How We Found Our Speakers for Hustle Con

Here's a step by step guide on how to find conference speakers and convince them to speak for free.

November 6, 2014

Whether you’re organizing a conference, starting a business, searching for a mentor, making the sale, or even trying to meet a significant other – at some point you’ll have to reach out to someone outside your network.

It can be scary. And very intimidating. But face it…you gotta do it.

The Hustle Con team has hosted events for a while now and that means we’re constantly reaching out to potential speakers and sponsors. Because of that, we’ve master how to get ahold of ANYONE and get a response.

But don’t be confused – that doesn’t mean we’ll always get a yes – but no matter what happens we WILL get a response. Building a lasting company is a marathon, not a sprint and what really counts is the relationship we’re building, not whether they say yes or no on our first ask.

Because Hustle Con is all about teaching actionable tactics to make your startup life easier, I decided to show you our step-by-step way of getting in touch with anyone and, most importantly, making them ACT.

1. Using your current network

The warm intro

Rick Marini, the founder of Branch Out and Tickle, is one of the most accomplished speakers at this year’s Hustle Con. He sold Tickle for $100 million and Branch Out is one the fastest growing social networks in the world – so we were very excited when he decided to join Hustle Con.

To contact Rick we used a mutual connection. Sure, it’s mostly common sense, but you’d be SHOCKED at how many people fail after steps 3, 4, and 5.

Step 1: Find your target’s Linkedin account

Simple enough, right?

Step 2: Find mutual connections
I scrolled to the bottom of Rick’s profile and saw who we had in common. If you don’t have any mutual friends, use this same tactic but on Facebook or skip to the cold email step below.


Sweet! It looks like my good buddy Joey The Cat is LinkedIn buds with with Rick.

Step 3: Ask for an intro but write the email for your mutual connection
I asked Joey for the intro, BUT I made sure to write the majority of the email for him. (Here’s a link to the exact email I wrote for Joey. Feel free to copy.)

Remember, most people are lazy…so make life as EASY as possible for the person doing the intro and write the email for them. Otherwise it’ll never happen because your bud is sitting around thinking about what to say in the intro and eventually forgets when the next episode of Game of Thrones comes on.

And if your friend decides to write a little message, like Joey did for me, your email with the important details is still at the bottom.


My initial email to Joey. Assume that your target will see this email, so include all the details.


Joey wrote his own message but kept our original email at the bottom.

Step 4: Create a powerful first impression
Here is where people really mess up. Once you get the opening you need to respond FAST and hit your mark. I try to respond within 30 minutes, but ideally within 5. Listen, Rick is doing ME a favor by even talking to me. He’s a successful and busy guy, so he most likely won’t respond first. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to respond quickly.

Think of networking or sales like hunting. This is your chance to make a fantastic first impression and get the kill. The goal of this hunt isn’t a deer, but a relationship. And you’re not using a bow and arrow, but kindness, sincerity, promptness and salesmanship. THIS is your opening…attack!

Notice two things here

The first is that I mentioned how I knew Rick worked at Fisher Scientific years ago.

How did I know this?

Because I watched every YouTube video about Rick to make sure he’d be a good fit for Hustle Con, but in doing so I understood my “customer.” I like to call this method “Stalk and Talk.” Before I ever talk to a potential customer I read/watch everything about them so I know their wants and personality.

If you’re trying to make a sale, make sure to comment about something very specific and meaningful to that person so they know you’re sincere. Stalking isn’t hard to do, it just takes time. Google the person you’re contacting and read everything from pages 1 to 5 on Google.

Yes, some may think it’s strange to tell Rick how much I know about him, but in doing so I’m showing that I genuinely like him, his story, and want him to speak at HustleCon. Basically, I want him to know that this isn’t just a shotgun blasted email that I cut and pasted but something meaningful.

The second thing to notice my writing style.

Always remember to write like you speak and know your audience. I wouldn’t say the word “badass” if I emailed a Stanford professor. If you wanna learn more about this, take Neville Medora’s KopyWriting Kourse (he’s also speaking at Hustle Con).

Step 5. Close
The purpose of each step is to move closer and closer to the goal, which in this case is a phone call. Remember, if you don’t close, you don’t get the coffee.

Never, EVER end an email with “so what time works for you?” You want to be as specific as possible so it’s easy for your customer. I suggest ending your ask email with 3 possible times so the person can simply say yes to one and not have to search their calendar for a free space.

