From Hollywood stars, to popular politicians, to top industry thought leaders: celebrity speakers can create a huge pull to your event, filling seats in quickly and helping build awareness about your organization.
But they are not the easiest speakers to book, and sometimes it can be difficult to know how to get them to come to your event.
Right off the bat: the mass majority of celebrity speakers will need to be heavily compensated, or your event will need to be very high-profile, before they agree to come and speak.
This being said, even if you are just starting out or have a low budget: it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
If the cause is something the speaker cares deeply about, and you are in the right place at the right time— you might just strike lucky!
There is an art to talking to celebrity speakers, and practice makes perfect.
It’s important to simply treat them like human beings. You are just contacting with them with a business proposition, no tricks or hacks are necessary.
When to start
“The industry standard used to be about a year, but now it can be as short as 2-3 months. Event Organizers will do even better for themselves if they try booking 6 months. This way you can book the best speakers and get the most out of them in terms of promotion and preparation.”
-Dr. Nick Morgan, Forbes
The more lead time you can give it the better, celebrity speakers stay booked and are booked well in advance. Do not leave contacting them to the last minute.
In fact, if you have a good idea of who it is you’d like to book, start trying to connect with them on social media as soon as possible— increasing your chance of making contact.
When you are creating your event schedule, and you haven’t booked the celebrity speaker yet, keep in mind that you will need to flexible.
Be sure that your schedule can move around to accommodate them.
If having a flexible schedule that can be moved around to accommodate their needs this is not possible, you may have to reconsider if they are right for your event.
Do your research
When you are looking for the right celebrity, there are a few things you should research before you start making connections and sending out invitations.
Find a celebrity that is passionate about your cause, or is likely to care about the purpose of your event.
Remember, celebrities are just people, and they have passions, interests, and causes they want to help with or be associated with.
Certain celebrities are passionate about certain issues.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Redford, and Angelina Jolie are strong advocates for environmental conservation,
Charlize Theron, and Emma Watson are passionate about gender equality and ending violence against women
Gisele Bündchen, Sandra Bullock, and Sharon Stone actively promote awareness about HIV/AIDS
Matt Damon and Richard Gere work have a long track record of tackling human rights issues.
Looking into which celebrities support your cause can help you figure out who is mostly likely to say yes to your invitation. On rare occasions, celebrities will sometimes waive their fee if they can see the great work the organization and attendees are doing.
Also, research the celebrities booking price. Most celebrities will have a high booking price, which can range from a few thousand all the way to up to a million dollars (although very few speakers, even at the very top, get paid a million dollars to speak!)
Top 5 things to offer a celebrity speaker to entice them to speak at your event
Once you’ve decided on a celebrity you’d like to speak at your event, spend some time drafting up a list of things you are able to offer them to entice them to come.
Below is a list of the top five things to consider.
You are going to need to make them a reasonable offer. It will show that you value their time, and understand that they will be bringing a big draw to your event.
While there is always room to negotiate, make sure that they still feel good about attending after the negotiating, and then make sure that you meet terms and pay their fees.
If their fee is simply way too far out of your budget, get creative and clever. See if it is possible to connect with other organizations and companies, and have the guest do a few gigs and share the cost. Occasionally, big name organizations will be up for covering the majority of the fees if you do the majority of the work.
The best way: Use your connections
Celebrities and very high profile speakers may receive dozens of invitations to speak everyday, hundred every month. It is difficult to stand out, but if someone they know contacts them, they are more likely to pay attention.
Use LinkedIn or Twitter to see if you have any acquaintances in common, or start asking your network and community—you might be surprised to find someone who knows someone who has the direct contact of the speaker you are looking for.
They might even open the door to other speakers and celebrities you hadn’t considered who would also be a fantastic fit for your event.
If you don’t have connections, contact their agency
If you have tried using your network, and it didn’t render any connections, then simply do a Google search for the celebrity. Most high profile speakers will have booking agents, managers, PAs and publicists, so you will most likely have to go through their team first.
