I talk to organizers and I ask “who’s participating?” They tell me “Well, I’ve invited….” and rattle off a long list. I ask if any have said “No” (because obviously if they’d heard a “Yes,” they would have said that), and the organizer tends to be pleased to say “Nope, at least no one’s turned us down yet!”
At this point, I internally role my eyes and note that this is a poor misguided soul. If you are not hearing even a “No” back from speakers, sponsors, or partners, then you are not asking correctly. A “No” tends to show someone cared enough about your movement and ideas to take a moment of their time to read your request and respond. It shows that you were tenacious in asking and indicates that you might have a chance next time.
Here are 5 quick tips to get a response:
1) Get an introduction; preferably from someone respected in the industry and close to them. I review LinkedIn to see who knows someone I want to reach and reach out to them, first. Make sure the person doing the introducing also knows your event and believes in it.
2) Keep your first contact short(ish) but get them the info. You should have the theme of the event, the date & location, and the topic of their talk or type of engagement. Sometimes including some past speakers and press can help, and always the website. Keep in mind, this usually will NOT get a reply.
3) Send them a SHORT follow-up 10 days later. This should be one-two lines only: “I wanted to see if you had a chance to review the invitation below. Thank you!” They’ll read this and about 80% of the time, I get a reply within 48 hours.
4) Follow-up again in the next few days. This should not sound desperate; it should list one or two other people you are considering for that spot, but let them know they are your top choice. This is like dating – it shows you have options and are not desperate, but do truly respect them.
5) Let them know you found someone. I rarely get to this step, but I find it sometimes at least gets those last few emails from people I hadn’t heard from. I write a short email thanking them for their time and consideration, and letting them know I did secure NAME to fill that slot, but truly hope they can join next time. Those last few stragglers will usually respond to this, since now there is no obligation or feelings of letting someone down.