An article published a few years ago by Cairncroft Management (run by Sean O’Dea) did a thorough assessment of how speakers got booked. Although the social media stat has likely increased, the rest of the stats are valid today.

How Speakers Get Booked

From Recommendations

by peers                                                        88.4%

by organization’s members                          84.8

by staff                                                         78%

by bureaus                                                   61.6%

Seen before                                                 76.8%

Direct from speakers                                   24.4%

Speaker Proposal Process                            24.4%

Social Media                                               18.3%

Other                                                             11%

Meeting planners also often scanned the agendas of other conferences to see who the speakers were and closely monitored Ted talks presenters as well as the latest publications and books related to their required topic.

When analyzing the above stats, keep in mind that the organizational ‘member’ giving a referral may well be a committee member and that makes the recommendation doubly potent.

When I wrote regularly for North American trade journals, for hospitality and food services, my work needed little editing. One periodical insisted the editing be done by committee. Every member had a different opinion and most weighed in whether or not their opinion added value. I’m mentioning this because speaker selection is often – in order to prevent bias and be fair – done by committee and that is often a prolonged process.

When I’ve recommended a speaker who’d be perfect for an audience, I sometimes have lost the gig to a committee member whose husband heard a great speaker a couple of years ago. The committee selected that speaker. A recommendation by a member of the committee almost always comes first, naturally enough. It can sometimes be a problem because that member might not be well-informed in the qualifications to look for in a speaker.

Here’s the take-away – you as a speaker need to continually increase your influence, keep your reputation squeaky clean in today’s transparent world and network effectively both on and offline. You also need compelling and sophisticated materials, a great video and website.