Or, if you get lucky like I was with Rick, your customer will suggest a time:


Luckily Rick suggested a time.

Our call ended up going fantastic and Rick agreed to participate in Hustle Con!

2. Cold email like a master

It’s scary, intimidating, and time consuming…but cold emailing can work wonders if you know how to do it right.

When I first started in sales I thought that big time CEO’s and personalities had way too many emails to actually check them all or they have a secretary screening their email for them. But after year’s of experience I’ve realized that even the biggest of biggest shots check their own email (for the most part).

In this example, I explain how I convinced Tom Montgomery to speak at Hustle Con. Prior to this email I didn’t have a relationship with Tom.

Step 1: Find the person’s email
Obviously we have to find the person’s email, right?

Most email addresses are pretty simple to guess, but thankfully there are two tools that’ve made the guessing game way easier: Rapportive and Linksy’s Email Guesser.

Rapportive is a fantastic plugin for Gmail that’ll show you rich social media profiles once you have someone’s email and Linksy’s Email Guesser creates dozens of emails based off of a person’s first and last name and URL. Combine the two and you have a deadly combo!


Guessing Tom’s email


Create a new message and copy/paste the emails from Linksy’s. Highlight each email. You’ll see social profiles once you’ve highlighted the correct email.

Step 2: Craft an irresistable email
In your email make sure you make it extremely obvious why participating in your conference, sale, or whatever will benefit the receiver. If you’ve never studied copywriting before (you totally should BTW) then just remember this one point when writing a cold email: No one cares about you…they only care about themselves.

Here’s what I sent Tom, the founder of Chubbies Shorts:

Step 3: Follow up
This step is what separates the winners from the losers.

Big time CEO’s and personalities receive 100+ emails per day, so chances are they’re gonna ignore your email. But don’t worry…that’s perfectly normal and you shouldn’t take it personally.

When I first started out I thought emailing popular people more than once was nagging, but now I realize it’s essential. In fact, as long as you send a tasteful reminder every two days, I’d say you’re safe of being nag-free up until 7 emails.

I don’t mind sending 7 to 10 unanswered emails or calls. What’s the worst that can happen?


It’s a simple question but a great follow up…”What can I do to make this a win for you?”


See, it’s not nagging…it’s reminding! After three emails Tom responded!

I really want to emphasize how important this point is. I’ve emailed with big time founders, like Nick Woodman of GoPro and Evan Williams of Twitter, all because I’m constantly following up. Sure, they may not always say yes, but they will remember me.


I emailed Evan Williams of Twitter 4 times before he responded.

3. Send thoughtful gifts

The rule of reciprocity

Sending a thoughtful gift to a potential client is a pretty bold move, but has the potential to work wonders. However, if not done tastefully you will look like a total creep, so be careful.

My most recent gift giving campaign was to Noah Kagan, Andrew Warner, and Neville Medhora. Neville and Andrew both said yes, but Noah couldn’t make it.

Who can I send gifts to?
You have to know your audience with gift sending, even more so than sending cold emails…so maybe hold off on gift sending if you’ve never talked to the person before or if they seem a little uptight.

I suggest only sending gifts to someone you’ve spoken with before or someone who knows you exist. This includes:

  • Clients in a similar industry as you
  • Someone you’ve shared an email exchange with
  • Mutual friends
  • Someone with a fun personality
  • Someone you know has heard of you or your company

Ok, so lets get into it…if your target fits into one of the categories above, here’s how you send a gift.

Step 1: Research what they’re into…aka Stalk n’ Talk
90% of cold emails, calls, or gifts are completely thoughtless and bland. You’ll really stand out from the crowd if you just take 10 or 20 minutes and stalk your recipient. Find out what they like, want, and how they think.

I go about this using a few different methods:

Constantly listening: Because I’m such a fan of gift giving, I always keep my ears open for a good gift idea. For example, when Neville spoke at Bootstrap Live he told how much he loves Dave Matthews Band, specifically his live shows. So when I asked Neville to speak at Hustle Con, it was obvious what kind of gift I should send: a DMB live DVD.


Small gifts really show that you care.

Use Twitter, Facebook, or their personal blog: What’s amazing about the internet is that wants someone writes something, it’s there forever. This makes stalking crazy easy.

I wasn’t personal buds with Noah when I asked him to speak at Hustle Con, but I had emailed with him a few times. Plus, Noah is super active here on Twitter and his blog, so researching what gift to send him wasn’t crazy difficult.

