How to Write the Perfect Email to Book a High-Profile Special Guest
As the founder of some of the most exclusive and highly curated tech communities in the world, I have gained great experience to ensure their success. I am the founder of YCombinator Alumni, a group of 3000 of the top founders in the world with $150B in valuations. I also built the group of the Top 50 Latinx Tech Leaders with over $10B in exits and $120B to invest. In both communities, I have hosted the highest profile leaders in the world as special guests: founders of unicorns and decacorns (Marcelo Claure of Softbank, Michelle Zatlyn of Cloudflare, Jennifer Hyman of Rent The Runway, etc.) and the top VC in the world (Ben Horowitz, Michael Seibel, Ashton Kutcher, etc.).
Many colleagues who are trying to get a high-profile special guest for one of their events, companies or communities have reached out to me asking:
“What do you write in your emails in order to get these amazing guests?”
The answer is short and simple, the reason why a high-profile guest will attend your event has more to do with the three steps preceding the email:
1. Don’t Wing It: Build Your Community as a Brand
2. You Represent Your Community: Build Your Own Brand
3. Don’t Shoot for Elon: Find Your Anchor Special Guest
Don’t Wing It: Build Your Community as a Brand
No special guest will take a risk to participate in an event that looks sloppy. A 1995 looking website with a free domain (free.myspace.com), is not going to cut it.. An email invite that is only focused on why you want them to attend, is not going to cut it.
Developing a strong community brand is the first step to showing your special guest they are in good hands. An example of a strong foundation for your brand is having a website/sitelet dedicated to the event that you are inviting them to participate in. This website needs to facilitate these main points: 1) allow your special guests to see all the event information upfront and easy to find, 2) spell out why this event is beneficial for them to attend, 3) your audience needs to impress, and it's your job to convey this message by creating a narrative that inspires.
Your website needs to quantify and qualify the event; have a clear definition of the group, a straightforward profile of attendees, have sample questions or conversation topics the guest can review and share the rules and etiquette in place to make this a successful event.
Build Your Personal Brand
The first step a special guest or their head of communications will do once they receive your invite, is find out who you are and whether you inspire trust. A bare profile on your LinkedIn with no reference to your success as a leader, is not going to cut it. A personal website which was optimized for Netscape, is not going to cut it.
Special guests need to know you are a professional, your personal profile (LinkedIn or personal website) has to be clear and straight to the point, highlighting that you are successful and you are a person they should meet. Show them you have done your research and are worth their time, ensure your communication is tailored to them, make them understand you and your community can add value to them.
Find Your Anchor Special Guest
In order to have many amazing guests follow, it is important to find an anchor special guest. You need to identify someone who has a big profile, and who has a strong affinity to the organization or group already. You don't shoot for Elon Musk as your first guest. You shoot as high as you can, considering you haven't yet built a foundation and refined the process. After 10+ events, special guests and a more refined process, you can shoot for the Elon’s of the world.
Wash, Rinse & Repeat
You are never done refining your process. You have to constantly review feedback from events and find ways to improve your emails, websites, communication and social media material.
Creating meaningful communities and effective events takes a large amount of time and effort. Make sure you have the necessary bandwidth and/or a team of people that can ensure successful events that will allow your community to snowball into what you dreamed of.