Inviting speakers to give a talk at your event takes more work (and finesse) than you might think. You should know how to craft a great invitation, and the information your prospective speakers need to know.
What makes a good event invitation?
Most speakers or performers prefer to be invited using a formal letter or email, outlining the reasons why you’re inviting them to your event.
Speaker Invitation Tips
If you’re unsure or on the fence about a potential speaker, instead of sending a formal speaker invitation, reach out more informally, saying you think their work is great and you’d love to explore the idea of having them talk. Get on a call or meet with them, and work from there.
Basic components of a speaker invitation
- The name, date, and venue of the event
- The theme or focus of the event
- Why you think they would be a great speaker for your event
- Why it would benefit them
- How they can contact you
Below is a simple invitation template to help guide you. Unless you suspect your speaker or performer may not have internet access, email is generally the best way to send an invitation.
[Your event logo placed as the header, if you have it]
Dear [hopeful speaker],
I hope this message finds you well. I’m honored to invite you to speak at [eventname], an event happening in [month and year]. I am a huge fan of [your work] – and the way you [are so impressive at that thing you do] – and would be so excited if you would join us.
[eventname] is a full-day event being curated by [curators’ names with titles/affiliations], with [#] people attending at [Place]. Our goal is to bring together bright minds to give talks that are idea-focused, and on a range of subjects, to foster learning, inspiration and wonder – and provoke conversations that matter.
Your talk would be filmed and an edit hosted on our YouTube channel. Just as with all speakers, we would work together ahead of time to craft the talk. Your talk could be up to [#] minutes, on any themes or topics you’re interested in — [a few suggestions].
[eventname] is tentatively scheduled for [date]. We believe your voice would be a critical addition to the [eventname] stage. Please let us know by [date] whether or not you’d be interested in speaking. Thank you for reading, and we very much look forward to hearing from you.
Create an invitation schedule
You’ll want to create a schedule for inviting your speakers/performers.
Send your invitations in phases, not all at once.
Sending out your invites in a 4-step process:
- Send out a “first batch.” This first round of invites should go to your top choices of speakers – not any speakers you’re on the fence about.
- Wait for replies. Give yourself a designated amount of time for replies. If you need to follow-up with anyone, send them a gentle nudge that you’d love to hear from them.
- Assess next steps. Once you’ve received responses from your first batch of potential speakers, look at your list and replace speakers who have declined with second choices to invite.
- Send another batch and repeat!
When a speaker says no…
If a speaker/performer says they are not available or are not interested in speaking at your event, don’t fret. Be graceful and thank them for considering the opportunity. If it feels right, you could also ask them if they have any recommendations for other speakers.
Your speaker has accepted! Now what?
Once a speaker accepts your invitation, you’ll want to get on the phone, Skype, or meet in person to give them more information about the event, and discuss the idea for their talk.
The goal of your conversation is to communicate the following:
Let speakers know what your expectations are
You’ll want speakers to be sure they know what your expectations are of them, which are:
- The need for speakers to write an outline and/or script and slides
- The need for speakers to be contactable before the event, and have occasional check-ins with you
- Speakers will rehearse their talk for weeks or months in advance, and will attend at least one rehearsal with you, including dress rehearsal
Talk about what your speaker’s “idea” might be
Finding your speaker’s idea is one of the most important steps you’ll take. Think of yourself as a journalist who needs to find a good angle for a story.
Line up some questions to help a speaker find their idea. Here are some that could help draw it out:
- What’s a controversy in your field that a general audience would understand?
- What’s a common misconception you’d love to clear up?
- Why is this idea important, and to whom?
- Who would disagree with you, and why?
- How did you carry out this idea in your own work?
- What’s the big idea behind your new project? How did you sell that idea to funders and collaborators?
You may not find the idea in your first conversation with your speakers. If not, at least get your speakers to start thinking about a very specific argument or idea that will both intrigue a general audience and satisfy other field experts.
If after your talk, both you and your potential speaker are ready to move forward with crafting a great talk, add this new speaker to your official roster of speakers!