How Do I Find the Right Event Speaker?

I cut my teeth in women’s ministry as an author and speaker with the privilege of teaching at women’s events across the country. Requests would simply find their way into my inbox, and whenever my schedule allowed, I’d pack my suitcase and then open my Bible to teach the women who asked me.

I never considered how women’s ministry leaders first heard my name or decided to give me access to the women they invest so much time discipling.

Then I became the women’s ministry leader at my own church, and suddenly I saw my role as an event speaker through a brand-new pair of glasses. How do we find speakers we can trust? And what makes a speaker great anyway?

The need to secure biblically accurate, universally relevant, and budget-friendly Bible teachers in women’s ministry is as constant as it is challenging. While it’s true that the blogosphere has produced a surplus of speakers and teachers, engaging teachers with an allegiance to truth will always be in short supply.

So how do we find them for our next women’s event (and the event after that and the event after that)? Here are some suggestions from a woman with one foot in the speaker/event world and one in the women’s ministry of a local church.

Remember, We’re the Gatekeepers

As women’s ministry leaders, we are, in many ways, the gatekeepers of truth. I know that sounds dramatic. It’s meant to. Our mission is to make disciples who are being discipled well. When we plan events, this goal must be the center of the bullseye—which means we must carefully consider whom we invite to open the Bible and teach.

Consider Paul’s words to Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).

Let’s read it again and hear Paul’s warning—persist in this. Be diligent. Stay watchful. Don’t dial it in.

The longer we serve, the more it’s tempting to simply fill the speaker slot. But we aren’t corporate event planners, looking for someone who can just inspire, and we aren’t circus masters, looking for someone who can only entertain.

We are the gatekeepers of truth.

Practically speaking, how do we guard the gate well? Here are five ideas.

1. Think less like a talent booking agent and more like an private investigator.

We’re looking for speakers who will wow with their handling of the Word, not necessarily their public speaking skills. I find that these aren’t always the women with the most bestselling books or expensive speaker fees—which means we can’t find them by just looking at follower counts on Twitter. We need to do some digging. Here are some ways we can do that:

  • We ask other women’s ministry leaders about speakers they’d recommend (and why) and speakers they wouldn’t (and why).
  • We take the time to read the books, bios, and blog posts of potential speakers carefully, looking for allegiance to the authority of Scripture and clear communication of the gospel.
  • We set up a conversation with potential speakers and dialogue about expectations before booking them.

This process takes time. If you are on the hunt for a speaker for your event in three months, you won’t have the margin to investigate well. Work ahead.

This is also an area where a team makes a big difference. Are there women in your ministry who are especially good at research? Ask them to help you do some digging.

We likely also need to do some recon in person. Which brings me to a second strategy . . .

2. Attend conferences (lots of them!).

Find out when other churches in your area host their women’s events and attend when you can. If you cannot carve out the time for the entire conference, attend a main session or two to scope out the speaker or send some of your volunteers to attend and report.

In addition, make it a goal to attend at least one large women’s ministry conference annually. You will likely find this is good for keeping you energized for your work and it does double duty in gaining you access to women’s Bible teachers. Certainly, pay attention to the main platform speakers. They often earn that position deservedly, but don’t neglect the breakout speakers. There’s gold in them thar hills! If you can, bring a leadership team with you and divide and conquer. Ask them to keep their ears open for any teachers who might be a good fit for your ministry.

3. Break the rules.

The unspoken rules of speaker recruitment are meant to be broken. Who says you have to find a different speaker for every single event? If you brought someone in who elevated the Word of God in ways your women responded to, bring her back! And who said it has to be a “she”? Consider asking your pastor to teach or other male teachers who have impacted you personally.

And why do we have to “bring someone in” every time anyway? Do you have gifted teachers on your own roster at church? Ask them to step out of the Sunday school classroom and onto the stage. Does every event need a speaker? We created an experiential journey through a passage for a recent women’s event and asked the women to engage with God’s Word individually and quietly. They loved it! If the goal is to drive women toward God’s Word, think of creative ways to do that using a format other than the traditional speaker model.

4. Mind your format.

Speakers will rise to the bar we set for them. If you set a theme that is “me-centric,” expect the teaching to follow. Does your event format allow speakers to develop content in ways that lead to transformation? Does your event schedule communicate that the teaching of the Word is paramount or that other priorities (worship, eating, socializing) are the main focus?

5. Pray and open your hands.

Finding the right speaker will likely never come as easily as we’d like it to. But this is the Lord’s Church we are building. These are His women we are leading. He cares as much about the details of the conference we are planning as He does about our individual lives. Consider this tender truth anew:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10: 29–31).

He is a God who cares about sparrows and speakers. May we never skip the step of seeking His best for our efforts, asking Him to meet our needs, and then holding our hands open in expectation of His provision.

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager for Revive Our Hearts, and a host of the Grounded videocast. You can hear her teach on The Deep Well with Erin Davis podcast.