3 Steps to Getting Big-Name Influencers to Speak at Your Event

10/23/2016 09:10 pm ET Updated Oct 24, 2017

When you're hosting an event, it's critical to feature big-name speakers who are considered thought leaders and authorities in your industry. Their loyal following will raise the prestige of your event, as well as help with practical aspects of your marketing, such as precisely targeted Facebook ad campaigns.

The big question, then, is as follows: how do you attract high-level influencers to speak at your event -- particularly if you're not connected to them already?

I asked Cole Hatter, creator of Thrive: Make Money Matter to share his insights on the topic, as he's been able to get speakers such as Shark Tank star Robert Herjavec, New York Times bestselling authors Gary Vaynerchuk and Lewis Howes, as well as many other influencers to the very first event in his annual conference series.

Currently in its second year, the conference has an impressive speaker lineup again: New York Times bestselling authors and superstar entrepreneurs Jack Canfield, John Assaraf, JJ Virgin, Than Merrill, Grant Cardone, James Altucher, Luis Ortiz and more. The list goes on and on.

"It's important to have at least one or two really big names," Hatter says, "because that will help getting other successful entrepreneurs to consider speaking at your event."

Here are three key strategies that helped him secure these influential speakers for Thrive:

1. Connect through mutual friends

Create a list of your dream speakers and find out who your mutual friends are. To do this, compile a spreadsheet with your A-listers in the first column. Then, using social media and a little investigation amongst your friends and colleagues, start listing who your mutual friends are in the next column.

If you don't have any direct connections, don't be afraid to go two or three layers deep. In this day and age, the traditional "six degrees of separation" is usually more in the ballpark of one or two, so it's likely that you'll be able to find a way to get an introduction.

2. Focus on book authors

When you're organizing an event with professional speakers, you'll find that some of your dream speakers are authors as well, who are looking to promote their book. Consider offering a giveaway or a book signing opportunity at the event. At Thrive, for example, Jack Canfield will be doing a book signing.

Organizing this is a great incentive for your audience as well, because meeting a famous author one-on-one is a unique and precious opportunity for fans. They'll get a chance to connect with their favorite authors and engage in a meaningful conversation.

If you have the budget, purchase copies of the book and gift them to your attendees. All this contributes to the overall experience your attendees receive -- it's a win-win all around.

3. Support a charity

It's important that your event has a meaningful message or cause that you can rally supporters around. While the conference itself might be about a business-related topic, if you can donate all or at least part of your proceeds to a charity, it'll help bring contribution-minded speakers on board.

"It's important that you choose a legitimate nonprofit that you believe in and that you can truly support," says Hatter, who chose to support Pencils of Promise, a nonprofit dedicated to building schools in Guatemala, Ghana, Laos, and Nicaragua.

"My mission in life is to make an impact and to build a legacy that looks beyond just profits," Hatter adds. "I want to make a difference, and I know our attendees have similar goals as well. Supporting Pencils of Promise is a great fit for our community."

Ultimately, getting big-name speakers to your event is very doable -- as long as you approach the matter strategically and thoughtfully. Think about creating win-win scenarios that will help further your influencers' goals, advance your own mission, and most of all, serve your audience.

If you lead with a spirit of giving and generosity, reaching out to A-players to speak at your event becomes a fluid and enjoyable process. In the end, it'll help you raise the prestige of your event, as well as improve the experience your audience receives.