I found a post where he wrote about eating healthy, which gave me the idea to send a Magic Bullet for smoothies. I then did a little Google-ing and found another post about how much he loves The Magic Bullet. If you notice, the post is 2 years old, and if you’ve ever owned a Magic Bullet you know they don’t last very long. To me this meant that a Magic Bullet was the PERFECT gift…so it’s what I sent him!


Perfect.

Step 2: Write a handwritten note
I didn’t realize how powerful handwritten notes were until Andrew Warner of Mixergy sent me a handwritten thank you card for introducing him to a buddy of mine. It was just a small note, but I’m so use to email that a handwritten letter really made a huge impact on me.

I’ve already told you about the importance of learning how write with the other person’s needs in mind, but here’s the exact letter I wrote back to Andrew when I asked him to participate at Bootstrap Live. I’ve had a lot of success with that letter’s format, so feel free to copy it. If you wanna learn more about how I snagged Andrew as a speaker, this post will answer your questions.

Step 3: Find the address
This step is obvious, but I just wanted to say one thing about this: make sure to send your package to the recipient’s office! Imagine yourself in your recipient’s shoes, opening a flattering handwritten letter and gift in front of coworkers. Feels good doesn’t it?

Step 4. Give a crap about how it looks and send it off!
You’ve picked out a gift, wrote an awesome handwritten letter, and know the end address. Now it’s time to ship it off! But before you do, make sure that your gift looks amazing.


Preparing and delivering the package for Andrew Warner of Mixergy.

After reading Steve Job’s biography, I started to see the importance of packaging. I’m not saying you need to package your gift as meticulous as an iPod, but some nice gift wrap, a perfectly fitted box, and a fancy label will make a huge difference.

Facebook and Twitter Targeting

Going all the way

When all else fails I use Facebook and Twitter targeting to reach my recipient. I used this method when trying to land Tim Ferriss as a guest for my weekly book club meetings. He wasn’t able to make it, but I my message did reach him.

No, I’m not talking simple FB messages or tweets (but try that too), I’m talking about a full blown ad campaign targeted at my recipient and their followers. Yeah, it’s a little outlandish and has a lower success rate than the other methods, but when you need to get ahold of someone bad enough you gotta do whatever it takes. Right?

1. Create Twitter and FB ads
The important part here is that you’re not necessarily aiming to get your main target’s attention, but more so their close buddies and fans. Think about it…there’s only one recipient but thousands of fans and friends and chances are that the fans/friends will forward it to the recipient. Vungle, a startup with $25 million in funding, used this method to court Thomas Korte, their first investor (Vungle’s founder, Jack Smith, is speaking at this year’s Hustle Con.)

Facebook: If you’ve never used Facebook ads before, refer to this guide. It’s important to read about targeting. If your recipient is big enough then they’ll most likely have some type of fan page or will appear in the “Interest” section. For example, when I was targeting Tim Ferriss, I targeted people who had the “The Four Hour Body” and “The Four Hour Work Week” as Interests as well as people who were Fans of Tim Ferriss’s page.

Twitter: When using this tactic I actually prefer Twitter over Facebook for two reasons.

1. Targeting is much easier. All you need to do is target your recipients followers. It’s dead simple. If you really wanna make it complicated, you can target the people your recipient follows, in hopes that your recipient will see the promote tweet on their feed…but I think just using the first method is easy enough.

2. No need to create an ad. I hate creating Facebook ads. With Twitter, your ad is just a tweet. So no Photoshop or searching around for the perfect image. Just text.


Twitter: Easy targeting


Maneesh Sethi favorited my ad, so I responded!

2. Create a destination
Once you have your ads set it you’ll need a destination to send the clicks to. There are two ways you can do this

1. Create a website: I like to use Unbounce to do this. It’s fast and easy to create a site. But it does cost a little bit of money. When I ran my Do You Know Tim campaign I had my site up and live within a few hours.


DoYouKnowTim.com – it reached Tim, but he couldn’t make it

2. Create a YouTube video: It’s free and super personable. My buddy Daniel had amazing results when he used a YouTube video and Facebook ads. Check out his video… pretty mind-blowing. The only con is that you may not feel as comfortable in front of the camera as Daniel.


Great video and targeting

So there you have it – you now know what we know. Go off and contact ANYONE. and if you wanna learn more tactics just like these, make sure to come to Hustle Con on August 1st in San Francisco.

See ya there!

-Sam from Hustle Con

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