In this guest post my friend Dave Schneider is going to share in-depth how to find speakers for your virtual summit… even if you have no network.
Dave reached out and wanted me to take a look at his software NinjaOutreach, and I was very impressed after testing it for a bit. I've also stumbled across a few of Dave's epic guest posts on Boost Blog Traffic and other high profile websites, and I asked him if he could write something extremely valuable I could publish on my blog as well related to virtual summits. I couldn't be more excited to have Dave write this awesome guest post on my site.
You’ll enjoy this — take it away, Dave!
Navid has made the case time and time again as to why you should host a virtual summit.
Undoubtedly, when Navid hosted The Branding Summit in 2014, it was the most pivotal business event in his career to date, completely transforming his life and allowing him to quit his job and move abroad.
Chances are, if you’ve been following his blog, you’re onboard with the concept – so now it’s time to focus on the execution.
And where, traditionally, is one of the hurdles with running a virtual summit?
And not just any speakers… but the “right” speakers for your summit!
For the most part, everything else involved in running a virtual summit (coming up with a profitable virtual summit theme, positioning, a unique hook, your summit name, designing a landing page, and promoting it etc.), depends entirely on you and your ability to hustle. You know if you work hard, you can get it done.
But what about speakers – how do I find them and convince them to get onboard?
That is the subject of this ultimate guide on how to find speakers for your virtual summit (even if you have no network).
What Makes A Good Speaker For A Virtual Summit?
Before we get into the tactical aspect of finding speakers, we want to first identify what it means to be a great speaker.
I realize the go-to thought process here is “people with a large audience”, and that’s fine that that’s “a” criteria, but it certainly shouldn’t be the only criteria.
The fact is speaking is an art, and some people have mastered it and others flounder.
I remember my college days at Harvard. All of the professors were extremely gifted researchers and in many cases world renowned.
But that didn’t prevent some of them from being awful lecturers.
Teaching, like speaking, is an art, and it takes practice and sometimes, honestly, just the right personality.
As someone who has spoken about 20 times in front of a live audience, sometimes in the hundreds, I can say from first hand experience that the speeches I give now are far superior to those I gave 10 years ago.
So what’s an example of a great speaker?
Recently I attended Inbound, Hubspot’s annual marketing conference held in Boston for 14,000 people. At that conference I had the pleasure of watching behavioral psychologist Dan Pink give a speech.
Dan is an excellent speaker.
Here’s a video of him performing a Ted Talk. It has over 14 million views.
What makes Dan a great speaker?
- He’s funny
- He’s vulnerable
- He tells a story
- He engages the crowd
While this article isn’t about how to be a great public speaker, you should have some awareness of what makes a great public speaker – because you want your conference to rock, and that means focusing on quality, and not vanity metrics like having a large audience or impressive credentials.
Therefore, we’re going to tailor our speaker lead generation to target people who we not only believe are seasoned speakers, but ideally people who we can listen to ahead of time to be sure.
Then we’ll add in additional criteria such as have a large following.
How Can I Find Speakers For My Virtual Summit?
Alright – time to get our hands dirty. We’re looking for speakers, and great ones at that.
So we’re going to focus on people who have a history of public speaking, and ideally those who we can verify upfront by actually listening to them talk.
People Who Run Podcasts
People who run podcasts are great candidates for speakers. These people show up every week and have to be engaging, via audio only, to their audience.
What’s also great about podcasters is:
- It’s easy to find them
- It’s easy to tell if they have a large audience
- It’s easy to listen to some of their recordings to know they’ll be a good fit
- It’s easy for them to be a virtual speaker, since they already have all of the equipment in place.
See – easy.
So how do we find podcasters?
Method 1: Google
The easiest method is Google. This is because podcasters have made it very easy for us, since podcast pages usually contain the same keyword – podcast.
Leverage Google Advanced Search Operators to find titles and URLs that have podcast in it for your topic.
As you can see, there will be no shortage of results (in this case I am running a branding summit like Navid)
You may find a few red herrings of articles that are about running a podcast, but are not actually podcasts – but those are relatively easy to filter through.
Now, here is how you can export the results from the SERPs:
Click on settings in the bottom right of the Google homepage and click Search Settings:
Change Google instant predictions to “Never show Instant results, and move the “Results per page” to 100.
Now, when you run a Google search, you’ll show 100 results per page.
Next, download this free tool from Moz to extract search results.
It works for Chrome or Firefox.
Run a search for what you’re looking for:
With the Moz toolbar, you can export these results to a CSV in Firefox or Chrome.
You can open that up (in this case in Google docs), and it’s going to have a ton of columns:
Through this method you can easily capture hundreds of podcasts in your niche.
BTW, it also works for other things like guest posts, product reviews, etc.
