So when is the best time to reach out to an event to get booked? Well, to my surprise it was the opposite of what I originally thought. Most speakers when they are reaching out to events look for a couple of signals. These singles can range from: the new event is mentioned on the website, a call for proposals goes out, or right when an event has passed. Turns out, none of these is 100% correct. It turns out that event planners follow a booking process that if you are aware of, you will be able to contact them just at the right time before anyone else does dramatically increasing your chances of getting booked.
Understanding the Event Planner Booking Cycle
The planning process is the phase where event planners prepare for the event which can range from booking the venue, catered food, hotel rooms, event gift bags, and of course speakers. When speakers are hired, especially when they are the general session/keynote speaker, a board usually meets and decides who is the best fit for the job.
Event Planners have a rolling list of speakers
When speakers reach out, they have added to a speaker list that the organization keeps handy. During event planning time, they look over the list and see who they want at their event. If the event works with a bureau, they usually leave that job to the thrid party agency to source speakers. You should care about this because the closer you reach out to the time they start to book, the more likely you will be added to the top of that list. In a different sense, it will be easier for someone to recommend you because your impression will be top of mind.
Most events have multiple people involved with booking speakers
Typically when reaching out, you will talk to one person, and then that is passed to a board decision. Essentially, many organizations have committees where they watch speaker videos, look over content, and vote on their favorite speakers. This is important because there is a delay between when a board meets and when you initially talk to an event planner. Due to this issue, its best to reach out earlier so you can build a strong internal advocate in the organization. Sometimes, you can chat with an event planner several times before your proposal goes to the committee/board.
Planners sometimes shape an event around a speaker and other times shape the theme around the speakers
The goal of the event planner in terms of the attendee side is to select the right people for the event so that the attendees fulfill key learning objectives. Sometimes, this can be pure entertainment, and other times, it can be creating discussions around key topics in the industry. What this means is even if an event has selected a theme, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a speaker locked down yet. On the other hand, some events pick speakers before the theme. Hence, trying to time reaching out based on the event’s theme selection doesn’t always work.
Usually, event planners handle more than one event per year
If an event planner has several events that they handle, why would you wait to reach out? You could fit at any one of their events! In addition, the same process works for each one of their events. But what if you can’t find more than one event on the website? Organizations often do internal workshops and webinars for their members which they don’t show publicly and if you wait to reach out, that eliminates your chances at speaking at those private events.
Call for Proposals Are Great for Breakout Sessions But Not Keynotes
If you just want to speak at a conference and you don’t care about whether you are a general session(keynote) or breakout then I suggest applying when the call for speakers (COS) goes out. Note, that not all events use a COS so sometimes you just need to reach out directly. On a separate note, larger audience speakers such as general session speakers are often selected before the breakout sessions. Hence, if you were waiting for the COS to come out as a keynote speaker, chances are you will be late more often than not.
A Website Is Usually Updated After the Speaking Process Has Started
That means if you wait for a site to be updated with a new event, you are probably too late. As we learned earlier, event planners keep a rolling list of speakers, and when their current event ends, they can contact speakers. However, there are exceptions to this when events are closely bunched up together, the event planner will need to book future speakers while handling their current event. In other words, if the organization only does one big event a year, reach out just before and find out when they are starting the planning process. That way you can be first in line for next year’s conference.
So when do you reach out?
As soon as you are aware of the event because:
- You don’t know if they plan 2 months in advance or 2 years so its better to ask and find out the perfect timing from the event planner.
- The event planner could be handling multiple events (sometimes they aren’t even online) and you could be a fit in one of those events.
- As a paid speaker waiting for the COS to come out dramatically increase the chances you speaking at a breakout session.
- Event planners usually know other event planners who can leverage your speaking skills. Better to build relationships now than wait to reach out.
Lastly, remember the world of speaking is about relationships. The more time an event planner knows you, trust grows and increases your booking chances. I and many other speakers that I know have stayed top of mind with some organizations for several years before they booked us. The key here is patience, and being proactive. Getting your message out there takes some strategy, but also lots of patience! Start now and don’t wait to get your message out there!