Conferences can be intimidating — and I know it first-hand.
In 2017, I was on the main stage for a panel conversation at the Traffic & Conversion event hosted by Digital Marketer. It was my first time on a stage like that, and hundreds of people were in the audience.
I was sitting next to one of the ecommerce industry’s heavyweights, someone who had built multiple multi-million-dollar ecommerce brands. I, on the other hand, was just a content marketer at an ecommerce technology company.
I was starstruck and anxious.
I’d love to tell you that the event launched my career to new heights. Instead, every speaker’s worst fear came to be. Half-way through the panel, during a question directed at me, I froze.
I couldn’t hear the question. I couldn’t answer it. I couldn’t move. I sat there in complete silence.
That’s when the ecommerce heavyweight (i.e. the other guest on the stage) said something like this: “Tracey and I have talked about this a lot, and what she usually says to this question is…”
He and I had never met before this moment. We had never talked about that question. But he answered it for me and made his answer sound like it was mine.
I was immediately grateful for his generosity, and it’s a moment I think about a lot.
Since then, of course, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable on the mainstage. I’ve hosted hundreds of conferences and events, online and off. My live Instagram series in the early days of the pandemic was covered by The New York Times. Right now, I’m launching a second season of a live marketing-operations webinar.
For me, it’s time to pay it forward and help other marketers come into their own. If you are looking to host an online conference or get bigger, more renowned guests on your show, here is the method I use each and every time.
Make a list
Create a list of your top-tier folks you want on the show or at the conference. Then, work with your manager and your network to see if anyone you know has a connection to anyone on that list. You’ll get far better, faster answers if you have a warm introduction, so make this a priority.
Create a one-pager
Nothing makes an event look more official than a concise, professionally designed one-pager.
Here is what to include:
An about section. Make this one-to-two paragraphs. Explain why this show, why right now, why you and your company.
A desired guests section. Showcase the type of folks you want to have on the show here. In the designed version of this, include their brand logos so folks can easily scan. Customize this section for each intro you reach out to, and include people they know.
A logistics section. When will the event happen? How often, and for how long? How many people can attend? Also include here how much time you will need from each guest — ideally, this is no more than an hour.
What guests get. Include here how many people will see this event (again). How big is your email list? Will you be putting paid ads behind it? What is your estimation of impressions? Are there sponsors — and how big are their contact lists? Impressive numbers here make it hard to say no. If you can’t achieve them on your own, partner with other organizations.
Make your ask
There are two different ways to do this.
First, if you are talking to the person who could introduce you, explain to him or her why you think his or her connection would be a good fit for your event. And then, write a short email your contact can copy and paste and send to that connection.
Make it easy for the prospective guest to give a thumbs up or thumbs down. Try something like this:
I had someone from [your company] reach out about getting in touch with you. They are hosting an online conference in [month], and thought you’d be a great fit. Here’s a link to their one-pager about it. Let me know what you think. Happy to make the introduction!
If you are making the ask directly to the person you want on the show, be clear and concise. Give him or her the most relevant details, but make the email short and the ask apparent. If you have any other guests already confirmed, include those in the email. Then, link off or attach the one-pager for more information.
Follow up after a week in case he or she missed the first email.
Hosting an event is honestly that simple! The three keys are knowing your target audience; clarity on the problem your conference will solve; and a confident, concise ask that’s really easy to approve.
Don’t let yourself get stuck thinking people will tell you no. The other guest’s generosity on stage that day taught me that more people want to help than you think. Sometimes, they jump in and save you spontaneously. Most of the time, though, you have to be brave enough to ask them.