Attracting Exceptionally Famous Speakers to Your Events

I was so excited by our event with Peter Singer last year. My small team of core student organizers managed to book a sought-after public figure with almost no money or experience. Hundreds found our Facebook event with no advertising, and about 50 people rocked up to ask the renowned philosopher questions. How did we do it? 

I hope people will find this a useful blueprint for how to run cheap, easy events that attract brilliant speakers. And for those with an idea worth sharing, I hope it provides you with a way of getting through to broader audiences from the comfort of your own home (or a tropical island!).

The Basic Idea

The basic idea is to host a question and answer (Q&A) session via video chat. We also found it helpful to watch a 15-20 minute talk by the speaker before the Q&A.

In this case it was obvious from Peter’s talk “The How and Why of Effective Altruism” that his ideas related to Effective Altruism. In other cases, you might briefly explain how your speakers’ ideas are relevant before playing their talk.

Photos: James Duncan Davidson
Image Source: TED

You don’t need much…

  • A room with a large screen, microphone and camera
  • A way of telling people about the event (Facebook, Email, Meetup, yelling it in the streets)
  • An idea of who you’d like to hear from
  • Time to contact the speaker and coordinate the things above

Why it Works (The Speaker’s Perspective)

Many people want to get their ideas out there. Public intellectuals, authors, academics, bloggers, podcasters and anyone with a perspective. Travelling to faraway places for talks requires a lot of time and energy. Hours spent in a plane or driving. For small clubs, paying travel expenses isn’t an option either. But equally, giving a traditional talk over the internet sucks. Giving a Q&A is an easy and fun alternative to spread your ideas out to a wider audience.

Resources

Zoom allows you to send the speaker a link to automatically join the video call.

ContactOut is a paid service that hooks you up with the email addresses of many famous people.

You might find speakers on TED Talks, Google Talks, Effective Altruism Global, or your favourite podcast.

Thanks to…

Peter for generously giving us his time despite my organizational incompetence. Angus, David and the rest of the EA Adelaide team for making it happen. Neil for the suggestion of ContactOut. Jess for some helpful comments.

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