• How to Land Guest Speakers

    FROM THE Winter 2013 ISSUE

    The three keys to getting big names to show up at your events? Connect, connect, connect. The three keys to getting big names to show up at your events?Connect, connect, connect.

This year, Donald Trump and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke at one of our hotel investment conferences. These big names attracted a lot of attention, and a number of people asked us how we were able to get these VIPs to come to our event.

We told them that there really isn’t a secret. We’ve been producing events for a long time, which gives us credibility in our niche. However, we really believe the key for us is making connections that lead to mutually beneficial business relationships. So, how do you meet and connect?


  • Get out there. We are big on face-to-face meetings and personal interaction. Social media is great, but it’s very hard to make lasting, personal connections through a computer. We make it a point to meet and talk to people every day. If we can’t meet people in person, we pick up the phone and talk to them.



  • Hang with people you already know and get to know their contacts. The best way to meet new contacts is through contacts you already have. The "six degrees of separation" theory really is true. Everyone you know knows someone that you should know.


  • Ask questions. Conversation is how you get the clues to help you make the connections you want and need. Ask questions, follow up with other questions and start connecting the dots to common people, places and things you do. Along the way, let the other guy ask questions of you, too, so that the conversation isn’t one-sided.


  • Find the need. Everyone needs something; with Donald Trump, his organization was ramping up its hotel brand and wanted visibility. We learned this a year before we asked him to speak at our event. We found his need and we offered to fill it. Our hotel investment event was the perfect venue to make a statement in front of 2,400 hotel industry leaders.


  • Offer to help. We go out of our way to find a way to help others make connections. Helping out a colleague, or even a total stranger, can lead to a valuable relationship down the road. People you help will remember the effort, so when it is your turn to ask for a favor, your chances of receiving are greater.


  • Get the details. How often have you spent a considerable amount of time talking to someone, only to forget to ask for a business card or some other way to stay in touch? This needs to be a top priority. At the very least, you need to remember the person’s first and last name so that you can Google them or ask around for contact details.


  • Follow up. Be sure to send an email or text or place a call to your new contact-and soon. Don’t wait too long because memory fades fast. If you have made a first contact that seems to have some promise, maybe schedule a meeting, arrange a lunch or call to say you look forward to seeing them again soon. Invite them to a party; look for them at the next event; maybe friend them on Facebook. Make the first move and make it a simple one.


  • Move on if needed (but not forever). Many times over the years we have tried to connect with someone we felt would lead to a prosperous business relationship, and it just didn’t work out. Maybe it wasn’t the right time for us or the other person, so we just moved on. However, we always keep the contact information on hand. It took us more than 20 years to make the connections and build the relationship that brought Trump to us. We moved on several times, but we didn’t forget.


Jim Burba and Bob Hayes are co-founders of Burba Hotel Network, a worldwide leader in developing and producing conferences for the hotel and tourism investment community. Since 2000, their events have attracted more than 70,000 international delegates in 22 countries. 

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