Who Makes the Best Speakers for Your Event

Overnight, your company responsibilities have changed and now you are charged with finding a speaker for the upcoming meeting…where do you begin? You ask yourself, what about a professional speaker? Great… you call some of your friends and find the definition of a professional speaker is as diverse as the topics speakers address today. Before contacting a speaker, some questions will need answering to assist you in locating the RIGHT speaker for your event, for example:

  • What are the goals and objectives of your meeting?
  • What is the make up of your audience?
  • What is the budget for this item?
  • What are the dates of your meeting, location of the event, time of presentation?
  • What presentation styles do you prefer?
  • What are the greatest challenges the audience is experiencing?

Look carefully at program objectives. Planners must know exactly what they want to achieve at their meeting before they can find the right speaker to help them. Do you want a motivational speaker to get the troops “pumped” or do you want an industry speaker who can impart knowledge to your group? Other types of speakers include celebrity status, inspirational, luncheon, entertainment, humorist, technical or after-dinner. There are over 20,000 professional speakers with 3500 who are members of National Speakers Association in Tempe, Arizona. Within this professional organization, 2% are CPAEs (Council of Peers Award) awarded by their organization for their dedication and contribution to the profession; 7% are CSPs (Certified Speaking Professional) a certification based upon the number of paid engagements to a minimum of 100 different clients.

Once the program objectives have been determined, seek the professional speaker based upon his/her expertise of the topic, fee, willingness to customize and platform skills. Check with your peers, reputable speaker bureaus and speaker references for speaker suggestions. Avoid those speakers with grandiose claims. Run fast if they say they can do anything and everything…find a real expert instead. In today’s society, the canned speech is no longer adequate because the audience is so sophisticated due to technology and number of meetings everyone has attended. Find a reputable bureau and form a strategic partnership…a bureau is skilled at turning general direction into specific recommendations. Your time is valuable so go to the experts and tap into their wealth of knowledge. Since the bureau is paid by the speaker, it does not cost more to access this expertise than if you were to go directly to the speaker.

Secure presentation tapes and review them. A video or audio tape will give you a good idea of the speaker and his/her specific message and presentation style. However, most preview tapes are basically canned or stock presentations that have not been customized to YOUR specific needs. Professional speakers will tailor their presentations to suit the specific needs of your group if they are presented with the right information.

Ask the right questions and provide good profile information on your group. Many professional speakers have an extensive list of questions they ask to glean information they need to tailor their presentations to the needs of particular groups. Planners should not rely solely on the speaker to ask the right questions…they should have their questions ready when they first contract with the speaker. Such questions to ask the speaker should include: who are their clients, smallest and largest group presented to, audiovisual equipment requirements, transportation needs, overnight accommodations, etc.

Once you have selected your speaker, put everything in writing…leave nothing to chance. Spell out everything and assume nothing. Here are a few items which need to be in writing: fees, date, time, place, reimbursable expenses and what happens if either party should cancel. Keep it simple but all encompassing.

Planners are paying speakers more now than in 1990 according to an NSA survey. A large percentage of professional speakers have moved into the $2,500 to $5,000 and $5,000 to $10,000 categories when compared to 1990. There are also a great number of speakers earning over $10,000 and over $25,000 per appearance as compared with the 1990 study. Keep in mind fees escalate with name recognition, i.e., expect to pay $40,000 for Paul Harvey, $25,000 for Lou Holtz, $30,000 for Harvey Mackay or $20,000 for Scott Adams (Dilbert) to name a few celebrities.

Once you have contracted with your speaker, ask for an outline of the presentation closer to the date of your meeting to make sure the speaker will be covering the material you have hired him/her to do. Remember, an outline will clearly illustrate that he/she is right on track. Continually keep the speaker updated with information about the program and the audience; one can never send too much material to the speaker. Your professional speaker wants to help make your meeting a smash success and make you the hero!

Call 1.800.787.2840 (tollfree) or 972.513.0054 to start your successful speaker search today.


About the Author:

Betty E. Garrett
Betty is a leader in Meeting Professionals International, having served as chapter president, and was the recipient of the Marion Kershner Memorial Leadership Award by MPI. The National Speakers Association named her the Partner of the Year, and she has helped many speakers gain momentum on the speaking circuit.