Method 2: iTunes
There’s another method that involves leveraging iTunes as a search engine.
First, download iTunes – https://www.apple.com/itunes/download/
Open it up, in the top right you will see a search. Type in your keyword, for example, “Startup”. It will show you results like this:
In the top right, you will see “See All”. It will expand the number of podcasts visible, like this:
Click on each image and collect the person’s name and website. It will look like this:
Get those two things and put them in a spreadsheet.
Some additional fields you may want to put into the spreadsheet include:
1. The number of episodes they’ve run
2. The number of reviews they’ve received
3. The overall rating of the podcast
Those additional three things, which you can get from the same page as above, will help you determine the size and quality of the podcast.
People Who Appear On Podcasts
The next group of people we’re going to be targeting is people who appear on podcasts.
These people are excellent choices to be a speaker for a variety of reasons. Firstly, we can assume that the podcast host has done some degree of due diligence to determine that the guest is important. In the same way that you’re looking for quality speakers with a large audience who have done interesting things, so are they for their podcast guests.
Additionally, they’re easy to find and you can listen to how they speak and engage the host.
Once you have the podcast links from above, you can easily find guests by looking at the episode history. If you see the mention of many other names, it implies that the podcast is inviting guests.
For example, here is Entrepreneur On Fire.
Now that I know this podcast has guests, I can go over to the podcast website and see the actual show notes:
Which will often contain links to their website, Twitter, and sometimes contact information.
I can add this to the spreadsheet in a separate tab for Podcast Guests, with fields such as:
- Twitter Handle
- Contact Information
- Podcast they appeared on
The final one will be useful for the outreach, because it will help us personalize the script.
People Who Identify Themselves As Speakers
The obvious people we haven’t mentioned yet is people who actually claim to be speakers.
For this, I prefer to leverage Twitter. Often, if someone is a speaker, they will mention it in their Twitter bio.
So how do we find all of the Twitter bios in my niche that have the word “speaker” in it?
I’ll show you two tools that can help.
Note – you can also use this method to find podcasters and authors too!
Full disclosure, this is my software.
NinjaOutreach is a blogger outreach software, but it has a neat Twitter search functionality that allows you to search Twitter bios.
For example, if I’m looking for people who have the word “Branding” and “Speaker” in their bio, I can do that.
What’s neat about this is that:
- It will sort by follower count, so we see the people with the largest audience on top.
- In many cases it will have contact information.
- The tool functions as a CRM and outreach tool.
Here’s what it looks like after I save them to a list.
Without getting into the full on details of NinjaOutreach, you can definitely use this tool to help manage the entire process of this article, from prospecting, to finding contact information, to outreach. Check out our ultimate guide for more details.
FollowerWonk is a Twitter database that functions similarly to the above. You put in keywords, and it shows you the Twitter Bios that match.
Just to highlight a few differences with NinjaOutreach:
- FollowerWonk allows you the search for free (NinjaOutreach does not), but if you want to export results, you have to be on a paid plan, and it starts at $99/month so not the cheapest tool out there.
- They have a large Twitter database, probably 5x what NinjaOutreach has.
- It does not have contact information, only fields that are available in Twitter, so you’ll have to get that yourself.
Using either of these tools is a fantastic way to identify seasoned speakers in bulk.
People Who Have Spoken At Conferences Before
Alright, let’s say you want to find people who have spoken at conferences before, but you don’t want to use any tools – is there a way?
There’s always a way, it just might not be as easy.
The simplest way is to identify conferences in your niche and see who has spoken at them before.
For example, if I’m looking for speakers in the Branding niche, if I didn’t already know of some conferences I would run a search:
Often conferences on their website will list keynote speakers. It’s not something they’re generally trying to hide, as it’s part of their marketing strategy.
Additionally, some conferences actually show videos from previous years, so you can use that to not only find speakers, but also to watch them.
For example, here’s Microconf 2014, a conference for bootstrapped softwarepreneurs.
These people will be big names, so it won’t be hard to do some online research and identify their website, Twitter Bio, contact information, and add it to the spreadsheet, as well as the conference that they spoke at for personalization.
How To Group Speakers Into A, B, and C Listers For My Virtual Summit?
Alright, so we have a massive list of potential speakers, who we have reason to believe will be an excellent fit for our virtual summit.
So who do we reach out to?
Navid tells us we should have several tiers of speakers. A, B and C Listers.
A Listers are people who have a huge audience and are the top thought leaders in your space.
B Listers are people who have a good sized audience, are seen as an authority and on their way to be a top thought leader in a few more years.
C Listers are people who have a great message and content, have a smaller audience, but will hustle to help you get the word out.
