How to find brilliant and engaging conference speakers

Organising an industry defining conference isn’t easy. It takes a perfect balance of thorough organisational skills and top-notch creativity. You have to find a venue, organise logistics, sell tickets, get sponsors and the list goes on. But above anything else, you have to have content. The stories told and the people who tell them, will be the last mark of success for your event.

The Brighton Dome is home to some pretty spectacular conferences such as Meaning Conference, TEDxBrighton, UX Brighton and Brighton Music Conference. All events which serve the communities with passion and a high-level of education. But what makes people come back to these events year after year is the speakers.

So many things go into making a great speaker; their story, personality, professionalism, comic timing and much more. However, where do you find these people? We know from working with some of the best conference organisers around, that a BIG part of the job is searching high and low for the best speakers. So, we spoke to a few of them and gathered their top tips for finding brilliant and engaging conference speakers…

1. Have a reliable place to capture your speaker ideas

Our best ideas come to us in the weirdest places. The train, the bath, in bed, in the middle of meetings and so on. The hardest thing is holding on to that idea and not forgetting it. All the best conference curators we know, have a little book, or an app or just a label in their inbox, to make sure whenever they meet, read or hear about someone who could be great for their event. That name quickly goes in the bank, ready to be researched and contacted later on.

2. Read newspapers and magazines

When was the last time you actually read a magazine from cover to cover and paid attention to all the writers, contributors and interviewees you saw? Anything from the coffee table books in the doctors, to the inflight magazines you get on your way back from holiday. These publications are filled with knowledgeable people, with not just interesting things to say, but with an active interest in sharing it with the world. So, if you read an interesting article or a surprisingly inspiring quote, find out who it was by and track them down!

3. Shop locally

The world is full of accomplished, inspiring and quirky people! Some of these people can often be found on our doorsteps. However, we sometimes don’t allow ourselves to see these people even when they are in front of our eyes or at least within a degree or two of separation. By talking to colleagues, friends and family, explain the themes and goals of your event and ask them for suggestions. But also, be open minded enough to hear a good story when it comes to you.

4. YouTube and Twitter are great hunting grounds

People who have strong ideas, stories and accomplishments to share are often keen to make their voices heard to the world. Though it can of course be difficult to comb through thousands of pieces of content to find them. But some platforms make it easier to find these people on than others. Google and Facebook can be too huge to really find the meaningful people easily and are also very advert-driven. LinkedIn can be great, especially for making initial contact, but you’ll need to do a lot of homework on people before you reach out. YouTube is a GREAT place to search for other speakers. Hunt through videos in your sector such as TEDx talks, interviews, webinars and video blogs. The best thing about using YouTube is that you can get a feel for how the person presents and their knowledge on a certain topic in one go. Twitter is also a reliable place to find people such as journalists, industry commentators, authors and so on, as they’re tweets/content are often well-shared and their profiles will have lots of sign-posts to richer content they’ve made and contact details.

5. Ask potential speakers what they want to pass on to the audience

Every great speaker has a message they want heard and/or a change they want to create in the world. So, make sure you ask (and quite directly!) any possible speaker what is their message they want to leave with the audience. You want them to be clear with you on what they are trying to achieve with their talk and how they want it to have a lasting effect on your audience. If you aren’t quite getting the answer you want from them, it might not mean they aren’t a good speaker. However, they might need a little coaching and encouragement from you, around exactly what it is they are going to talk about.

6. Ensure each speaker fills a gap in the story you want to tell

Last bit of advice, then you’d best get back to finding those great speakers! A super important thing to remember when organising a conference is that your day/s of content needs to tell a story. You are taking your audience on a journey of learning and improvement, so the flow of energy needs to be right and each speaker has a part to play in telling your overarching story. Your story should come from the theme of your event and the impact you want to have on your audience. From there, work out what the various chapters and messages are that you want to share throughout the event, then select and arrange your speakers based on how well they fit into each part of that story.

With the right story in mind and the right speakers to tell it, your event is destined to be a great success. If you would like to learn more about how our experienced and talented team of event organisers at Brighton Dome could help bring your conference to life, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.

Email events@brightondome.org or call 01273 261524