Welcome to Ask The Curator, where you get to ask the advice of a curator to find out the hidden behind the scenes world of event curation.

This week’s question comes from an event organiser in Singapore who is curious about involving celebrity speakers in an event.

Can working with celebrities boost your event? Can a celebrity speaker help enhance your event? I would like to hear your point of view.

E. C. – Singapore

This is a great question. For many small events that are trying to get bigger, working with a celebrity public speaker can be a big draw. However, just having a big name speaker by itself wont make your event fantastic. You need to think clearly about how you will make the best use of your celebrity speaker.

Be clear on your goals for involving celebrity public speakers.

Ask yourself, what is your main motivation for inviting a celebrity public speaker?

The most common motivations are:

  1. Increased ticket sales.
  2. Increased media attention.
  3. Raising the profile, prestige, or level of your event.
  4. Purely for the fun of having a special guest.

Increased ticket sales from Celebrity Public Speakers

Having a high profile celebrity public speaker can certainly help increase ticket sales, or even help you charge a higher ticket price for your event. But a big name by themselves won’t do this.

You need to make sure that your event marketing and PR team have the right skills to capitalise on the appearance of a celebrity speaker.

You may have to consider drastically increasing your PR and event marketing budget in order to get the best out of it. Don’t simply assume that because you have a well known speaker word-of-mouth will spread and help you sell out. You need to make people aware.

You should also consider working directly with your celebrity speakers marketing team. Will they send out a tweet with a link to your event’s ticket purchasing page? Will they make short social media preview videos you can distribute ahead of time? Will they take part in any hype or promotional activities such as TV appearances, radio interviews or newspaper articles?

There are three core dangers to consider when using a celebrity speaker to increase your ticket sales:

  1. If your celebrity is unable to help in the promotion of your event, it will never be as effective as if they could help promote.
  2. Your big name speaker is well known, and their topics are well known, so you may not get new content as part of their talk. Expect your celebrity speaker to give the same talk they have given 100 times. The audience expects that too. No one ever gets surprised by the content of a big name speaker.
  3. Your speaker will only attract new ticket sales for people who are already fans of that speaker. They are audience members who are coming to see the big star speaker, and they are not fans of your event. This means they may leave early, or attend only for a small part of your event. It also means that they won’t come again next year. They are here for the star, not for your event.

Increased media attention from celebrity speakers

You may be tempted to gain extra media attention from having a celebrity speaker at your event. And while some celebrities can attract extra media attention, not all can.

Make sure your PR and Marketing team reach out to local news contacts to pitch to them the idea of a big name speaker before you book them. If your celebrity isn’t interesting enough to warrant the coverage in the media, don’t do it.

Also, remember that the media will be more interested in covering the celebrities story rather than the story of your event. So your PR team will need to be on hand to make sure that you maximise exposure for your event.

Often, most news and media outlets will be interested in covering your event on the day of the event itself. Meaning that their coverage will have zero effect on ticket sales, and very little effect on the brand awareness of your next event.

The one exception to this is if you can create a lasting relationship with your celebrity, where they commit to appearing at multiple events over several years.

Celebrity speakers raise the profile of your event.

A big name speaker can certainly raise the profile of your event. A leader in their field, a world expert, a highly regarded superstar can really help raise the level of the event, and set the bar high.

One key issue to be aware of is that the rest of your event must be up to the same high standard. If you have a brilliant special guest speaker at your conference, you must make sure that all of your “regular” speakers are just as good.

You should also be aware that using a celebrity speaker to raise the profile of your event can backfire on you if they deliver poor content. I have been to several events and conferences where a big, well known celebrity delivered very poor quality content, and they events were a massive let-down.

Make sure your speaker is someone who can really deliver.

Have special guests just for fun.

One of my favourite reasons to invite a VIP speaker to an event is purely for fun. Sometimes you may want to reward your audience by having a secret VIP guest perform on your stage unannounced.

This is a wonderful way to get your audience excited by a surprise speaker. It also helps market your event in the future, as you build a reputation as an event that has high quality surprise guests.

It creates magic moments for your audience and your team. If it’s fun, and it fits with the rest of the event, a special guest speaker can make all the difference.


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