As an author and speaker I am often asked to appear at events for free. Lots of times I say yes and lots of times I say no too. I’ve also run a few events of my own and had some pretty impressive people say yes to come and donate their time and expertise to my cause.
So why did they say yes and what makes me say yes to speaking for free?
Here are my top tips for getting people to speak for free at your next event.
Getting them to Speak
Build a relationship first
If someone calls you up totally out of the blue and says “Hi my name is so and so and we’ve never met but can I have all that super cool stuff you charge $$$$$ for, for free?” would you say yes?
Truth is people do business with people they know, like and trust. Take the time to get to know the person you want to work with. Find a connection and send a personal email or have someone introduce you. Then ask for a meeting, either face to face or on skype. BUT DO NOT ask them to speak on the first meeting. Just don’t. It’s not cool. This is a first date so let’s play it cool and not give away the milk for free ok?
What’s in it for them?
There are more currencies than money. If you can’t offer a speaker money, then you have to offer them value instead. So how do you find out what they value? Ask them. And really listen. What is it that they are trying to get done? And how can you make that happen for them? Even if they are super influential, you might be surprised at what you can do for them. But you will never know if you don’t ask.
Allow them to sell
If you’re not going to pay them, then allow them to make some money somewhere. If they have programs or books, let them sell them or give a special offer at your event. Allow them to pitch to your audience and give them a gift to help them capture some warm leads. It’s powerful for your speaker to pitch to a room full of warm leads. I have run events where 100% of the attendees have taken up the special offer from the speaker and even gone on to become full fledged clients. It was win win for everyone involved.
Making it the best event ever for you speakers
Now that you have secured your speaker, how do you make it the best possible experience for them so that they will come back again and again.
Before the Event
Promote the s**t out of them
Social media, podcast, blog posts, memes, do it all for your speakers. Third party endorsements and internet fodder (which google loves), are all very valuable to building a profile.
Keep them in the loop
If a speaker has agreed to speak at your event, they have an interest in it doing well. It’s nice to keep in contact with them a little to let them know how your plans are coming along, how many tickets you have sold, what the catering options will be, those sort of things. Once every 1-2 weeks is enough though, you don’t want to seem needy or make them sick of you before the event.
Give them a special offer
Most speakers are happy to do a shout out via their own social media or email list for you because they want your event to be a success too. To sweeten the deal a bit, you can offer the speaker's audience a discount code to your event and/or a special free gift from your product lines. Pro tip: give each speaker their own unique code so that you can track where each referral comes from. It then makes it easier for you to see who’s audience you resonate with the most when considering future ventures.
At the Event
Hand over your power
It’s your event and you got all the people in the room, but once your speaker takes the stage, it’s their gig. Give them an awesome introduction and step back. That means no butting in, no asking questions, no trying to guide or control their material to go where you want it to, their time is not about you. You chose them for a reason, so shut your mouth and let them be their awesome self.
Make them comfortable
Feed them, give them tea, a private space to hang out, go above and beyond to make them feel like royalty. You don’t have to spend lots of money on this, just take the time to take care of them.
Give them a gift
Again, it doesn’t have to be lavish, maybe a copy of your book, some gifts from partners, just don’t make it a branded coffee mug or any other such cheesy corporate gift. If you have gift bags at your event, make sure your speakers get one and then a little something else on top of it to show your gratitude.
Have an after party
Speakers are often busy mingling with your event guests or selling their wares during the event. So much so that they miss the opportunity to connect with any other amazing speakers that you have secured. Don’t make them choose between networking or selling. An exclusive speakers party after the event is also a great way to say thank you and the networking available to them also a great selling point to help secure speakers too.
After the event
Now that the door is open, this could be the start of a beautiful mutually beneficial partnership.
Do not stop saying thank you
I love being thanked. An email, a phone call and text message, it’s all good. I’d say 3 times is enough, otherwise you start to look desperate.
First a call to say thank you. Make it personal with “I really liked it when you said x,y and z”.
Second, an email with photos of them from the event. Anyone who speaks is always looking for photos to use in their speakers kit or website to help them secure more work, so if you have shots of them, pass them on.
Third, a casual message on facebook or text relaying a positive comment from an attendee. I love hearing that people got something from my presentation.
Offer to help them
Here is where it get’s good. Offer to send out an email blast or a facebook plug for their next event or even better, offer to repay their kindness and speak at their next event.
No man is an island and partnerships is where it is at if you want to create a long standing and profitable business in this new global age.
If you can get asking for help and collaboration right, you can secure some pretty amazing speakers at your event that can spark the beginning of some beautiful mutually beneficial partnerships.