reason for them to sign up, too).
  3. Reach out to your list. Remember, speakers are busy professionals. So if you don’t hear back after your first email, don’t despair. Simply try again. Polite persistence is the name of the game. And if you’re still not getting a response after the second or third email, only then is it time to change tack.

Ask your community to see who knows who.You’ll be surprised! And if all else fails, you can always reach out to a speaker’s bureau (although, warning, this will incur a fee).

Tips for balancing your speaker lineup

A lineup shouldn’t feel like it’s been thrown together at random — it should have a cohesiveness to it that tells a story. Ask yourself, why are all these speakers here and how do their talks relate to each other? And how do their talks relate to your theme?

Another thing to keep in mind is that the most interesting speaker lineups cover a variety of perspectives. Whether it’s gender, race, location, or opinion, it’s important to incorporate diversity into your lineup.