So here’s the process we go through:
1. Go through your list and label everyone who you right away know is an A Lister. These are the people who you don’t need to run any checks on because they’re big enough names you can be confident they’re great speakers and have a large audience. Chances are you’ve probably listened to or seen them before.
2. For the remaining people, try to go through and listen to them speak to determine if you find them interesting, entertaining, and engaging. Anyone who does not meet this criteria – remove.
3. Now you have a list that is filled with talented speakers and some already known A – Listers, and you want to go through and assign A, B, and C to the remaining ones based on their audience size. As far as predictive metrics to leverage for audience size, I recommend Twitter Following as a starting point (but not always accurate if they aren’t very active on Twitter for example). This is the easiest to get ahold of and evaluate. Like all things it depends, but I might say:
a. A-lister – >15k+ followers
b. B-lister – 5k-15k followers
c. C-lister – 2k-5k followers
Depending on the niche and how large or small it is this could vary. A way to normalize it would simply be to get the Twitter following for everyone in your list, and say everyone in the top 10% is an A lister, 10-50% are B listers, and the bottom 50% are the C listers.
I would also look at how engaged their following is where they hang out the most, and once you start inviting speakers on board, then you can ask them how big their email list is, which is what really matters at the end of the day. If you already know they’re an A-lister with a massive following, don’t bother to ask about this, but if they’re a C-lister or B-lister, it can make sense to ask just to make sure, so you can estimate your numbers a bit, and how many opt-ins you can potentially get from each speaker if they promote your summit to their audience.
A-lister – >15k+ email subscribers
B-lister – 5k-15k email subscribers
C-lister – 2k-5k email subscribers
This also depends on your industry of course, but it’s good to keep this in mind. The most important thing I tend to look at as I mentioned is how engaged and passionate their following is, that’s the key metric that matters at the end of the day.
How Can I Pitch Speakers For My Virtual Summit
We’re onto the final step – pitching.
The thing about pitching is you never really know what response rate to expect – it depends.
Additionally, you probably have a limited number of spots available for speakers assuming the event is not going to run on forever.
As a result, you want to pitch to your list in stages, starting with the A listers (or some portion of them).
Then, evaluate the response rate and the number of “Yeses”, and move onto the B listers.
For the actual pitch process I’m going to borrow from this case study on how to create an epic virtual summit in which Aj Amyx and his business partner, Andy Zitzmann, created the Movement Marketing Summit.
It goes like this:
Break The Ice Over Twitter
Try to engage them in conversation through Twitter. This can be done by sending them a Tweet or better yet responding to something interesting they said. If you can get a conversation started all of the sudden your cold outreach becomes a lot warmer.
If someone doesn’t respond via Twitter it doesn’t mean you can’t send them an email, but realistically it just makes them that less likely to respond in general.
Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling via Twitter, just ask. Make sure your pitch has the following in it:
- Reference the conversation – Assuming you’ve engaged them on Twitter, reference it, so they know where you’re coming from. Send the email the same day as the Twitter conversation so it’s fresh, and include that in the subject.
- Explain why it’s a win for them – Remember what speakers are after: exposure. This means they’re going to want to know how many people you expect to attend, where you’ll be promoting the conference, and how you’ll be promoting them.
- Explain the logistics – Let them know when and how they’ll be presenting, so they can confirm it’s something they’re comfortable with.
Here’s a pitch example of how AJ did it after engaging Peter Voogd via Twitter. Note that this pitch is entirely customized to their summit, and that he checks the boxes on all of the above.
BTW, this is Peter’s reply:
One thing I would have liked to see in this conversation (maybe it was in subsequent talks/emails), was an ask for a referral.
Surely Peter has important friends in the niche and might be willing to pass this information along to them. A warm introduction goes a long way to getting someone to say Yes.
Finally, once you have your first A lister onboard, be sure to leverage that social proof in additional outreach emails. This is also part of the reason why we stagger the outreach, so that in future emails you can reference important people who have said yes, which will increase the likelihood that other people will join.
Conclusion And Next Steps
If you’ve made it to the end of this article you have everything you need to find and outreach to speakers for your virtual summit in practically any niche.
I would say in about one day you could come up with a quality list of several hundred potential speakers for your virtual summit. If you don’t have that kind of time to devote to finding speakers (maybe you shouldn’t be running a virtual summit), but you can also outsource this very easily to a virtual assistant.
Did I miss any ways to find star speakers for your virtual summit?
Let me know in the comment section below!
About The Author
In 2012 Dave quit his corporate job to travel the world with his girlfriend. Together, they visited over 40 countries across Asia, Europe, and Australia, and have been earning a living entirely online. Currently, Dave is the cofounder of NinjaOutreach, an innovative new Blogger Outreach software for marketers. You can also find him on Twitter @ninjaoutreach and at SelfMadeBusinessman.