Do your best to turn the main gatekeeper into an asset.
Getting them on your side can be the difference between your invite even reaching the speaker or not.
Be honest, straight-forward, and share with them the value of being involved with your event right from the start—instead of simply asking for the contact of the celebrity, make sure you convince the celebrities team member with as much dedication, charm, and gusto as you would if you were talking the celebrity themselves.
It can be a multi-step approval process: the PA, the booking or management agency, the publicist and then the celebrity themselves, which is why it is very important to leave a lot of time for process and have a clear value-heavy offer ready.
If that doesn’t work, try social media
If you have emailed and called, and not gotten any response: try to contact them directly through social media.
Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram make it fairly straightforward to make direct contact with very influential people, even celebrities.
If one of these methods doesn’t work, try another, or all three—with enough persistence, you will eventually get a response, but make sure you leave enough time, work your network, and be as convincing as possible with each of the emails you send.
So, what do you say?
How do you strike a great balance between creating an email short enough that they read it, but still includes enough information to convince them to speak at your event?
Here are three things to keep in mind:
Keep it simple
Don’t overcomplicate things.
Avoid waffling: make sure that everything you include in the email has essential value, and if it doesn’t, edit it out.
Skip the jargon: keep your language simple and to the point, you can get into the deeper details later, but your initial email should be very clear and simple.
Explain the essential details or your event, who the audience is, what’s in it for them.
Articulate the value right off the bat
Imagine that they are going to rather quickly scan your email, so make sure the value jumps off the page.
Make a short bulleted list of why they should consider speaking at your event, this could include things like:
Showcase their expertise on [topic]
Network with important influencers from [cause/organization/industry],
Gain exposure for [cause] and/or promote their latest project.
And the monetary compensation, location, perks, etc.
Keep in mind that they are just people, like you.
Be warm, friendly, and personable.
Speak to them as you would speak to a colleague or friend, be respectful, but avoid coming off as an obsessed fan or overtly cold and distance.
Avoid heavy, disingenuous flattery, and be as authentic as possible.
Below is an example of an email invite adapted from a sample TEDx invitation.
Dear [speaker name],
I hope this message finds you well. I'm honored to invite you to speak at [event name] 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 we think you’d be an inspiration to our audience of [defining characteristic of you audience].
[Event name] is a full-day event being organized by [organsiations and curators’ names with titles/affiliations], tentatively scheduled for [date] with an audience of about [#] in [place]. Our goal is [fill in main goals of your event]
Your talk could be up to [#] minutes, on any themes or topics you're interested in -- [a few suggestions].
A few reasons to consider speaking at [Event name]:
[Fill in your list, below are some examples]
Your voice would be a critical addition to the [Event name] stage. If you’d be interested in opening up a deeper conversation, please let us know your are interested.
Thank you for reading, and we very much look forward to hearing from you.
[Event name Organizer]
[website and/or social media platforms]
What happens next
Even with the most carefully worded persuasive email, a great introduction from a mutual contact, and a truly fantastic offer: it won’t always work out. Sometimes schedules just won’t match up, or the celebrity simply isn’t interested.
Make sure you have back up speakers in consideration, and that you don’t wait too long to contact them: holding out to the last minute to see if you celebrity speaker will be able to make it can jeopardize your event, so make sure you leave yourself enough time to find a great speaker if it doesn’t work out.
If they end up saying no: be graceful.
Thank them for their time, for getting back to you, and for considering the opportunity. Ask them if they might be open to another event in the future, and do your best to keep the door open with them.
If they say yes: make sure you have your speaker contract updated and ready to go, and you clearly outline the goals of your event with the speaker. Most of all: make sure that you stick to your promises and offers, building positive and rewarding relationships with a-listers can help you tenfold in your future events.
Looking for the perfect speaker for your next event? Start your search here.