How to Find and Secure Speakers for Your Online Conference

how-to-find-and-secure-presenters-for-your-online-conferenceLet’s say your association has an incredible concept for an online conference, and you are determined to make it happen. You are knowledgeable and familiar with everything related to this concept, but you know you still need to get other presenters involved. A variety of speakers or presenters keeps a conference fresh by showing different aspects of a subject coming from different types of industry leaders.

Where do you start?

Many online conference planners begin by identifying the content most important to the target audience. What is trending today? What does the future look like for your industry or field?

Once the hot topics are identified, it’s easier to target presenters who specialize in these topics. Following this process, planners typically create a media press kit. The media kit is a multipurpose marketing tool that can be used for sponsor recruitment, media relations, event promotions, and speaker/presenter recruitment.

Who do you call? Where do you look to find presenters?

Many associations with well-established conferences begin with a Request for Proposals (RFP) or Call for Presenters.  But for associations offering their first online event, drawing presenters can be a challenge. To help you build a speaker prospect list, we’ve put together a list of sources below.

Association Members, Network and Colleagues

Initially, start with your team’s own membership and outside network of friends and colleagues. Are any of them professionals in the key areas of interest? Turn to the association’s social media contact lists for a list of prospects. For example, LinkedIn is a great place to find industry experts. Search your LinkedIn contacts as well as the LinkedIn database, and ask your contacts if they know someone suitable. On LinkedIn, try participating in groups related to your field of interest, or you can review people’s profiles and some of their content while looking for the type of experience you think is necessary to be a good presenter. When you find someone, make an introduction, and if possible, schedule a phone meeting.

National Speakers Association

The National Speakers Association is a good place to find interesting speakers for your event. They offer a website for professional speakers, and it’s available for public search. Additionally, there are often local chapters of the National Speakers Association where you can find a local industry expert who may be more familiar with your association.

Speaker Match and Toastmasters

Speaker Match and Toastmasters are other similar membership websites where you can find thousands of potential speakers within a variety of categories. Some of these organizations even give certification training to their members.

National, State, and Local Chambers of Commerce

National, state, and local Chambers of Commerce connect conference planners to business owners of every type who possess a wealth of knowledge and who might be eager to share their insights and experiences while simultaneously expanding their own brand’s visibility.

Universities and Trade Schools

For online conferences focused on a specialization or field, sometimes you don’t need to look any further than your local university to find an expert in a particular field. Professors have much knowledge, many skills, and are often comfortable speaking at events. Many universities offer a professional speakers bureau that will assist with matching professors with event organizers.

Industry Network Groups and Professional Organizations

In some cities, professionals join a niche organization in their industry to network, build a list of contacts within the industry, and simply learn from others in their same field of interest. These can be a very good source for finding a presenter.

Comprehensive Online Search

The Internet will be your greatest source for prospecting. BuzzSumo is an online content site that curates top trending content and authors. Use sites like this to search for influencers in your industry or topic. Speakers or presenters can also often be found in online forums related to your topic. Search for speakers on Google and YouTube as well. YouTube is especially useful because you can see samples of a potential speaker’s work and decide beforehand how effective they might be. Similarly, Slideshare can connect you to previous presentations by searching event-related keywords. A website called FollowerWonk has a search engine of Twitter biographies, and Klout and BrandWatch are good sites for finding influential presenters. Finally, don’t forget about TED Talk’s list of speakers. It is a very popular source for conference planners.

What next?

Now that you have your list of potential speakers, how can you entice them to speak at your event? Many associations offer a stipend and in-kind benefits such as exposure to the audience, a complimentary conference registration, event promotions, and post-event promotions. However, top speakers cost money. If you need help paying for speakers, the most strategic way to cover the cost is to align with business sponsors. Include Speaker Sponsor as a level in your overall event sponsor opportunities.

Learn from Others

The easiest way to tackle the challenge of finding speakers for your online conference is to benchmark what other associations are doing. In January, 2017, iCohere hosted a “tell all” webinar with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). ASHA is a pioneer in implementing online conferences, and now hosts as many as six each year, grossing over $1 million in revenue annually.




You can learn ASHA’s secrets for success from a panel of ASHA event experts. In this webinar, the panelists shared their strategies for conference and content planning, recruiting speakers, event marketing, repurposing content, and recruiting sponsors. The team’s strategies and tactics can be scaled to support associations of all sizes.

Here’s a look at the ASHA panelists:
Chris Urena, Director, ASHA Professional Development
Jack Coursen, Associate Director, ASHA Professional Development
Leslie Katz, Director, Brand Marketing
Aiden Callery, Marketing Manager
Justin Goldstein, Sponsorship Manager

Want to see how ASHA generates more than $1M a year with online conferences?  Join the iCohere Academy for free and gain access to this ‘on-demand’ webinar and many others for free.  Join the academy here.


After registration:
Logon to the ‘iCohere Academy’.
Select ‘Courses & Webinars’.
Select ‘How ASHA Generates More Than $1M a Year with Online Conferences’.
Select “Click to View Archived Recording”.
*You may have to download ‘WebEx’ to view this. Don’t worry, it is fast and free.


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