Sourcing Local Thought Leaders and Sponsors for Events and Classes

Sourcing Local Thought Leaders and Sponsors for Events and Classes

Often you’ll need to source thought leaders or subject-matter experts for panel discussions, classes, or other events, but you don’t always have the reputation or network to do so (same goes for sponsors). This article outlines the processes I first began using in San Francisco at PARISOMA to build a network of quality instructors and event panelists with almost no prior existing network. If you’re a community manager, event manager, or founder that wants to organize high-quality content to attract more people to your space, read on.

Using this process I was able to organize some killer events and classes, and I wanted to prove it to you. My two favorite were Scott Sambucci‘s startup sales class (he’s amazing) and a panel discussion called New Disruptions in Digital Media Entrepreneurship (video). We sold out Scott’s class so we needed to move it into a larger space and had a turnout of over 100 people for the DME panel discussion, which was actually on the low end, but I’m citing it for the content. The panel was absolutely amazing content with very amazing people including Cory Ford from Matter Ventures, possibly the #1 digital media startup accelerator in the United States.


  1. Email Hunter. Install the Email Hunter Chrome extension.
  2. LinkedIn Search. Search LinkedIn for the subject or industry you’re interested in finding people from. Use the advanced search feature to filter location and radius to within a reasonable distance of your location.
  3. Identify. Connect with people you find interesting. I use the “Colleague” option when LinkedIn asks me how I know them. I select my current position as the place we’ve worked together.
  4. Contact. Use a short, custom message to let them know why you’re connecting. Here are two I used very effectively for an instructor and panelist respectively:
    1. “Hey Michael, I’d love for you to teach some classes at PARISOMA on UX Design. I love your experience. Can we chat further?”
    2. “Hello Burt, we’re organizing a panel discussion on digital media entrepreneurship and I’d love to have you on the panel. Can I send you more information?”

From there, you’ll either get a response or not. If you do get a response and an email, be sure to provide them all the details they need to make a decision: date, audience type, audience size, location, agenda, etc. Praising people’s work also goes a long way toward getting them to commit.


  1. Email Hunter. Install the Email Hunter Chrome extension.
  2. Event Search. Find seemingly successful events on Eventbrite or Meetup that happened in the last year. You should also look for conferences that happened in your area in the last year.
  3. Assess. Whether an event was successful on Eventbrite can be hard to tell. Additional digging may be required, like contacting the organizer to hear about turnout, etc. Meetup success can be determined based on the number of attendees. Be wary, though. Some meetup organizers RSVP themselves plus additional, fictional people in order to artificially boost attendance. They’ll have used this tactic so more people will join, but the event may or may not have been successful.
  4. Identify. Look for local speakers, presenters, and partners who spoke at or supported the event.
  5. LinkedIn Search. Find these people on LinkedIn
  6. Contact. Attempt to contact them via the email provided by Email Hunter. At the same time, attempt to contact them via LinkedIn, using the method in the “Scattershot” section above.
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Copy Cat

This is a method similar to those above, but for acquiring the same event partners or sponsors as another event. Yes, you’re a copy cat if you do this. No, I won’t judge you.

  1. Identify sponsors. After you’ve identified a successful event, find the sponsors or partners that supported the event. These are usually very visible on the event page or marketing materials. If you can’t find them, attempt to contact the organizer of the event for this information and even a possible partnership with the organizer themselves.
  2. LinkedIn search. Use the LinkedIn search method in the “Scattershot” tactic to find either the Event Manager, Marketing Director, or Business Development person at each sponsor/ partner company.
  3. Contact. Get in touch with people both via Email Hunter and via connecting with them on LinkedIn using the same methods above about supporting your event.
  4. Make it sound like the event is a done deal. Nobody wants to support an idea. They only want to know tangible things such as # of attendees, prominent speakers, and other partners. Even if certain details are TBD, present them as likely or done. You can cite conflicts later that caused you to change those details.


That’s it. Give these tactics a go and let me know if they work for you too.

Ryan Chatterton

Ryan is the founder of Coworking Insights, a coworking media platform focused on delivering unique and in-depth insights for coworking founders and their teams. He’s the Marketing Director at Habu, a quickly growing coworking management platform that is simple, fast, and intuitive for managing recurring billing, bookings, and other admin tasks. Formerly with Impact Hub and PARISOMA, Ryan now has over 4 years of combined experience in a variety of roles in the coworking industry, including marketing, events, operations, sales, software, and partnerships. He’s a digital nomad and a lover of wine and tacos. Follow Ryan's personal blog at

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